Jan. 31, 2016
People celebrate Unity Day in Kyiv with a human chain over Paton Bridge on Jan. 22.
Photo by Anastasia Vlasova
When Isaiah prophesied that the day will come when nations will “beat their swords into plowshares”, he may have overlooked an important intermediate step that nations could take to deter aggression and promote peace by beating their swords into shields rather than plowshares.
Consider the Russian defense budget for 2016. With an estimated $49 billion, it will outspend Ukraine by a factor of 12 to 1. Now compare the $150,000 cost of a U.S. anti-tank “javelin” missile versus the $4.5 million cost of Russia’s most modern T90 tank: the factor is 30 to 1. Ukraine’s investment of some fraction of its $4 billion defense budget in development and production of highly accurate missiles (shield) against Russian tanks and rocket launcher systems (swords) would save thousands of Ukrainian lives and rule out a land invasion of armored vehicles. One javelin missile would take out a tank costing 30 times as much.
Russia’s advanced fighter jet (SU35) costs an estimated $4560 million. Ukraine produces antiaircraft detection and defensive missile launch systems at a fraction of the cost of an offensive Russian fighter jet. How many tanks or fighter jets could the Russians afford to deploy if Ukraine had sufficient defensive systems that would destroy them at a small fraction of what it cost Russia to build them?
Ukraine already has a welldeveloped and sophisticated defenseindustrial complex which is producing some very advanced systems such as the Grom2 tactical cruise missile system; its antitank StugnaP, now in mass production, using laserguided missiles to pinpoint and destroy lowflying aerial targets, infantry positions, and modern armored targets; and its portable, automatic, belly fed grenade launcher (UAG40). These and many others are just some of the advanced systems developed, designed and produced by Ukraine’s quarter million employees engaged in producing arms for export and internal use.
Until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine much of this production was exported, and not enough attention was paid to modernization and improvement. Now that Ukraine’s Defense Department has become the industry’s biggest client, and the current Administration recognizes Ukraine’s critical need for its products, the industry’s very robust scientific, engineering, IT, space and industrial potential has been redirected to meet Ukraine’s own defense needs while building up its export potential. Very few countries can afford investing in the research, development, and production of a wide array of advanced military hardware, while Ukraine has the expertise and facilities to do so at a very competitive cost.
But, unlike other major arms producers and exporters Ukraine should specialize in an industry niche that serves the interest of peace rather than war. Imagine, for a moment, that most of the nations of the world (the vast majority of which are peaceful) were to spend most of their “defense” budgets on less costly defensive rather than offensive armaments. Defensive armaments do not require the reach and destructive power of offensive weapons. A missile or directed energy system can defend a country from aerial or naval attack, or from armored land invasion at a small fraction of the cost (of equipment and personnel) that the invader has to bear. The development of countermeasures generally cost less than the aggressor’s systems because research is focused on circumventing weaknesses. Firing a flare to deflect a heatseeking missile is far less costly than developing and producing the missile.
Simplistic though these analogies may be, they make the point. Isaiah’s missing intermediate step is the building of shields to parry the enemy’s swords. Ukraine, with no aggressive designs on its neighbors, can not equal Russia’s outlay on offensive weapons. But it can afford developing electronic jamming devices to counter Russian surveillance and targeting; cyber technology to safeguard Ukrainian systems and pose a retaliatory threat to Russian systems; advanced radar systems; detection systems for border control; electromagnetic pulse generator to suppress enemy power and communication transmissions; directed energy system to destroy aerial targets; drones; etc.
For every $12 that Russia spends on its “swords” Ukraine can afford to spend $1 on shielding itself from those swords. Instead of an “arms” race Ukraine can counter with a “peace” race that would raise the cost of Russia’s aggression to unsustainable levels..
There are other aspects to defenseoriented technology that makes it attractive. Export revenues would reduce the “brain drain” of highly educated and talented Ukrainians from seeking professional challenges abroad. It opens opportunity for commercial exploitation of products developed in defense related research. It greatly reduces the size and cost of a standing army. And it preserves Ukraine’s militaryindustrial complex from declining in an increasingly more competitive market.
Ukraine is likely to profit from the sale of its products to the “front line” states of Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Georgia while greatly increasing its market share in a score of countries fearful of external aggression. Defensive systems are more affordable and may make the cost of aggression un affordable for many. Ukraine would shift from being an arms exporter to becoming a major exporter of peacepromoting and casualtyreducing “shields”. A military strategy based on neutralizing Russia’s offensive technological superiority and the buildup of special operations forces to liberate occupied territories is a winning combination.