As the war in Ukraine drags into its nineteenth month, allies have been discussing how to set up a support pipeline for Kyiv capable of outlasting Russia’s ongoing invasion. Whereas direct transfers from countries’ weapons stockpiles were instrumental in the beginning, some governments are now looking for more sustainable forms of aid.
For Finland, this has meant looking alternately at increasing the capability of ammunition production both at a national level and elsewhere, Kyiv purchasing directly from Finnish industry, and various international initiatives to help Ukraine, a defense ministry official told Defense News.
Local media recently began to report that Finnish armored vehicles manufacturer Patria Group was considering proposals to set up part of its production in Ukraine.
When pressed on the matter, the Finnish defense representative remained somewhat vague.
“In general, we know Ukraine to be interested in Finnish defense industry products and that discussions to promote bilateral materiel cooperation have taken place between administrations and companies,” the official said. “Commercial export licenses have been applied for, and the defense administration has accelerated the procedure to deal with them,” he added.
Patria also remains tight-lipped on the issue, stating in an email to Defense News that the company could not comment on ongoing discussions.
National broadcaster Yleisradio Oy (Yle) previously suggested that the Finnish company could strike a similar arrangement with Ukraine that it has in place with Poland for the domestic production of its vehicles.
Back in April, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced on the social media platform previously known as Twitter that Ukraine had ordered 100 armored vehicles from Patria that were to be delivered by Poland.
Without commenting on the Kyiv connection, Sirje Ahvenlampi-Hyvönen, vice-president of communications at Patria, explained that technology transfer and local manufacturing concepts are inherent parts of the company’s business model.
“In Poland, Rosomaks 8x8 wheeled armored modular vehicles (AMVs) are produced under a license agreement on manufacturing. … We have already performed successful technology transfers such as industrial participation and local production for 8x8 AMVs in Slovenia, Croatia and South Africa,” Ahvenlampi-Hyvönen said.
The prospect of a local production venture in Ukraine is likely to receive political support in Helsinki, according to experts. Joel Linnainmäki, research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, noted that Ukraine’s defense enjoys a strong backing from Finland’s new conservative-right administration and the Finnish parliament.
“Cooperation between Patria and Ukraine would fit well into this picture. … Finland also tends to carefully follow and compare itself with the policies of our closest neighbors such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark who also seem to be exploring production possibilities in Kyiv as well,” Linnainmäki said.
But any changes in production processes or supply chains, especially in an active war zone, are extremely intricate and can entail greater risks.
“Conflict and war situations are obviously always very complex,” Ahvenlampi-Hyvönen said. “One of the lessons of the [Ukraine] war already is that this is a frontline warfare and has shown the need for compatible equipment and performance so that logistical support, maintenance can be provided more efficiently and reliably.”
Linnainmäki pointed to the need of building a “Ukrainian military of the future,” as referred to by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a speech he gave in Helsinki in June.
“Investing into new production facilities is part of this effort,” said Linnainmäki.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.