Nearly six months after a war in Ukraine that Russia appears unable to win decisively, Russian President Vladimir Putin brags this week that Russia’s weapons are decades ahead of the competition.
“Many of them are years, maybe decades, ahead of their foreign counterparts, and in terms of tactical and technical characteristics they are clearly superior,” Putin told Interfax on Monday at an annual arms show.
And in an apparent show of camaraderie, Putin vowed Monday that he would expand Russia’s arms trade with other countries around the world, claiming that foreign countries value Russian weapons for their efficiency and high quality.
“Russia sincerely maintains historically strong, friendly, truly trusting relations with the countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa and is ready to offer its partners and allies the most modern types of weapons – from small arms, armored vehicles and artillery to combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Putin said .
Indeed, Moscow is a top arms exporter. Russia accounts for 20 percent of global arms exports and is the world’s second-largest arms exporter, behind the United States, according to an analysis of exports tracked by the independent research body the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). between 2016 and 2020. India, China and Algeria are the main recipients of Russian arms, and Russia is also the main supplier of arms to Egypt, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Angola, according to the report. Russia exports large arms to a total of 45 countries.
But Putin’s claims about Russian arms and trade plans appear to be at odds with reality, as the military and intelligence agencies say Russia’s arms export business is beginning to feel the cascading effects of the war in Ukraine. Russia has lost 1,876 tanks, more than 4,000 armored vehicles and 985 artillery systems and more in the war so far, according to data from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine released on Monday.
In addition, Russia’s ability to replenish its holdings is dwindling rapidly as sanctions take hold. US officials moved earlier this year to sanctions agencies in Russia’s defense industrial base, including a state-owned Russian defense conglomerate focused on airborne weapons and weapons, as well as anti-radar missiles, munitions and radar systems. And according to Portal, no more high-tech components are being smuggled into the country and production facilities are being closed.
“The industry may struggle to meet many of these requirements, in part due to the impact of sanctions and a lack of expertise,” said a June assessment by UK intelligence. “Russia’s production of high-quality optics and advanced electronics is likely to remain troubled and could undermine its efforts to replace equipment lost in Ukraine.”
Even before Putin invaded Ukraine again in February, prospects for Russia did not look good. The balance between exports and imports will already change in the coming years, and this is because of China, as Beijing may not depend as much on Russia’s weapons in the years to come, according to SIPRI.
“The volume of imports from Russia is likely to decline once China’s own industry manages to consistently produce the types of large arms it has generally imported from Russia over the years,” the report said.
“There is nothing like it in any other country in the world.”
Putin did not name any country as a particular focus for his arms export deal, but stressed that Moscow appreciates all partners who have embraced Russia’s thinking in recent months. Putin added that arms transfers from Russia will be key to shifting the world from a unipolar world – dominated by the United States – to a multipolar world.
“We really appreciate that today our country has many allies, partners and like-minded people on different continents,” he said. “They choose a sovereign, independent path of development, they want to jointly solve global and regional security issues on the basis of international law, with mutual responsibility and taking into account mutual interests. In doing so, they are helping to protect a multipolar world.”
It’s not the first time that Putin has boasted about Russian weapons while he was at war in Ukraine in recent months. In March, Putin boasted to Russia’s Federal Assembly that an increase in Russia’s nuclear arsenal would render US defenses “useless” — although some of the proposed increases in Russia’s stockpiles had “failed,” according to the Washington Post.
Putin’s claims at this week’s army conference echo his earlier insistence that Russia’s arms development is light years ahead of other nations’ work.
“As you might have guessed, no other country in the world has anything like it,” he said of a nuclear-powered underwater drone in March. “Possibly something similar will come out one day, but our guys will come up with something else in the meantime.”