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Valentin Badrak, director of the Kiev-based Center for the survey of the army, conversion and disarmament, believes that Turkmenistan has become a strategic partner for Ukraine in the sphere of military-technical cooperation. The expert's article on this topic was published by the Russian weekly "the Military-Industrial Express".

According to Valentin Badrak the demonstration of the famous Kolchuga passive radio-electronic reconnaissance complex by Ukrainians at a parade on Independence Day of Turkmenistan serves as one more confirmation of this conclusion.

"Two such stations were supplied by Ukroboronservice (a subsidiary of Ukrspetsexport) to Turkmenistan on the eve of the holiday. One station was deployed during the parade in Ashgabad", Badrak writes.

Supplies of military products to Turkmenistan began long ago. It was in 2000 that experts noted that Ukraine intensified the military-technical cooperation with Turkmenistan within the framework of a special agreement concluded with this country in 1996.

Ukrainian specialists, defense enterprises and institutes, in fact, restored Turkmenistan's anti-aircraft system, implemented a range of contracts on some anti-aircraft systems and repaired Turkmen warplanes using Ukrainian production facilities.

In particular, Ukraine repaired the MiG-29 fighters for the Turkmen Air Force. Experts say that repair of each warplane cost $3 million. Supplies of patrol boats produced by the More shipbuilding company of Feodossia to Ashgabat is another important direction of the military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and Turkmenistan. To date Turkmenistan has already received four Kalkan-M patrol boats; negotiations to build seven more such patrol boats are underway. The first of the Kalkans was sent to the Caspian Sea in May 2002. The Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, attended the ceremony of presenting the boat.

It is expected that Ashgabad will purchase a modernized version of this patrol boat - the Grif-T (under the export name of Kondor) - from the More shipbuilding company of Feodossia. Cooperation in the naval sector began in May 2001 when Niyazov visited Ukraine and reached an agreement during his stay in Odessa to build five patrol boats for the border guard forces of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan plans to purchase ten 40-ton each Grif (or its Kondor version) and ten 8-ton each Kalkan patrol boats from the More shipbuilding company of Feodossia. In addition, Ashgabad received Ukrainian infantry weapons.

Kiev and Ashgabad created rather efficient schemes of the military-technical cooperation, within the framework of which Kiev receives gas in exchange for military hardware. At present two subsidiaries of Ukrspetsexport - Ukroboronservice and Progress - work in the Turkmen market. It should be noted that Turkmenistan came second after Russia in terms of the volume of the military-technical cooperation with Ukraine in 2001.

Surely, such military-technical cooperation is not the only objective. "The relations between Ukraine and Turkmenistan are very important for the Ukrainian economy, Leonid Kuchnma said during one of his official visits to this country. He also pointed out that Kiev got the alternative gas sources due to the signed agreements with Ashgabat. "We have solved this problem in Ukraine (the lack of gas - editorial)", the president said.

It was exactly the military-technical cooperation that paved the way to joint multi-billion investment programs with Turkmenistan. Today 26 large projects are under way with the participation of Ukrainian companies. "The Ukrainian side is ready to further develop the military, economic, scientific and cultural cooperation with Turkmenistan", Leonid Kuchnma said.

As for Saparmurat Niyazov, he has repeatedly underlined that "Ukraine represents a reliable market for Turkmenistan". Last year, the two states signed a 5-year agreement on the supply of 250 bcm. The high potential of Kiev at the Turkmen markets is proved by statistics. For example, according to the republic's state statistics committee the bigger share of Ukraine's imports in 2001 came from Russia (37,4%) and Turkmenistan (10%).

As Valentin Badrak notes, the cooperation with Ukraine does not prevent Turkmenistan from expanding military-technical cooperation with some other nations as Russia, Turkey and Georgia. At the same time the Ukrainian special exporters do not fear to lose their positions in the Turkmen market. They think that the foundation of cooperation between Kiev and Ashgabad will make it possible to implement long-term military-technical projects.

(from the article in the Russian weekly "the Military-Industrial Express", issue N 9, 2003)

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