France turned out to be more flexible. During Medvedev’s visit to Paris this March, President Sarkozy agreed to sell Russia a Mistral-class helicopter carrier. By now, the negotiations between French firms and Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport have gained momentum. The parties have already agreed on the price of the contract — about $1 billion — and additional provisions of the deal. Russian generals have already told the local media that they desperately need the ship everywhere: from the Kuril Islands in the Pacific, to the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea, in the vicinity of NATO members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Obviously, the ship cannot be stationed in three seas at once. And obviously, Russia is under no threat from the mighty navies of Georgia and Estonia. Like in their deal with Israel, it is not the warship, but the technology the Kremlin is after. Indeed, the French have already agreed to pass the technology along with the ship, and to give Russia the right to produce three more ships locally. It seems quite likely that French technology will be copied and resold further.
After saturating Indian and Chinese markets with Soviet-made technologies, Russia can only watch Americans squeeze its exporters out of India and anticipate the same developments after the European Union lifts its embargo on selling arms to China. It is eagerly looking for new markets and will be ready to sell Western technology cheaper than their original developers.
The customer base for Russian arms is well-known. One of the prominent buyers is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez has spent billions of dollars buying all kinds of Russian military hardware, from AK-47 assault rifles to Su-30 fighter jets.
Another important customer of Russian arms is Iran. The planned supply of Tehran with S-300 multi-target anti-aircraft systems has raised concerns in the United States and Israel. After the recent round of UN sanctions against Iran, Moscow has sent contradictory messages. Top officials said the Tehran deal was cancelled even though it wasn’t covered by the sanctions. Whether it will go through is still anybody’s guess.
Russia has shown no intention of restricting its arms exports to other rogue states. If the Skolkovo project goes ahead as planned, it may soon become an easy route for Western military technologies to reach the worst enemies of the West.
Pages: 1 2