Motor Sich plant in Zaporizhia Region. Photo: Sputnik
Between the burgeoning trade war and aggressive Chinese militarism in the South China Sea, Sino-American relations have quickly deteriorated into outright confrontation. In Eastern Europe, similar tensions on a smaller scale have been brewing. One of the focal points in the European theater is the American support for the state of Ukraine in its ongoing civil war; it recently has come to light however that U.S. support has been met with, by some Ukrainians, what may be considered poor faith.
One of the Chinese government’s primary prerogatives is the expansion of its military capacity, as seen by the endless commissioning and development of new ships, with military spending increasing by 8% in 2018 alone. They have already deployed one aircraft carrier and have plans for at least three more, relates Bill Gertz of the Washington Times. His article describes how state media has released plans on making new jets that can train pilots to land on aircraft carriers— jets powered by Ukrainian engines. In fact it was reported that 250 engines were promised by Motor Sich, one of the largest producers of military grade plane engines and helicopters for Ukraine. Oleh Lyashko, a leader of one of Ukraine’s parties currently controlling 22 seats in parliament, said on Facebook that “Ukraine is one of the five countries of the world” capable of making modern military aircraft engines and that “If the Americans do not want us to sell to the Chinese, let them them buy our aircraft engines” a tongue in cheek retort in the face of accusations that the country is acting against U.S. interests.
This deal, apparently dating back to 2016, is not the only point of controversy relating to the firm. The South China Morning Post details how Beijing Skyrizon, a Chinese based company controlled by two powerful figures in the Chinese business community, indirectly controls “a 56 per cent stake in the firm”. This insertion of Chinese interests is highly disconcerting given numerous attempts by this company to buy out important regional assets like the port of Sevastopol and an attempt to gain an additional 41% stake in the Ukrainian firm in 2017.
In light of these events, critics have urged the Trump administration to put more pressure on the Ukrainian government. A former counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, William C. Triplet, even went so far as to say that “the Ukrainians are getting away with taking the U.S. taxpayers’ money in the one hand while stabbing the U.S. Navy in the back with the other.” While some may describe this claim as extreme, this may not even be the first time that Ukraine has provided military technology at a cost to the United States. In 2017 the New York Times referenced a study done by International Institute for Strategic Studies which concluded that the North Korean ICBMs were “derive[d] from designs that once powered the Soviet Union.” These missiles were linked back to a state-owned missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine. The lead researcher said that “it’s likely that these [weapons] came from Ukraine” and that the big question now is “whether the Ukrainians are helping [the North Koreans] now.” In the context of this previous breach of trust, the threat to American security stemming from Ukraine must be responded to; the U.S. ought to pressure an ally who may be betraying its interests.
A North Korean Hwasong-14 missile. Photo: Korean Central News Agency