Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 44

Yevgeny Ananev’s dismissal from Rosvooruzhenie and the apparent confusion in Russia about who would negotiate with Greece were symptoms of a broader battle for political control of Russian arms exports. Maslyukov, who had been granted some responsibilities in this area following his entry into Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s government, had tried almost from the outset to consolidate his authority over arms export policy. To do that, Maslyukov had sought to dismiss Ananev and to replace him with someone more loyal. A former apparatchik with long ties to Soviet defense enterprise managers, Maslyukov had tried simultaneously to decentralize control over Russia’s arms exports by giving some individual defense enterprises the right to negotiate foreign arms sales on their own.

Maslyukov was checked in his efforts by the prime minister himself, who in November installed one of his own loyalists, Grigory Rapota, into the post of Rosvooruzhenie director (Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 28). Like Primakov, Rapota has an intelligence background. He served under Primakov when the latter directed Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. In December, moreover, President Boris Yeltsin decreed the creation of an agency to oversee military-technology cooperation with foreign countries. Primakov was named its head (Itar-Tass, December 7).

But if Maslyukov lost the battle to place one of his own atop Rosvooruzhenie, he may nevertheless have been successful in his efforts to win greater autonomy for individual defense concerns to negotiate foreign arms sales. As many as twenty-one defense enterprises have now been given the right to do just that (Izvestia, November 27; Itar-Tass, January 29). Rapota, meanwhile, has apparently shown at least some sympathy for that line of thinking. He reportedly helped draft the government resolution which gave Antei the right to sign the Tor-M1 contract with Greece. He has also said that Rosvooruzhenie will allow Russian defense enterprises more generally to conclude smaller scale contracts independent of Rosvooruzhenie (Obshchaya gazeta, December 17, 1998; Itar-Tass, February 26).

What is unclear is whether this devolution of authority over arms exports–Rosvooruzhenie once controlled 95 percent of all arms sales–will resolve several of the key problems facing Russia’s struggling defense sector. One involves the question of corruption, and whether revenues from arms sales will be distributed properly. A second involves coordination, and whether Russian defense enterprises and middlemen will be allowed to undercut each other and weaken Russia’s presence on international arms markets.

A third and particularly important problem involves export controls. Russia and the United States have long been at loggerheads over accusations that Russia is leaking sensitive military technologies. There have also been allegations that Russian arms exporters are contributing to tensions in Africa and elsewhere. While a system of export licenses has been formally established, it seems unlikely that a broader relaxation of governmental control over Russia’s huge defense industrial sector will help Moscow meet its professed goal of stopping improper arms dealings.