Russian President Vladimir Putin promoted the sale of "battle-tested" Russian weaponry during a speech in a military forum outside Moscow on Monday, claiming that "military professionals throughout the world value these weapons for their reliability, quality and, most importantly, their high efficiency."
Despite rising difficulties in the war with Ukraine, with Russia losing tens of thousands of troops as well as countless vehicles, tanks, artillery systems, advanced tech and other pieces of military equipment, Putin insists that "Russian weaponry was years ahead of the competition."
The US Defense Department and American intelligence officials believe that Russia’s severe losses will begin to cause significant slowdowns in the Kremlin’s arms deliveries into Africa, which could give inroads to Russia’s competitors, such as China and the United States.
“We anticipate that they’re going to have a real problem delivering equipment at the rate they’re losing equipment in Ukraine,” a senior US intelligence official told Foreign Policy, speaking on condition of anonymity based on ground rules set by the Pentagon.
Asked which Russian weapons systems had performed worst in Ukraine, retired US Gen. Ben Hodges cited assessments by US defense officials that Moscow was suffering failure rates as high as 60% for some of its precision-guided missiles, according to Reuters.
Western sanctions imposed against Russia also raised questions about its ability to provide components and perform maintenance for the weapons it sells, the general said.
"I'd be very concerned as a prospective buyer about the quality of the equipment and the ability of the Russian Federation industry to sustain it."
In contrast, head of the state-owned defense complex Rostec, Sergei Chemezov, claimed that military actions in Ukraine have not affected arms exports, stating that "this year we have already signed contracts with foreign customers worth over one trillion rubles ($16 billion). This figure exceeds some annual figures for the past 10 years," he said at the forum according to Russian media.
In comparison, between 2016 and 2020, Moscow sold $28 b. of weapons to 45 countries according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), meaning Russia's claimed figures for this year are more than triple of the average from that time period.
Russia's many allies
Putin praised Russia's "many" allies as the country finds itself increasingly isolated since the start of its war with Ukraine.
"We are ready to offer our allies and partners cutting-edge weapons – from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery, combat aviation and drones," Putin said at the opening of the forum.
"We are ready to offer allies and partners the most modern types of weapons – from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery, combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles."Russian President Vladimir Putin
"We highly value the existence of many allies, partners and likeminded people on different continents. These are states that do not bow to the so-called hegemon," Putin said. "Their leaders are displaying a genuine masculine character and do not bow."
He added that Russia "cherishes historically strong, friendly, truly trusting ties" with countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Russia's offer included high-precision weapons and robotics, according to Putin, Many of which are "years, or maybe decades ahead of their foreign counterparts – and in terms of tactical and technical characteristics they are significantly superior to them."
Russian global arms exports
Russia accounts for about a fifth of global arms sales, ranking second after the US.
Russia exports nearly 90% of its arms to 10 countries. Its biggest customer, India, bought 23% of Russia’s weapons for some $6.5 b. over the past five years. Almost half of India’s total arms imports (49.3%) come from Russia.
China is the second-largest buyer of Russian weaponry at $5.1 b. over the same period followed by Algeria ($4.2 b.), Egypt ($3.3 b.), and Vietnam ($1.7 b.), according to SIPRI.
While a lot of Russia’s weapons are upgrades of their Soviet-era arsenal, it is increasingly developing more advanced systems, including the S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system that has been sold to China, India, Syria and Turkey. Several other countries have expressed interest in purchasing long-range mobile systems, which cost about $400 m. per unit.
Moscow has a long history of providing helicopters, such as the Mi-17 and Mi-35, to African clients for counterinsurgency operations, where Russia accounts for nearly half of major arms exports, according to a count by the SIPRI, primarily supplying weapons to Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Angola.