RUSSIAN DEFENSE OFFICIALS EXPRESS WILLINGNESS TO COOPERATE WITH NATO IN ARMS UPGRADING

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PARIS, June 14 (RIA Novosti's Andrei Nizamutdinov) - Russia is willing to cooperate with the North Atlantic alliance in upgrading arms and bringing them in line with NATO standards, Nikolai Dimidyuk, of the Russian government's arms dealing company Rosoboronexport, said in a RIA Novosti interview. The man is leading the Russian delegation to the Eurosatory trade show opening today in Villepinte, outside Paris.

As Mr. Dimidyuk sees it, the expansion of NATO by taking in Central and Eastern European countries that used to be part of the Warsaw Treaty Pact is opening up new possibilities for cooperation in upgrading the Soviet- and Russian-made weapons those countries have in their arsenals.

Carrying out a full-scale rearmament within a short period of time is costly and painstaking; modernization of old weaponry and military hardware to NATO standards will be much easier and cheaper to do, the Rosoboronexport official said. Some other countries have expressed willingness to provide arms upgrading services to NATO, but they are talking only about the replacement of some specific components. Russia, by contrast, can offer comprehensive upgrading as "no one knows a child better than her mother," he said.

According to Mr. Dimidyuk, Russia's participation in Eurosatory 2004 will show off the broad export capabilities of its defense industry. He warned, however, that this show was all about marketing and no contracts would be signed here.

The Rosoboronexport official expects potential customers to be drawn to the Russian stand primarily by antiaircraft systems, such as the Top M1 and the Buk M1, with this latter being capable of hitting air targets, including missiles and invisible airplanes. Other highlights include close combat weapons, anti-tank missiles, and systems for anti-aircraft protection of tanks and other armored vehicles, such as the Shtora.

Some three hundred products of Russia's defense industry will be showcased at Eurosatory2004, Mr. Dimidyuk said. Over twenty defense companies have contributed to the Russian stand.

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