Thursday, April 28, 2022

Russian Arms Trade in Trouble?

The war in Ukraine has shown the world the effectiveness of the Russian war machine and it has been found wanting. There are many things contributing to this lackluster performance including poor strategy and rumors of low morale. On top of these are the failures of the Russian arms industry to manufacture highly effective weapons.

A Reuters article in March cited US intelligence claiming that up to 60% of Russian precision guided munitions are failing. These failures could range from failure to launch to failure to explode on impact. Even if the failure rate is half what the article claimed, that is still an unacceptably high failure rate. Failure of Russian arms to perform in battle will likely have negative effects on Russia's ability to successfully market their weapons on the international stage in the future. 

There are other problems facing the Russian arms industry as well. Another one that relates to the invasion of Ukraine is the burden of sanctions. With many developed countries choosing to place sanctions on the Russian economy, it will be hard for Russia to access many of high-tech goods needed to build modern weapons. A prime example of this is Taiwan choosing to place sanctions on Russia cutting it off from the world largest supplier of high end computing chips. It is extremely unlikely Russia will be able to replace these goods with domestic production placing Russian arms production in great peril.

These two previous problems combine to feed into a third problem, rising competition. China has already begun to rival Russian arms production with products of similar quality and lower price. With doubts about the effectiveness of Russian arms and production troubles likely on the horizon, this trend can be expected to continue, if not increase. Russia's biggest arms customer, India, announced in April it would begin to invest heavily in domestic arms production. This cuts two ways for Russia, the first being it will likely lose a significant portion of its international arms sales. Second, if India is able to create an effective domestic defense industrial base, this will be another large competitor on the international market further harming Russian sales. 

The Russian arms industry is reliant on strong exports to maintain itself and continue innovating. The trends detailed above may put too much stress on the system and could cause huge downstream issues for Russia. Only time will tell, but the Russian arms industry could become another victim of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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