Last week, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin moved to consolidate his control over Russian arms exports. On March 7, Aleksandr Kotelkin, the former director of the leading arms export agency Rosvooruzhenie, was dismissed from his post as first deputy minister for foreign economic relations. (Kommersant, No. 8, March 10)
Rosvooruzhenie has been the subject of intense political struggle over the past five years. The actual volume of arms exports is relatively modest when compared to certain other areas, for example, the oil or metals trade — falling from $3.3 billion in 1996 to $2 billion last year. However, allocation of export contracts to one or another of the rival producer enterprises can be an important lever in regional political battles. It is this pork-barrel aspect that is particularly attractive to Chernomyrdin. The level of receipts from arms sales is itself a matter of some controversy, with Kotelkin’s opponents challenging his optimistic estimates. More than half of Russian arms deliveries go to India and China, and are paid for in soft currencies or by canceling old debts, so coming up with reliable figures is extraordinarily difficult. (Segodnya, December 26)
…After Five-Year Bureaucratic Battle.