Ignoring Ukraine setbacks, Putin touts ‘higher’ Russian arms exports

  • Putin insists that Russian technology is years ahead of competitors
  • Ukraine’s performance undermines pride, military analysts say India and China top list of buyers of Russian arms

London, Aug. 15 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia was ready to sell advanced weapons to allies globally and upgrade military technology, six months after his military fared worse than expected in the Ukraine war.

The war has so far proved an unreliable showcase for Russia’s arms industry, with its forces retreating from Ukraine’s two largest cities and slowly advancing at great cost in the eastern provinces. read more

But Putin, addressing an arms fair outside Moscow, insisted Russian weapons were years ahead of the competition.

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Russia maintains its strong ties with Latin America, Asia and Africa, and is ready to supply allies with a full range of weapons, from small arms to armored vehicles, artillery, fighter jets and drones, he said. “All of them have been used more than once in actual combat operations.”

Russia’s offer includes high-precision weapons and robotics, he said. “Many of them may be years or even decades ahead of their foreign counterparts, and they are significantly superior to them in terms of tactical and technical characteristics.”

Russia is second only to the United States with nearly a fifth of the world export market, with annual arms sales of $15 billion. From 2017-2021, 73% of those sales went to just four countries — India, China, Egypt and Algeria — according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

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‘Bad publicity’

Western military analysts said Russia’s struggles against a much smaller adversary in Ukraine could undermine Putin’s sales pitch.

“With the deterioration of economic relations with the West, Russia is more dependent than ever on the arms trade, so it’s no surprise that Putin is so keen to promote them to non-Western customers whenever he can,” he said. Ruth Dearmond is Senior Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London.

“The bigger problem for him is that Russia’s war against Ukraine has been disastrous for Russian military credibility – their performance is a very bad advertisement for their weapons.”

Asked which Russian weapons systems performed poorly in Ukraine, retired U.S. General Ben Hodges cited estimates by U.S. defense officials that Russia had failure rates of some of its precision-guided missiles as high as 60%.

Western sanctions against Russia have also raised questions about its ability to source components and provide maintenance for the weapons it sells, said Hodges, a former commander of US military forces in Europe.

“As a prospective buyer I would be very concerned about the quality of the equipment and the ability of the industry of the Russian Federation to maintain it,” he said.

Ukraine has made effective use of US-supplied weapons, particularly the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), and Russia has taken several major blows. Explosions at an air base on Russia’s annexed Crimean peninsula last week destroyed at least eight planes on the ground, according to satellite images.

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Nevertheless, Putin said Russia’s forces and their proxies in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region were fulfilling all their missions.

“Step by step they are liberating Donbas land,” he said.

Russia calls the invasion, which began on February 24, a “special military operation” to militarize its small neighbor and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of waging an unprovoked war and seizing territory.

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Report by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Osborne and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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