Russian arms sales bucked a downward global trend last year, soaring as orders piled in from the Kremlin for weapons for the country’s armed forces, new figures have revealed.
Sales by Russian manufacturers grew by 20 per cent as they enjoyed a bumper 2013 despite a global 2 per cent market drop, according to an annual survey of the world’s 100 biggest defence contractors carried out by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
In marked contrast, many Western defence firms experienced declining fortunes. US and Canada-based producers saw sales drop, along with a number of European companies.
Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher with the institute’s arms and military expenditure programme, said: “The remarkable increases in Russian companies’ arms sales in both 2012 and 2013 are in large part due to uninterrupted investments in military procurement by the Russian government during the 2000s.
“These investments are explicitly intended to modernise national production capabilities and weapons in order to bring them on par with major US and Western European arms producers’ capabilities and technologies.”
Russia has embarked on an ambitious modernisation of its military despite a sinking economy hit hard by tumbling oil prices and an ever-weakening rouble. Next year spending will be a record-breaking equivalent of £38.6 billion, the highest amount since the demise of the Soviet Union and an increase of 30 per cent on 2014.
The Kremlin intends to replace 70 per cent of the equipment carried by its armed forces by the end of the decade.
A major overhaul of Russia’s army is expected to continue apace, with new tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket systems expected to be unveiled next year. Russia’s ageing nuclear submarines are being replaced with modern vessels, and the navy is also taking delivery of a new class of hunter-killer submarine.
The Russian air force is expected to benefit from the spending bonanza with 150 new aircraft and helicopters on next year’s order books.
Despite the extra cash for its military, Russia still trails the US by a significant margin on defence spending, with America due to spend the equivalent of £373bn in 2015. Western European spending is still affected by austerity cuts and, until the onset of the Ukraine crisis, a lack of perceived threats.
But the Ukraine crisis and fears of an aggressive Moscow happy to use force to exert its foreign policy have triggered a mini arms race in Central and Eastern Europe, with Russia’s nervous historical rivals also ramping up defence spending.
Poland is spending around £160 million on US cruise missiles, has earmarked £2.14bn for a Polish-made missile defence system, and has also set its sights on a whole range of other military hardware.
Last week the three Baltic states said they would increase spending to counter the perceived Russian threat.
And Ukraine, currently locked in a war with Russia-backed rebels in the east of the country, must double its military budget next year to £1.9bn to fund its fight, the defence minister has said.
Defence minister Stepan Poltorak said this figure included an extra £70m for buying weapons on the international market.