Arms makers licking chops

  • 2003-04-10
  • Viktoria Loginova

The war in Iraq, which has seen stiff Iraqi resistance against U.S. and British troops, has opened up market opportunities for Russian weapons used by Baghdad's forces, military experts say here.

The conflict will "generate a surge in interest in anti-aircraft defenses and radio-electronic equipment," said Alexander Nozdrachev, head of the state-run Russian Agency for Conventional Weapons, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Russian weapons sales last year totaled $4.5 billion, concentrated mainly on just two countries, China and India, although Russia has expanded sales to other regions.

"The war is useful for Russia," the business newspaper Vedomosti wrote recently. "The Iraqi army is creating publicity for Russian weapons."

"Old launch-grenades, anti-tank missiles and mines, as well as primitive anti-aircraft equipment" from the Soviet times "are inflicting losses on the coalition forces," Vedomosti pointed out.

U.S. M1 Abrams battle tanks, the most advanced tank in the world, have been damaged by hand-held RPG-7 launch-grenades and Malyutka anti-tank missiles, which were designed in the 1960s, defense analyst Konstantin Makienko said.

"The scandal around the Kornet anti-tank missiles could boost interest in these arms," added Makienko, from the Center for Strategy and Technologies Analysis.

The United States has accused Russian firms of selling Iraq anti-tank missiles and satellite jamming devices as well as night-vision goggles, in violation of the U.N. embargo. Moscow has firmly denied the allegations.

One of the firms concerned hit back at Washington, accusing the Americans of "trying to find a scapegoat because their bombs are not falling as accurately as they want."

"The U.S. weapons have been the cause of many mistakes in Iraq," hitting their own forces or civilians, Makienko pointed out.

With significant ground operations in the Iraq war, the "demand for Russian tanks and anti-tank missiles will rise," predicted Ivan Safranchuk from the Center for Defense Information.

This will be particularly the case with the other members of Washington's "axis of evil," Iran and North Korea, who fear they will be next after Iraq, Marat Kenzhetayev from the Russian Center for Disarmament Problems told Vedomosti.

Most in demand will be the TOR-M1 short-range air defense missile systems and S-300 surface-to-air missiles, from countries like Syria, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, according to Makienko.

According to some analysts, there has already been a surge in interest for Russian weapons at the IDEX-2003 arms exhibition, the biggest in the Middle East, which took place on the eve of the war in Abu Dhabi on March 16-20.