Staunton, March 28 — Moscow got some bad news this week: it is losing out to other more technologically advanced countries in the arms sales sector, something that is costing Russia money but also highlighting the reality that many of its weapons systems are no longer world class as far as potential buyers are concerned.
While it is unlikely that Russia would ever sell its most advanced weapons systems, such losses suggest that in many areas, its weapons may not be as sophisticated as the Kremlin likes to claim and as many of Russia’s neighbors fear, especially since some of those neighbors are now among those edging Russia out of parts of this market.
And consequently, while Russia remains the second largest seller of arms in the world (behind only the US), it may have trouble maintaining its current sales levels, especially of equipment that requires imported parts that may not be available because of sanctions or that uses advanced technologies Russian arms producers have not yet introduced.
This week, Aleksandr Brindikov, the head of the advisory group to Rosoboroneksport, the Russian government’s military equipment exporting arm, said that Russian producers are becoming ever less competitive on the world weapons market and have already exited some 30 of its sectors.
The reason for that, he said, has nothing to do with marketing but rather that the products the Russian defense industry is offering cannot compete with those offered by other countries, he continued. For example, Germany, China and “even Ukraine” are getting sales in the armored area that Russia had assumed it would keep.
Brindikov’s comments are a sharp departure from those of Vladimir Putin on January 27 when the Kremlin leader celebrated Russia’s prowess in this area, but even Putin acknowledged that the international arms market was becoming increasingly competitive, a possible indication that he is aware of these problems.
Anton Mardasov of Svobodnaya Pressa queried several other Moscow experts on arms concerning Brindikov’s statements. Most were dismissive, although some did concede that Russia has problems now in the electronics area because it must produce components that it used to be able to import.
But one of these experts, Vladimir Shvaryev, deputy director of the Moscow Center for the Analysis of the International Arms Trade, suggested that Brindikov was pointing to a problem that goes back much further than the past year. Russia has had problems in producing and selling high-tech arms, he said, but these problems are have been around for a long time.