Monday, October 19, 2015

Russian Arms Sales Buoyed by War on Terrorism Nonetheless Face Three Major Obstacles

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 19 – Buoyed by the war on terrorism in which many countries are now involved, Russian arms sales abroad continue to rise, and no one expects the outcome this year to be any different in the past, according to a new survey of that sector in today’s issue of “Kommersant-Vlast.”

            But despite that trend, journalist Ivan Safronov says, the sector faces three serious problems which are likely to be discussed at a meeting chaired by Vladimir Putin sometime later this year because they could reduce or restrict the sale of Russian arms abroad, currently running at more than 15 billion US dollars a year (

            Although most of Russia’s arms sales are to India, China, Algeria, Venezuela and Vietnam, he reports, it currently has relations with “more than 90 governments” around the world about arms purchases and has “firm arms contracts with a minimum of 60 countries.” Russian sales make up 27 percent of the world’s arms market, second only to the US.

            But Safronov says there are three problems in this sector that Moscow is concerned about. First, any change of government in any of the countries Russia now sells arms to or hopes to can force the sides to begin negotiations again almost “from zero,” according to a senior manager in Russia’s defense industry complex.

            Second, competition with other countries is intensifying with Russian producers saying that their competitors are now prepared to use “the most dirty methods” to block other countries from purchasing Russian arms.

            And third – and most intriguingly because it shows how Russia is being hit indirectly as well as directly by the decline in the price of oil – many oil exporting countries now have less money to spend on arms purchases because they are “much more carefully calculating their defense expenditures.”

            Nonetheless, Safronov continues, Russian arms exporters are confident their sales will rise: “it would be difficult,” they day, “to come up with a better argument for military equipment than participation in real military operations, ‘and also against terrorists.’” And Moscow is using that to sell arms where it earlier had not been able to.

            “Using the slogans of the struggle with terrorism and the defense of borders, Russia has been able to establish links [as far as arms sales are concerned] with countries whose arms market had appeared for various reasons to have been lost.” The best example is Pakistan which is now interested, even though Russia sells heavily to its geopolitical competitor India.

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