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NATO members and Ukraine to step up industry cooperation

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NATO and Ukraine’s industries will meet in the war-torn country on Friday (29 September) to hammer out a joint plan for producing weapons for the battlefield, as Kyiv is increasingly struggling to replenish its stocks.

“I look forward to further encouraging news from tomorrow’s International Defence Industry Forum here in Kyiv,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in Kyiv on Thursday after Ukraine and the United States announced their plan to jointly produce weapons systems, including air defence systems.

Kyiv is heavily reliant on its Western allies to supply its armed forces with military equipment and ammunition, as it continues to fight off Russia’s invasion.

But NATO members have depleted their weapons stockpiles in supporting Kyiv and announced massive investments into new defence capabilities, following years of under-investment after the Cold War.

“NATO has depleted stocks to provide support to Ukraine. But then it was clear that we needed to do more,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

“With participation from NATO and over 20 countries, it will be an important opportunity for Ukrainian companies to forge new partnerships with industry across the Alliance and beyond,” the NATO secretary-general added, “because there is no defence without industry”.

Step closer to membership

For Ukraine, the joint producing of weapons with Western firms means it could purchase the weapons itself and get them faster.

It also means it can get access to NATO-standardised equipment. This way, Kyiv’s armed forces can work smoothly with the NATO countries and be ‘interoperable’, as Ukraine hopes to join the alliance as soon as the war stops.

“This is a forum which must ensure moving Ukraine to NATO and it is very useful format,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters.

“We’re grateful that the alliance took a decision to give Ukraine practical assistance which ensures transformation of our defence sector so that we can reach interoperability with NATO,” he added.

Zelenskyy also said his country is working on its Adapted National Programme it will submit to NATO, whichwill define the practical steps to move Ukraine to comply with the principles [to join the military] alliance”.

The private industries’ joint production moves are part of a larger scheme to promote the interoperability of NATO and Ukrainian forces.

NATO leaders at their summit in Vilnius “agreed a programme to make Ukraine’s forces fully interoperable with your future Allies, fully adopting NATO doctrine and equipment”, Stoltenberg said.

Ramp-up problems unsolved

“We also agreed to step up the cooperation between Ukraine and NATO to ramp up production,” Stoltenberg said, without specific details on how.

Industry representatives from across the NATO countries were invited to Brussels in June on the margins of a defence ministerial meeting to reflect on how to increase production. But companies say they are still waiting for orders to come in to invest in their ramp-up.

“I am constantly urging [NATO members] to do even more to speed up delivery to ensure not least air defences, and also to work on how to ramp up production so we can continue to provide support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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