25/03/2020 – African countries have ordered around $1 billion worth of military hardware from Russia over the last six months, according to Russian officials, as Russia keeps its position as one of the world’s top arms exporters.
Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS), Dmitry Shugaev, told Interfax this month that “Representatives of most African countries have confirmed the disposition to develop strategic cooperation with us, including in the military-technical sphere. Many have expressed interest in acquiring military equipment and weapons, increasing quotas for training national personnel, and assisting our specialists in various kinds of consultations. But the most important thing is that since October 2019, the portfolio of African countries’ orders for Russian weapons has been replenished by about $1 billion. Thus, the [Sochi] summit gave a tangible, real impetus to our cooperation with the countries of the continent.”
Shugaev added that despite opposition and sanctions (notably from the United States), “we are moving forward.”
“We have a good start: at the beginning of this year, the order portfolio was estimated at approximately $55 billion. It is important that this trend has been maintained over the past few years in the range of $53-56 billion.”
He said that last year, Russia’s biggest customers were China, India and Egypt. Turkey was a notable customer, acquiring S-400 air defence systems.
According to Shugaev, 45% of Russian military exports are aviation-related, nearly a third account for air defence equipment and about 15% land systems. The remainder is naval equipment and other products.
Regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus, Shugaev said this could impact the defence sector and has already slowed negotiations with China.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russian arms exports accounted for 21% of total arms exports around the world in 2015–19 but were 18% lower than in 2010–14. Although India remained the main recipient of Russian arms in 2015–19, accounting for 25% of the total, Russian arms exports to India fell by 47% between 2010–14 and 2015–19.
In 2015–19 Russia delivered major arms to 47 states. A total of 55% of its arms exports went to its three main recipients: India, China and Algeria. At the regional level, states in Asia and Oceania accounted for 57% of Russian arms exports in 2015–19, the Middle East for 19%, Africa for 17%, Europe for 5.7% and the Americas for 0.8%.
Russian exports of major arms to the Middle East increased by 30% between 2010–14 and 2015–19, SIPRI said. In 2015–19 Egypt and Iraq were the main recipients of Russian arms exports to the Middle East, accounting, respectively, for 49 and 29% of Russian arms exports to the region. Deliveries to Iraq were up by 212% on 2010–14, while those to Egypt were up by 191%. Although Russian forces have been supporting the Syrian Government in the conflict in Syria since 2015, Russian arms deliveries to Syria fell by 87% between 2010–14 and 2015–19, and it accounted for only 3.9% of Russian arms exports to the Middle East and 0.7% of total Russian arms exports in 2015–19.
SIPRI data showed that in 2019, Russia exported 300 BMPT-72 Terminator vehicles to Algeria, concluded delivery of 12 Su-30K fighters to Angola, supplied four Pantsyr-S1 air defence systems to Ethiopia, and 300 AT-6 anti-tank missiles and several Mi-35M attack helicopters to Nigeria. Egypt received AT-16 and AT-9 anti-tank missiles, a reconnaissance satellite, Ka-52 attack helicopters, MiG-29M fighter jets and AA-11 and AA-12 air-to-air missiles from Russia.
Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali) | Image d’illustration :A Pantsir air defence system.