One of Canada’s arms producers hopes to re-equip the Armed Forces of Ukraine with new assault rifles as the latter country tries to joint NATO, while battling Russian-backed separatists at the same time. According to Canada’s National Post, Colt Canada (Kitchener, Ontario) is chasing an agreement that would lead Ukraine to order up to 100,000 rifles, UNIAN reports.
Alex Payne, a Colt Canada manager, said the company’s representatives had an “explanatory type of meeting” with Ukrainian government officials in January. But this meeting is just the start of a long process, which could take up to two years, as Ukraine figures out exactly the kind of weapons it needs and their country of origin.
“I believe there is a long way to go in terms of being able to say there is an opportunity for Colt Canada in Ukraine,” Payne told Postmedia. “We have as equal a chance as anybody, but I suppose there is a lengthy process to go through in terms of them finding the best available weapons for the optimal price.”
In December, the Liberal government made changes to Canada’s rules on arms exports allowing the sale of machine-guns and other small arms to Ukraine. The process began at the time when the Conservative government was in power. Ukraine hopes to bring its weaponry up to the NATO standard, which would move it closer to eventually joining the alliance. The country is also engaged in an armed conflict with Russian-backed separatists in Donbas, which has left over 10,000 people dead.
Ukraine is also hopeful of acquiring other military equipment like anti-tank weapons from both Canada and the United States. In late December, the US President Donald Trump announced that anti-tank missiles were about to be shipped to Ukraine, infuriating Russian representatives, who argued this would only facilitate the conflict.
Payne said that Colt Canada is hopeful to organize demonstrations of its products in Ukraine sometime in the upcoming summer. “We produce great goods, and we have an outstanding reputation, so we have got as good a chance as anybody does” Alex Payne explained.
Colt Canada is the primary supplier of small arms to the Canadian Armed Forces. Ukraine is also interested in support from Canada in other areas. At the end of September, Ukraine’s defense minister Stepan Poltorak told journalists he had had talks with his Canadian counterpart Harjit Saijan about having Canada engaged in building an ammunition plant in Ukraine. At the time, Saijan said the plans went beyond the construction of the plant and would involve even more support from Canada for Ukraine’s Armed Forces. “This is about building the capacity,” Saijan told journalists. “This is about boosting the effectiveness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which is underway, and then actually providing the necessary equipment in order for them to sustain that development.”
Moreover, Canadian troops are also present in Ukraine and training local military men. In late January, Stepan Poltorak confirmed that Canada was interested in selling weapons to Ukraine. “We expect to figure out some positions, including one with Canada, on military and technical cooperation, such as procurement of weapons and equipment from our partners,” he said.
On the other hand, another arms purchase (this one funded by Canadian taxpayers) is in limbo. Weapons that were supposed to be supplied to Kurdish forces are currently stored at a supply depot in the Montreal area. In February 2016, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the country would provide the weapons to Kurdish fighters in support of their efforts against the Islamic State. However, the delivery of those arms was suspended after clashes between Iraqi and Kurdish forces.