Oleg Sidorenko, the deputy general director of the state-owned Rosvooruzheniye arms exporting company, predicted yesterday that within 3 to 4 years Russia might surpass the U.S. as the world’s leading arms exporting country. (Interfax, December 4) Indeed, Russia already holds the top ranking when only developing countries are counted. Sidorenko was obviously buoyed by the recent deal to sell 50 Su-30MK strike fighters to India. He was also speaking at a weapons fair in Bangalore, India where the Russians were showing their most modern equipment, including the Ka-52 all-weather attack helicopter. Unlike their Soviet predecessors, Russian arms dealers today have no compulsions against selling their most modern equipment even before it appears in Russian colors.
India and China–both with large military establishments and a perceived need for the latest military technology — have been traditional Russian customers. So have Syria, Iran and Iraq, and the Russians are bound to pick up lucrative orders once various arms embargoes are relaxed. But they are also breaking into new markets in South Korea, Cyprus, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. And Moscow has been willing to include Western partners in their sales: the Indian Su-30s, for example, will have some French-built avionics.
Soviet arms exports were plagued, among other things, by shoddy post-sales support and erratic provision of spare parts. Should Russia’s current arms exporters show that they have solved such problems they could truly earn the status of a growth industry.
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