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How To Sell Arms And Influence People
Russia Courts U.S. Allies With Arms Exports

After a sharp drop-off in arms exports since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russia is steadily reclaiming its lost market share—and as the Wall Street Journal notes, it is increasingly doing so while courting longtime U.S. customers:

Moscow’s efforts to bounce back have caught the attention of U.S. arms makers, in part because Russia is dealing in some cases with countries such as the U.A.E., Egypt and the Philippines that have long been major buyers of U.S. weapons, though some have also purchased arms from Russia as well. U.S. arms exports rose sharply in 2014 as Russia’s fell, and have since edged down to $9.9 billion last year, according to SIPRI.

“If one of our partners like U.A.E.…starts turning on any given transaction to the Russians, that means the Russians have gained an opportunity—that we no longer have—to build their influence,” said Remy Nathan, vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group that represents U.S. manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg picks up on a related trend: Russia is making inroads in Southeast Asia, as it seeks to win new friends and exploit the bad blood between Washington and estranged allies like Thailand and the Philippines. Russian planes have made their way into the Royal Thai Air Force, for example, and the commander-in-chief of Russian land forces just visited Bangkok to deepen military cooperation. And in the Philippines, Russia has rushed to offer arms and naval cooperation in the wake of President Duterte’s abrupt pivot away from the United States.

Of course, not all of Russia’s arms sales are targeted at strained U.S. allies; the Kremlin is also doubling down on faithful buyers like Indonesia, Iran, and Belarus. But the trends do suggest an opportunistic attempt to exploit resentments with Washington for both political and profit-maximizing ends. Where the U.S. cannot fulfill allies’ arms needs—whether because of human rights scruples, political considerations, or burdensome export regulations—Moscow is ideally situated to swoop in.

Russia’s arms clout should not be overstated; Moscow still trails Washington in both quantity and quality of weapons sold. Nonetheless, the WSJ and Bloomberg stories offer another telling data point in how Russia’s foreign policy works. Putin is no genius strategist, but he is adept at seeing and seizing opportunities to enrich his cronies while sticking it to the West. Stepping up arms sales to estranged U.S. allies is a good way to do both.

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  • f1b0nacc1

    What this boils down to is that the Russians are willing to sell to states that don’t meet with American pretensions, i.e. some unsavory governments that may do nasty things with those weapons. More to the point (MUCH more to the point), the Russians are willing to cooperate with the various bribes expected by the procurement communities in the regimes involved.

    As the Corleones would say, “this is nothing personal, just business”

    • D4x

      Breaking news which might upset Turkey and Iran, before western media spins this: “Russia is setting up a military base in northwestern Syria in agreement with the Syrian-Kurdish YPG armed group that controls the area and will train fighters, a YPG spokesman said on Monday.

      The agreement with Russia was concluded on Sunday and Russian troops have already arrived at the village of Kafr Jina, in the
      northwestern region of Afrin, with troop carriers and armoured vehicles, YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Reuters news agency.

      “The Russian presence … comes in agreement between [the YPG] and the Russian forces operating in Syria in the framework of
      cooperation against terrorism and to help train our forces on modern warfare and to build a direct point of contact with Russian forces,” Xelil said in a statement. …”

  • Both the U.S. and Russia rely far too heavily on nationalism and the military industry. Perhaps the reason they are such bitter rivals is not because they are different, but rather because they are far too similar to one another.

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