Russian arms imports

One of the most interesting news from Russia during the last years (aside from the T-50 fighter prototype) has been the Russian interest in buying Western arms.

The Russian interest in buying a Mistral class ship from France came as a surprise last year, and since then there have been additional reports about Russian interest in Western equipment, such as the Iveco LMV vehicle.

A summary is here and an interview summary is here.

The Russian arms industry is in shambles and not exactly up-to-date in regard to electronics - that's well-known. This wouldn't prevent a rebuilding effort, though. It's furthermore very rare that states seek to purchase foreign products merely for the purpose of instilling some competition into the market.

Russian relations with the PR China have entered a rather cool period again and Russian relations with India have apparently improved much.
Is this Russian interest in arms deals (I suspect they're interested in some offset deal, the supplier's nation would commit to buy Russian hardware in return) a symptom of a new Russian grand strategy?
Maybe they want to integrate with the West; cooperation instead of confrontation, similar to West Germany's post-'49 grand strategy? Putin's recent proposal for a free trade zone encompassing the EU and Russia (albeit with unknown details) appears to confirm this.
The involved diplomats and deal negotiators have an interesting job these days, for sure



  1. Russia are never as strong as it seems, and never as week as it seems.
    Do not forget that.

  2. The Mistral story tries to tie France in, as does the French participation in North Stream, the Renault deal with AutoVAZ, the RUS-FRA nuclear power love. Same with Italy, but here very much based on Putin-Berlusconi. Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Beretta, &c. German with gas and cars. But very intersting: As that idiotic IM Erika has cooled down the official relations with the Kremlin, the Russians light as a feather switched towards France as their new love.

    Russia is very good in ensnaring Western Europe. But: I'm all for it. Europe needs Russia as much as Russia needs Europe. And Russia is much more strategic and target-oriented than the morons who rule the EU and try their best to red-tape things like Schengen or a Russian share in EADS and such.

    PS: As an Austrian living in Moscow (and the U.S.) I have my very own opinion and rather emotional take on the whole affair ... :-D

  3. kaur said:

    Distiller, what has happened to Russia between today and last time, when parlamentian/presidential elections took place? Russia was then in slogans so sovreign (Putin's Munich speech, whole camapign's tone so anti-west etc) and today's slogans from pro-Medvedev's guys about joining EU and NATO. Crisis in economy or in minds? Or both? ... or plan B "If we can't force them, we have to be more subtle"?

    PS please don't tell me that this 2007/2008 campaign was directed only for interior public.

  4. No, that Putin strong man attitude was real.
    What happened is a mixture I guess. Russia's elites are stubborn but certainly not dumb (quite to the contrary).
    It started with the economic crisis, where the Kremlin realized that it needed cooperation, needed the good will of at least Europe, needed the technology.
    In parallel to the crisis the insight that the 3rd world economic structure is not sustainable.
    Then the insight that economic power, involvement and interconnection are soft power tool that lead to far more deep and stable means of influence than strong arm tactics and bullying.
    Also the insight that with China in the east, edgy Muslims in the south, Russia needs that European connection to survive.

    But: Russia needs Europe as much as Europe needs Russia. In that the Kremlin is much further along the curve than the EU, as Russia is the only European country with a real grand strategy. The EU lack of enthusiasm in relations with Russia (and the whole Eastern Europe) is a strategic mistake of the first order. Of course: Russia will try to play between the US and China, but I think it would very much want to have Europe on its side. Yes, I think it's genuine.

  5. kaur said:

    Distiller, you are right. Russians are clever. For me it seems really hard to understand, that one day they declare, that they don't care and little bit later they say that they do. How should I react? I admire Rogozin who manages to keep his old (tougher) line (i don't know how long). But for me this is sign. He must follow instructions from the top, because he is political creature by Kremlin. I really like to agree with you Distiller that Russians calm down and start behave more like West. In the beginning this seems like dream of urban middle/upper class. Jedinaja Rossija declared some time ago that this is target group of their campaign. ... and this party is created by who? This made me again suspicious. Let's see what future brings. The fact is that Russians want investments and technology. This is nothing new in Russia's history. Some years ago they were sure that they have enough cash to get the second. Didn't work.

    One more moment about the tough mood and world view and narratives? How many Putin's corporation people are in top power? This presentation gives some numbers.


    PS maybe I could have little more empathy if I had opportunity to work in Deutche Bank or Raiffhaisen Bank in Moscow and deal with oligarhs whose debted firms are now (after crisis) partly owned and overwatched by comissars. Huge numbers may make me blind :)

  6. It amazes me that Russia does so little.
    China can roll up everything east of the Caspian with barely a shot fired.
    It doesnt fix Chinas ensieged problem, but its quite a lot of fertile living space for its soon to be starving populace.

  7. Another Thought

    Russia has simply given up on its Defence Industrial Strategy.

    Its picked a few areas where its going to spend big and try to produce the best kit in the world, in other areas, its just going for cost effectiveness.
    Few people would question Russias leadership in Ground Based Air Defences, if it buys Iveco and cancels whatever it was planning on designing, can it extend that world leadership to a second field?

    Sensible strategy, pick something, do it the best in world.