Arsenal of the Free World: Results of the First International Defense Industries Forum

On 29 September 2023 the First International Forum of Defense Industries (DFNC1) took place in Kyiv, bringing together 252 companies from more than 30 countries producing a full range of weapons, military equipment, and defense systems. The forum was jointly organized by three ministries: the Ministry of Strategic Industries of Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

This is the first time an event of this scale took place in Ukraine. Manufacturers of tanks, artillery, drones, ammunition, developers of innovative software and owners of unique complex technologies from partner countries took part in the event.

In addition, Ukrainian state, and private enterprises of the defense-industrial complex – both extensive groups of companies and defense-tech startups – joined.

The key slogan of DFNC1 is building the arsenal of the free world together because freedom needs strength to defend itself against tyranny.

The International Defense Industries Forum was opened by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Head of State noted that it is now and precisely in Ukraine that the most powerful defense-industrial complexes, their priorities and defense standards in the world will be determined for decades to come.

The guests were addressed by the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Strategic Industries Oleksandr Kamyshin. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and representatives of partner countries made special video messages. Eric Schmidt, founder of Schmidt Futures, gave a speech. Honorary speakers of the Forum were Minister of Defense of Slovakia Martin Sklenar and Deputy Secretary General of NATO Wendy Gilmore.

In their speeches, Ukrainian officials expressed gratitude to partners for their support of Ukraine and belief in the great new opportunities opened by the Forum. In the production of such a quantity of weapons that will meet all the security needs of our state and its partners.

Ukraine has the necessary base to build a powerful defense-industrial complex. Ukrainian enterprises are already producing artillery ammunition and cartridges, artillery systems of NATO caliber 155 mm, as well as unique automated systems: naval drones, long-range UAVs, missiles, anti-tank systems, which are effectively used at the front. The rate of development of Ukrainian production and Ukrainian technologies is constantly increasing.

The defense industry is one of the key components of the development of the Ukrainian economy. Within the framework of the Forum, the Ukrainian side signed 20 documents with foreign partners. These are agreements and memorandums on the manufacture of drones, repair and production of armored vehicles and ammunition. Cooperation formats include joint production, exchange of technologies, and supply of components. Defense cooperation with Ukraine is an equal partnership that strengthens all parties.

Localization of production in Ukraine will make it possible to attract a wide range of technologies, ideas, solutions and receive weapons tested in real combat conditions.

During the International Defense Industries Forum, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced several new initiatives to strengthen defense cooperation.

Thus, to increase the investment attractiveness of the defense industry of Ukraine, a special economic regime will be introduced for the industry. Its development is entrusted to the Ministry of Strategic Industries of Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine. A detailed plan will be presented by the end of the year.

A special Defense Fund will also be established, which will be operated by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. It will be replenished through dividends of defense enterprises and profits from the sale of confiscated Russian assets of the Russian Federation. The funds will be distributed in three areas: welfare of soldiers, military infrastructure, and development of new technologies. This will allow the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine to attract another source of funding – in addition to the state budget and private investments.

An important event of the Forum was the creation of the Defense Industries Alliance, which every manufacturer of weapons and military equipment from different countries of the world can join. By the time the Forum closed, 38 companies from 19 countries had joined the Defense Industries Alliance.

Bilateral and multilateral meetings of the state leadership with representatives of Ukraine’s partner states and foreign defense enterprises were held within the framework of the Forum.