Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 231

Russian arms sales to another part of the world, meanwhile, have awakened some concern in the West. As Russia’s armed forces have had to deal with increasingly severe budgetary shortfalls and the need to cut back manpower, the country’s Defense Ministry has moved to market excess military hardware around the world. Representatives of Russia’s defense establishment have made Africa a primary focus of that effort, and defense representatives have in recent months begun touring the continent in an effort to peddle Russia weaponry (Izvestia, December 4).

They have had some success. In late November Russia reportedly began transporting some US$35 million worth of weaponry to Uganda (Post of Zambia, November 26). At approximately the same time, according to a Russian newspaper, Russian Military-Transport Aviation began to deliver MiG-23 fighters to Angola. The value of the deal, which will reportedly include repair by Russian experts of MiG-21s and MiG-23s purchased earlier by Angola, was not disclosed (Izvestia, December 4). In early December, finally, reports surfaced that Russia had reached a US$150 million deal to supply Ethiopia with used fighter planes (Su-27s and MiG-24s), as well as with helicopters and other military equipment (Russian agencies, December 3; Addis Tribune, December 4).

That last sale drew some criticism from countries participating earlier this month at a meeting in Vienna of the so-called Wassenaar regime. The thirty-two nation arms control organization, which includes Russia and the United States, has attempted to regulate weapons sales to trouble spots around the globe, including those in Africa. Some delegates reacted bitterly, therefore, when Moscow announced the arms sale to Ethiopia only hours after the close of the Wassenaar meeting on December 3. One Western diplomat complained that the Russian move was inconsistent with the efforts of the group to exert “maximum vigilance” over sales to troubled regions. Russia and France have reportedly thwarted efforts led by Washington to increase the authority of the Wassenaar group over foreign arms dealings (New York Times, December 6).