NewsRussia's waning influence in global arms trade amid Ukraine war

Russia's waning influence in global arms trade amid Ukraine war

The Russians got scared. Fighters are forbidden from approaching the Ukrainian border.
The Russians got scared. Fighters are forbidden from approaching the Ukrainian border.
Images source: © Youtube

6:07 PM EST, December 10, 2023

Russia is forfeiting traditional markets and long-standing allies. Countries like Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are increasingly favoring NATO technologies. Has the appeal for Russian equipment dwindled?

The Ukraine war has exposed the inferiority of Russian equipment when compared with Western counterparts. In many instances, even inadequately trained Ukrainian anti-aircraft system operators have successfully combatted Russian aircraft. This resulted in a prohibition for bombers and fighters from nearing the Ukrainian border. Now, only attack aircraft and helicopters fly over the front line.

Western tanks and armored vehicles have proven to be robust. Russian-made tanks are notorious for being lethal to the crew if hit in the right place, with tank turrets taking flight to extraordinary heights.

Therefore, countries planning to upgrade their equipment in the future are observing the Ukraine war closely and concluding. Unfortunately, these conclusions aren't favorable for the Russian arms industry. Increasingly, past clients are moving away from Russia, opting instead to invest in Western equipment.

Shifting markets

Russia's traditional equipment markets comprise African and Asian countries, especially those formerly part of the USSR or Eastern Bloc, with India being an exception given its Cold War purchases from both sides.

Up until recently, the two primary markets were India and China. However, the rising self-sufficiency of the Chinese industry is causing Russian "technological thoughts" sales to China to decline. A similar trend is noticeable in India, although, they prefer to buy from NATO countries.

Former USSR countries are increasingly distancing themselves from Moscow. Armenia feels betrayed following the lost war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, Yerevan still hasn't received the weapons it paid for. Consequently, Armenians have started buying from France and India. Exports to the Middle East are also dwindling as their trading interests shift towards Beijing.

Moreover, the Russian army needs to first refill its own losses. Nonetheless, production barely meets these demands. As a result, Russia is retaining equipment meant for countries like India or Armenia.

France gains popularity

So far, France has benefitted the most from this shift. Uzbekistan has shown interest in acquiring 24 multirole Rafale aircraft. Earlier, the Uzbeks bought four Airbus C-295W transport aircraft. Kazakhstan ordered two heavy Airbus A-400M Atlas transporters. Both countries formerly used Antonov transport planes, while Su-27, Su-30, and MiG-29 represented their attack strength.

The significant loss of orders from Uzbekistan will particularly sting Russia. Being the wealthiest of the former Central Asian republics, and with ambitious plans and a comparably large army, Uzbekistan was an important client for Russia. Almost 100 planes, nearly 200 of the oldest tanks, and an equivalent number of armored vehicles are up for replacement.

A significant setback was when the Italian M-346 Master trainers, equipped with advanced electronics, overtook the Russian Yak-130s. Azerbaijan and Tajikistan opted for the Western alternative.

Furthermore, Egypt and Indonesia pulled out of purchasing Suhoi planes, despite their long history with Soviet and Russian equipment. The list is likely to expand, especially in Africa, where traditionally financially constrained nations previously favored cheaper Russian techniques. Presently, competition in the form of the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 and J-10, as well as Korean FA-50, is escalating.

High hopes hit hard by high losses in Ukraine

Russia has been heavily marketing two of its products: The Su-57 and Su-75 aircraft. However, only a few Su-57s were assembled, despite Kremlin anticipating orders for 60 units by 2020. The Su-75, intended to be an affordable alternative for foreign markets, is stalled with only one prototype completed for ground tests.

Repeated delays and technical issues culminated in both India and Brazil withdrawing from the Su-57 project. After losing substantial anticipated financial involvement in the project, Russia did manage to secure a preliminary agreement with the United Arab Emirates, even though progress has been slow.

The Ka-52 Alligator helicopter was also projected to be a sales hit. However, high losses it suffered in Ukraine from Western hand-held anti-aircraft rocket launchers, coupled with a steep unit price, resulted in no takers.

Additionally, the Russian industry is unable to guarantee investments in buyer's domestic industries. It is itself dependent on Western solutions. Larger countries like Uzbekistan prefer to invest in NATO country equipment, which guarantees investments and know-how transfer.

Formerly loyal buyers are moving away from Russia, and current trends suggest that the demise of the Russian arms industry is looming.

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