MOSCOW, February 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is losing arms markets in Asia and the Middle East, two of its traditional strongholds, but gaining new ones in Latin America and Africa, a Russian arms official said this week ahead of an aviation expo in India, a major buyer of Russian weaponry that has recently been opting for Western hardware.
"While losing [some], we have gained new markets, like Venezuela for instance," said Alexander Fomin, head of Russia's Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service, who is leading Russia's delegation at the Aero India show, opening Wednesday near the city of Bangalore. "We are getting back forgotten, old Soviet markets, like Peru for example. In Africa – Mali, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda. In Asia – Oman," he said.
Fomin conceded Russia had lost a number of clients for its weapons due to recent events in the Middle East and North Africa. "This is connected to the conflicts and wars [there]. Cooperation with Libya has stopped temporarily, and there's a slump in deliveries to Egypt and Iran; our work with Syria is being impeded. That's a fact. We've lost Iraq and we've almost lost Afghanistan," he told RIA Novosti in an interview Monday.
Fomin said the quality of products had gotten poorer, but this applied across the board, not just to Russia.
"There is a drop in quality, and this applies to our main competitors as well. It's absolutely the same. But these are one-off, occasional and solvable issues," he said, adding that Russian-made products remain much cheaper than their Western counterparts.
Fomin's comments come after India, which has traditionally bought the vast majority of its weaponry from the Soviet Union and then Russia, signed a string of deals in recent years with the United States and Western European nations for new hardware, in preference to Russian systems.
That includes Boeing C-17 Globemaster and Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes, Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships, Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Boeing P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare planes, and a massive $10 billion deal with France's Dassault for the Rafale fighter jet. Delhi also bought the UK's BAE Systems Hawk trainer, and last month selected Airbus A330 tanker aircraft in preference to the Russian Ilyushin Il-78.
India became the world's largest arms buyer in 2012, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks weapons sales. Earlier SIPRI had estimated that "India received 9 percent of the volume of international arms transfers during 2006-2010, with Russian deliveries accounting for 82 percent" of its imports.
Russia’s overseas arms sales exceeded $14 billion in 2012, President Vladimir Putin said in December. Russia reported arms sales of $13.2 billion in 2011, enough to maintain its position as the world’s second arms exporter after the United States.