Two years ago, in a programmatic outline of what he would do if elected to office for a second six-year term, Vladimir Putin pledged to increase military spending, both to build up Russia’s might on the international stage and to secure another stream of income from arms sales in uncertain economic times.Speaking before a Russian commission for military cooperation yesterday, a triumphant Putin celebrated record arms sales in the first half of 2014, and encouraged his country to continue the trend:
“It is important to facilitate advance of our international existing and prospective ties in that sphere, increase Russian presence on the global arms market,” he said.In particular, the president said Russia should remain one of leading suppliers of naval vessels in the world.“Market potential of this product is very big … Countries in the world plan to allocate around 100 billion dollars to re-equip their fleets within next few years,” Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying.
As the Christian Science Monitor notes, Russia might be overtaking the United States as the number one arms dealer in the world:
According the the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [SIPRI] Russia was the world’s second-biggest arms merchant in 2012, with about 26 percent of the global market compared to the US with 30 percent. According to some reports, a surge in Russian arms sales over the past two years might already have put it in first place.
This is not as consequential as it might appear at first glance. Russia is serving the lower end of the market with older, Soviet-era designs. For many clients, the Monitor notes, that’s more than adequate. The Su-25 jets the Iraqis took delivery of last week, for example, are probably good enough for their purposes, especially when priced against more modern American offerings.Nevertheless, Putin appears to be successfully executing an ambitious plan: The increases in arms sales are having a positive effect on the country’s bottom line, and by all accounts, the Russian forces on display in the Crimean invasion bore little resemblance to the shabby Soviet-style force that stumbled into Georgia in 2008.