Each week seems to bring announcements of new Russian arms sales abroad. On January 31 the director of the state-owned arms export company Rosvooruzhenie, Mikhail Timkin, said that so far this year his company had signed contracts for arms deals worth Òa little less than $10 billion." A few days before that, a military source had put the figure at $7 billion. (See Monitor, January 29) Timkin said that matching or beating the U.S. in arms sales in 1998 was his goal.
This competition is bound to create tensions between the two countries, as Russia moves to supplant the U.S. in some of Washington’s traditional markets while, at the same time, continuing to supply arms to countries considered pariahs in the West. As an example of the latter, Timkin said that Russia had contracted to supply Iran with some $1 billion in arms by 1999. He also suggested that Russia might sell additional arms to Iran after than date, despite having pledged to the U.S. not to do so. ÒPriorities are changing,Ó Timkin said. ÒLetÕs not rush and discuss what will happen in 1999 during 1997.Ó Timkin said that Russia did not see Iran as a military threat, a sentiment borne out by the fact that retired gen. Lev Rokhlin — chairman of the State DumaÕs Defense Committee — began a four-day official visit to Iran on January 31. (Itar-Tass, February 1)
Timkin thought that contracts worth more than $2 billion would be signed this year with Arab countries, and predicted that sales to Middle Eastern countries could grow to $18 billion per year by the turn of the century. Again, he mentioned a country on WashingtonÕs arms blacklist. Syria remains ÒRussiaÕs main strategic ally in the Middle EastÓ and will continue to receive Russian arms, Timkin said. He also revealed that Moscow would send a high-level delegation led by Defense Minister Igor Rodionov to an upcoming arms fair in Abu-Dhabi. Weapons on display will include the Ka-50 Black Shark helicopter gunship, T-80U and T-90S tanks, Sukhoi Su-30MK and Su-37 jet fighters, a model of a Kilo-class diesel submarine, and a wide range of artillery and air defense systems, armored vehicles, and small arms. (Interfax, January 31)
Yeltsin Envisages Military Dimension to CIS.