Washington, already concerned about reports of abuses against
civilians by Russian forces in Chechnya, may now have cause for
alarm over another byproduct of the war - the revival of the Big
Bear's arms industry.
Despite the end of the cold war, the two powers are still rivals
in the tight world weapons market. And some nations unfriendly to
the United States - Libya, Iran, and Syria - are knocking on
Moscow's door looking for sophisticated arms.
Russia's three-month campaign against Islamic separatists in the
breakaway Chechen republic has fattened the defense ministry's
budget this year and next. The result is the oiling up of an arms
industry that has been rusting since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet
Union, with $1 billion allocated for procuring and developing new
This year, state defense export agency Rosvorouzhenie expects
total Russian foreign sales of more than $3 billion. Officials
with Rosvorouzhenie report orders worth $9 billion through 2005.
About half of these are for aircraft and helicopters, but increasing
interest has been registered in Russia's naval- and air-defense
"Before the Chechen war, the military industrial complex and the
Army had the public image of a monster devouring the people's money.
But public opinion has shifted dramatically," says Valentin Rudenko,
an arms trade expert with the state-linked Military News Agency in
Moscow. "The war has highlighted the necessity of ... developing
high-precision weapons that can be used without threatening civilian
lives. So the process of modernizing weapons has been intensified."
This is good news for a sector that nearly collapsed after
accounting for 80 percent of industrial production during Soviet
times. The decline coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall, when
Russian armsmakers stopped producing for Eastern European countries
and other cold war allies and had a brusque entry into the
competitive international market.
Boosting the revival, a weak ruble makes Russian arms seductively
cheap. Currently, Russia's main weapons customers abroad - China,
India, Iran, Algeria, and Greece - are looking at increasing
business. They purchase mostly aviation hardware, such as Sukhoi and
MIG fighter planes and helicopters, as well as missiles. The Asian
market especially is expanding as Russia actively courts non-
The interest is not solely in buying hardware, but also in
pursuing technological military cooperation. Over the past five
years, Rosvorouzhenie has signed such collaboration deals with
Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Ukraine.
Sales to Libya, Syria
Another market that appears to be expanding for Russia is Libya,
thanks to the suspension of United Nations sanctions in April.
Rosvorouzhenie reports that negotiations are under way to repair and
modernize Soviet-era military hardware operated by the Libyan Army. …