Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 7

One area in which relations between Russia and China appear not to have cooled at all, however, is arms sales. On January 4 news agencies announced that, a day earlier, the two countries had signed a major new arms contract under which Russia will build two destroyers for the Chinese navy. Rosoboroneksport, Russia’s state arms trading company, provided no specifics as to the value of the deal, but other sources in Russia suggested that it is worth approximately US$1 billion. The importance of the contract was attested to by those who attended last week’s signing. Russia was represented by both Rosoboroneksport deputy director Sergei Chemezov and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, the man who oversees Russia’s foreign arms sales. The Chinese side was represented by a host of top military and arms officials, as well as by the Chinese ambassador to Russia.

Reports indicated that the two Sovremenny class destroyers, which are to be built by the Severnaya Verf naval yards in St. Petersburg, will be delivered to China by the year 2005. They will be the third and fourth vessels of this type to be built by Moscow for the Chinese. In the fall of 2000 Russia delivered the second of two destroyers under an earlier 1997 deal that was estimated to be worth US$800 million. One difference that may emerge between the two deals: China is reportedly insisting that the two new destroyers be equipped with Russia’s advanced new supersonic antiship cruise missile, the Yakhont. It has a range of up to 300 kilometers and can reportedly travel at twice the speed of sound. The two vessels delivered earlier to China were equipped with Moskit missiles, which have a range of less than half of that (AFP, Interfax, January 4; AFP, November 7, 2000).

According to one Russian report, the Severnaya Verf plant will be hard pressed to meet the announced delivery date for the two destroyers. That could prove to be a problem, given past Chinese complaints about the quality and timeliness of Russian arms deliveries, not to mention difficulties faced by Moscow in providing spare parts. China is presently Russia’s largest arms client and, together with India, the two account for approximately three-quarters of all Russian foreign arms sales (Novye Izvestia, January 9; The Russia Journal, April 6, 2001).