KYIV – Ukraine is at war. But Washington’s limits to ‘nonlethal, defensive’ security sales whittled down the American vendors at Kyiv’s annual Arms and Security show to one.
“Interest is huge,” said Trent Hutchinson, international sales director of Night Vision Devices, of Allentown, Pennsylvania. He said he was surprised by the number of sales meetings that developed from visitors walking by his modest stand. Thousands of dollars worth of binoculars, monoculars and helmet goggles were displayed on a table.
“Of every 50 men, only one has a night vision system,” he said, while his interpreter talked with a bearded man who identified himself as a former member of the Aidar Batallion.
“Obviously, Ukraine is at war – we know their requirements and that our product is needed,” said Hutchinson who declined to predict whether the Trump Administration will allow the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine.
Other foreign vendors came from countries that are friendly – or allied – with Ukraine: Canada, Poland, Turkey and Pakistan. There was a strong Chinese sales contingent at the largest stand mounted by Motor Sich, the Zaporizhia aviation motor company that is gradually falling under Chinese control.
The exhibition took place after Ukrainian defense conglomerate Ukroboronoprom unveiled Monday at the Association of the US Army show in Washington DC a new fighting robot called the Phantom. Moving on tracks or wheels, the Phantom can be equipped with a coaxial 23 mm machine gun, antitank missiles, or grenade launchers. The Phantom has a backup microwave-communication link in case opposing fighters jam or hack its receiver.
At Kyiv’s three day fair, which ended Friday, visitors swarmed booths, crowding shooting ranges and knife sellers, and posing for pictures with tanks.
Despite the crowds, Sergey Byelokoz of YKK Poland, subsidiary of the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, said business was not good.
“We’re interested in wholesalers, and there are not so many wholesalers here,” he said, explaining that most visitors to the fair were private individuals, not manufacturers.
Byelokoz attributed this slump to the hryvnia’s prolonged weakness to the euro, which make EU products harder for Ukrainian wholesalers to afford.
A few booths away, Alper Alpay, a representative of International Armored Group, an armored vehicle manufacturer, said he’d seen no such slump.
Though he hadn’t closed any deals yet, Mr. Alpay said he expected to sell a number of armored vehicles to private individuals, most of them Toyota Rangers with concealed armor.
“What we’re selling is not related to the economy,” said Mr. Alpay. “It’s related to the tension…. If there’s a need for armored cars, there’ll always be a budget.”
UBJ Editor in Chief contributed reporting to this story