Ukraine hosted an international defense industry conference as part of a concerted government initiative to bolster domestic arms production and reduce reliance on foreign weaponry in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion. This gathering signified a significant shift in Ukraine’s strategy, transitioning from the primary focus on weapon deliveries, equipment repairs, and military training for Ukrainian troops.
At the inaugural International Defense Industries Forum in Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed a distinguished audience comprising approximately 250 defense companies from over 30 countries and defense ministers and delegates from various nations. In his opening remarks, he emphasized industry’s vital role in ensuring Ukraine’s security: “Heroism alone cannot intercept missiles. Ukraine needs capabilities, high quality, high quantity, and rapid production. There is no defense without a robust industry.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking via video link following his visit to Kyiv, acknowledged the event’s significance and NATO’s commitment to Ukraine’s defense efforts. At the forum, Wendy Gilmour, NATO’s assistant secretary general for defense investments, represented the trans-Atlantic alliance.
Stoltenberg highlighted the sacrifices made by NATO allies to support Ukraine but stressed the need to escalate production to meet Ukraine’s requirements and enhance deterrence capabilities: “This was the right thing to do, but now we need to ramp up production, both to meet Ukraine’s needs and to ensure our own deterrence in events.”
President Zelenskyy revealed details of his recent discussions with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, outlining plans for a new industrial ecosystem to strengthen Ukraine and its international partners. Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, announced forthcoming meetings with U.S. representatives to chart a roadmap for cooperation and the localization of production in Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy inaugurated the Defense Industries Alliance during the forum, with 13 defense companies already pledging their commitment. Ukraine plans to establish a special fund for industry development, funded by dividends from state defense resources and proceeds from confiscated Russian assets.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba highlighted the growing interest among allies in joint production and the expertise of Ukrainian businesses, noting the reciprocal benefits for Western arms manufacturers: “Just as we have benefited from Western weapons, Western arms manufacturers also gain unique advantages in the market to improve their models and create even more powerful weapons.”
Newly appointed Defense Minister Rustem Umerov outlined Ukraine’s priorities, emphasizing the need to domestically produce all essential military services and products for the nation’s army. He also stressed the importance of advancing defense technologies crucial on today’s battlefield: “Our vision is to develop world-class military products.”