Why Russia sells its latest military technology?
MOSCOW, (BM) – A representative of the Ukroboronprom concern claims that the Ukrainian company allegedly “wins” Russia’s position in the arms markets. Why are these words nothing more than false propaganda? What are the real positions of Russian weapons on the world market? Is there a danger that Russia will eventually sell the latest defense technology?
“In a situation where we did not finance this story for 30 years, we continued to win positions in foreign markets with Russia, our main competitor, because we serve Soviet-made equipment, we provide components for armored vehicles and aircraft, we repair them,” said new deputy general director of the concern “Ukroboronprom”, former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Mustafa Nayyem.
We can say that “servicing equipment of Soviet origin” was indeed practically the only specialization of the once huge fragment of the great Soviet military-industrial complex remaining in Ukraine. There was a time when independent Ukraine was one of the five largest suppliers of weapons to the world market, but now it is not even one of the ten – physical volumes, revenue, and the range of goods of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex have sharply decreased in recent years.
Consider how Russia looks against this background.
At present, the Russian Federation is in second place in the global arms market, with a sales share of about 21% of the world. The export of Russian weapons is a significant amount in the state budget, although Russia is only 6th in the world in terms of its own military spending, after the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France, and in terms of the share of military spending in GDP (3.9 %) – stays at all in 10th place in the world ranking table.
If we compare the values of arms exports and the military budget of Russia directly, then it might seem that exports are not so significant – about 15 billion US dollars per year against 61.4 billion dollars of the military budget. However, such a comparison would not be entirely correct – the military budget of Russia exists in domestic, ruble prices, and the world arms market operates in dollars, as the main means of calculation. But there is also the flip side of the coin – the lion’s share of Russian arms exports is the direct sale of weapons, while the country’s military budget is also burdened with a host of additional costs and obligations.
Let’s be honest: for the enterprises of the Russian defense industry, arms exports are an opportunity, if not survival, then certainly guaranteed development “for their own, honestly earned.” However, how safe is the export of modern weapons, because in fact in this case Russia is arming other countries, relations with which may unexpectedly change in the future? How critical is the sale of the most important, it would seem, military technologies abroad?
Let’s start with the good: the Russian arms sales market has been stable for the second decade. After a huge failure in the 1990s, when Russia sold only $ 2-3 billion worth of arms per year, export has been growing steadily since the beginning of 2000. For 19 years of the XXI century, Russia has sold weapons worth more than $ 165 billion, and the total value of only concluded and confirmed contracts is fixed at around $ 230 billion.
The global arms market is constantly changing, but Russia’s share in it is almost stable – and this means that Russian weapons are in demand and meet the most advanced requirements of customers.
The peak in sales of Russian weapons was recorded in 2013: just before the global deterioration of the international situation and the imposition of anti-Russian sanctions began, the Russian defense industry sold 15.7 billion US dollars for arms exports. However, even the “crippling” sanctions of the United States and its allies did not stop Russian supplies – in 2014-2018, Russia consistently sold weapons for export in the region of $ 15 billion.
At the same time, it is important to emphasize that it was during this period that real “pearls” appeared in the export portfolio of Russia, which until then had never been offered for export. We are talking about fifth-generation fighters Su-57E, radar for monitoring Sula space objects, S-400, Viking anti-aircraft missile systems (export version of the Buk-M3 complex), Pantsir-S1E and Tor-E2 “, Operational-tactical missile systems (OTRK)” Iskander-E “. Deliveries to foreign customers of means of counteracting unmanned aerial vehicles and even certain technologies of the “holy of holies”: electronic warfare systems began.
In addition, the mass exit of Russian arms to the markets of NATO countries was completely unexpected. At the same time, it was not just about repairs or supplies of ammunition or spare parts for old, still Soviet equipment, which was inherited by the countries of the former Warsaw Pact or the Baltic republics upon their entry into NATO. For example, the Kalashnikov 200 series of Kalashnikov assault rifles were presented to the markets of the North Atlantic Treaty countries and their allies, including under the NATO patron and, it would seem, impossible in principle – S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems “similar” to those on combat duty in Russia itself.
Note that the aforementioned Ukraine does not offer anything of the kind, any new large combat systems of its own (not Soviet yet) development, and does not even announce. She really lives on “servicing Soviet-made equipment.”
