SOUTHERN African countries have demonstrated a keen interest in purchasing modern Russian military equipment and hardware after participating in various sporting military games and business forum dubbed ARMY-2018 that was organised by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
The forum took place in Kubinka, a provincial city approximately 280 km from Moscow.
At ARMY-2018, Rostec Corporation demonstrated over 450 samples of armaments, military and special equipment, including helicopters, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, anti-aircraft missile systems with shells, new types of firearms, communications equipment, radio-electronic weapons, and so many others.
According to the media release seen by The Exchange, Russia’s military giant, Rostec Corporation signed agreements for over US$1.5 billion at the International Military-Technical Forum ARMY-2018.
This represents 2.5 times more than the number of agreements signed last year. The exact figure for Africa has not been made available, but organisers said many African countries have shown interest in purchasing more Russian military equipment.
“Several financial arrangements were also made to ensure financing of developments and production of modern military equipment samples. Firm orders from countries in Asia and Africa, and the CIS became part of Rostec’s portfolio of orders,” the media release stated.
“The Forum proved again that interest in our developments grows. There are more and more negotiations regarding military-technical cooperation every year, and we are actively working with our main customers. This year we held over 120 meetings with Russian and foreign partners on the platform. We signed agreements for the amount exceeding 100 billion rubles,” said Sergey Abramov, Industrial Director of Rostec.
Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy Department of Rostec, Victor Kladov, told The Exchange in an emailed comment that “African countries are now returning to military-technical cooperation market as their national economies steadily develop.”
He explicitly noted in his discussion that “one must take into account the fact that the military in many African countries studied in the USSR and Russia, as a result, they are already familiar with the military equipment.”
Overall, representatives came from 118 foreign countries, there were 65 official military delegations and 20 heads of military establishments in various countries. From big economic powerhouses including South Africa, Mozambique, and Angola to the small countries such as Burundi, Botswana, and Rwanda, with distinctively impoverished populations and budgetary limitations, have signed agreements with Russia.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union provided huge quantities of arms to a number of African governments such as Angola, Ethiopia, and Mozambique. But, now ideology is not a significant factor, according to an analysis by both foreign and local policy experts.
As Anna Borshchevskaya, an Ira Weiner fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explicitly observes that military has been part of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, and Russian authorities have been strengthening military-technical cooperation with a number of African countries.
“A major driver for Moscow’s push into Africa is military cooperation more broadly. These often include officer training and the sale of military equipment, though the details are rarely publicly available,” she acknowledges in her discussion for this news report.
Dmitri Bondarenko, Deputy Director of the African Studies Institute (ASI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told me: “With African countries, the primary aim now for Russian business is to regain a competitive edge in the global arms trade, and what’s interesting is that the approach is not ideological but very pragmatic – you pay, we ship. It’s simply business and nothing more.”
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu emphasised that most new weapons at the show have proven their worth during the Syrian campaign. “They demonstrate the latest achievements of our industries and science,” he asserted.
President Vladimir Putin said in an address to the ARMY-2018 that it reflected the huge potential of Russian military industries and would serve as a platform for military cooperation with interested foreign countries.
Rostec Corporation was established in 2007 to facilitate the development, production, and export of high-tech industrial products designed for civilian and military applications. Rostec companies are located in 60 constituent entities of the Russian Federation and supply products to the markets of more than 100 countries.