May 22, 2024

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Ignoring Ukrainian setbacks, Putin touts ‘superior’ Russian arms exports

Ignoring Ukrainian setbacks, Putin touts 'superior' Russian arms exports
  • Putin insists that Russian technology is years ahead of its competitors
  • Military analysts say Ukraine’s performance undermines bragging, military analysts say India and China top Russian arms buyers

LONDON (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russia was ready to sell advanced weapons to allies worldwide and cooperate in developing military technology, nearly six months after the Ukraine war in which his military fared worse than expected.

With its forces defeated from Ukraine’s two largest cities and slow and costly advances in the eastern provinces, the war has so far proven an unconvincing show for the Russian arms industry. Read more

But Putin, in a speech to an arms fair outside Moscow, insisted that Russian weapons are years ahead of the competition.

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He said that Russia cherished its strong relations with Latin America, Asia and Africa and was ready to provide allies there with a whole range of weapons from small arms to armored vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and drones. “Almost all of them have been used more than once in real combat operations.”

He said that the Russian offer includes high-precision weapons and robots. “Many of them are years, or perhaps decades ahead of their foreign counterparts, and in terms of tactical and technical characteristics they are significantly superior to them.”

Russia ranks second after the United States with arms sales of about $15 billion annually, nearly a fifth of the global export market. From 2017 to 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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‘weak ad’

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

“With the collapse of economic relations with the West, Russia has become more dependent on the arms trade than it was before, so it is not surprising that Putin is very keen to promote it to as many non-Western clients as possible,” he said. Ruth Dermond, Senior Lecturer in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

“The big problem for him is that Russia’s war against Ukraine was a disaster for Russian military credibility—it was a very poor advertisement for their weapons.”

When asked which Russian weapons systems performed worse in Ukraine, retired US General Ben Hodges cited assessments by US defense officials that Russia has failure rates of up to 60% for some of its precision-guided missiles.

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

“As a potential buyer, I would be very concerned about the quality of the equipment and the sustainability of the Russian Federation industry,” he said.

Ukraine has effectively used the weapons provided by the United States, especially the High Mobility Artillery Missile System (HIMARS), and Russia has suffered a series of major blows. Among those bombings, last week, were explosions at an air base in Russia-annexed Crimea, destroying at least eight aircraft on the ground, according to satellite images.

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However, Putin said that Russian forces and their proxies in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine are fulfilling all their tasks.

“Step by step they are liberating the land of Donbass,” he said.

Russia described the invasion, which began on February 24, as a “special military operation” to disarm its small neighbor and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of waging an unjustified war to seize territory.

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Mark Trevelyan reports. Editing by Andrew Osborne and Grant McCall

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