However, Russia can be presented with such a reproach – is our country really sharing the most important defense technologies with potential military adversaries? It would seem – all arrived, we sell the last? Not really.
Invisible letter “E”
As an attentive reader has already noted, when listing individual items of deliveries of the latest Russian military equipment, we deliberately named them with the utmost precision, indicating all the required indices. In particular, for example, the version of the fifth-generation Russian fighter Su-57, called the Su-57E, in which many of the combat and functional capabilities of the aircraft are deliberately limited or not at all, is exported. The same approaches were used in the previous generation of Russian combat aircraft. For example, the main Russian Su-34 aircraft was accompanied on the world market by its export “brother” – the Su-32 fighter, while the Su-35 multi-role fighter had an export version shipped to China.
The same applies to the Pantsir-S1E, Tor-E2 and Viking, and Iskander-E anti-aircraft missile systems: they are somewhat degraded versions of the weapons supplied to the Russian army. What and how is changed in a particular delivery, of course, is not known in all details to the general public, but the situation as a whole is clear.
For example, almost all Russian export SAMs and OTRK take into account restrictions on the missile launch range, voluntarily adopted by Russia according to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), in which the country has been participating since 1995. By the way, the S-400 system, which is exported, most likely also has these limitations, although formally no additional indexes are indicated in its deliveries. However, this is nothing more than marketing: if Russia violated the provisions of the MTCR in the supply of S-400 (and its original parameters are beyond the limitations of the regime), then this fact would have been pedaled by the United States in opposing the supply of S-400, for example, to Turkey or India .
Such a situation with the presence of two options for almost any complex weapon systems immediately creates an interesting conflict: buyers of Russian weapons actually voluntarily agree to a somewhat truncated weapons option, but evaluate it sensibly. After all, none of them is going to fight with Russia, and most of these countries have their own external opponents, for whom even the truncated combat capabilities of the Russian arms are quite enough. For example, Pakistan is considered the traditional adversary of India, Iran is Saudi Arabia, and Turkey … Greece, allied to it by NATO. These are such difficult layouts. So, if there is an aggravation around the old problem of Cyprus, the Russian S-400 complex in Turkey will compete with the same Russian S-300 complex, which was delivered to Cyprus a decade before, but was eventually located (due to the conflict with Turkey) in Greek Crete.
Exactly in the same scenario, by the way, there are other suppliers of weapons – be it the United States, France or China. Each of them creates, in fact, two lines of weapons – one, the most advanced, for itself, and the second, with somewhat limited capabilities, but for export. Although, as mentioned, for marketing purposes, such a separation is not always mentioned officially, being present in closed transaction documents.
Of course, there are no bookmarks in the Kalashnikov assault rifle – and he will shoot exactly as much as the resource of the barrel and mechanism allows him to. But any SAM, OTRK or fifth-generation aircraft can simply be remotely disabled by a special signal that completely blocks the launch of a rocket or aircraft engine. And this factor is also always invisibly present in the choice of the source of arms supplies.
For example, one of the factors in Turkey’s choice of the Russian-made S-400 complex was purely political. The United States behaved unsuccessfully at the time of the latest coup attempt in Turkey, after which the Turkish elite had reasonable concerns about future US decisions. For example, during a hypothetical Turkish-Greek conflict or in a Kurdish issue unpleasant for Turkey.
In general, summarizing the above: arms export for Russia is an important factor in its presence on the world stage. Leaving this market means losing not just some abstract influence, but betraying real allies or sympathizers who may become allies in the future. In addition, “a holy place does not exist empty”: the vacuum from Russia’s withdrawal will be filled by other countries, and we objectively know much less about the possibilities of their weapons. Yes, and you won’t be able to disconnect them through “bookmarks”: these are not our fuses.
And, of course, the highlight is success in this ongoing technology race. To survive in the modern arms market, one must go forward all the time. We sell really modern – but the newest, most advanced and deadliest nevertheless we leave out of brackets. While Greece is holding back Turkey with the Russian S-300 complex, and Turkey is holding back Greece with the Russian S-400, Russia is making the next generation – the S-500 complex, which should surpass previous developments, again, by the head. At the same time, the work of the Russian “defense industry” was paid, including by export contracts.
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Author: Mihail Terestenko
Original title: Why Russia sells its latest military technology?
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BGM`s editorial stance.