Russia: Now Number 2 in Military Sales (Any Guess Who Is Number 1?)

From Moscow, with bullets?

by Michael Peck, The National Interest

Since the days of the Soviet Union, Russia has been the best at selling two things: weapons and oil. And now, Russia is selling more weapons.

Russia vaulted to No. 2 in 2017 among nations on a list of the world’s 100 top-selling arms-producing and military services companies, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) .

“The combined arms sales of Russian companies accounted for 9.5 per cent [sic] of the Top 100 total, making Russia the second largest arms producer in the Top 100 in 2017—a position that had been occupied by the United Kingdom since 2002,” SIPRI said. “Taken together, the arms sales of the 10 Russian companies listed in the Top 100 increased by 8.5 per cent in 2017, to $37.7 billion.”

“Russian companies have experienced significant growth in their arms sales since 2011,” said SIPRI researcher Siemon Wezeman. “This is in line with Russia’s increased spending on arms procurement to modernize its armed forces.”

In addition, a Russian company made it to the top 10 on the Top 100 list: Almaz-Antev, Russia’s largest weapons manufacturer, saw a 17 percent surge in sales, to $8.6 billion.

“Along with Almaz-Antey, three other Russian companies in the Top 100 increased their arms sales by more than 15 per cent: United Engine Corporation (25 per cent), High Precision Systems (22 per cent) and Tactical Missiles Corporation (19 per cent),” SIPRI said.

Total sales among the Top 100 companies grew 2.5 percent in 2017, reflecting a 44 percent increase in since 2002. However, SIPRI admits that its data lacks a significant component: Chinese arms sales are not included because of a lack of reliable data.

Nonetheless, SIPRI’s list shows how cosmopolitan the global arms market has become. The Top 100 are sprinkled with European, Israeli, Japanese, South Korean and Indian companies. Britain remains Europe’s largest arms producer, with BAE Systems as the largest British manufacturer with $22.9 billion in sales.

One surprise is the growth of Turkey’s defense industry: Turkish arms sales surged 24 percent in 2017. “This significant increase reflects Turkey’s ambitions to develop its arms industry to fulfill its growing demand for weapons and become less dependent on foreign suppliers,” says Pieter Wezeman, another SIPRI researcher. There were four Indian companies on the list, accounting for 1.9 percent of Top 100 sales.

Note that many of the Top 100 companies are not traditional weapons manufacturers making tanks or planes. The list includes firms like the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton or IT companies like CACI.

Some would say that Russia rising to near the top of the list of weapons makers is a dubious honor at best. So, it’s worth remembering which nation is the largest arms manufacturer in the world. The United States accounted for forty-two—almost half—of the Top 100 arms companies and 5 of the top 10. American arms sales grew 2 percent in 2017, to $226.6 billion. Lockheed Martin remained the world’s largest arms producer.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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