The Russian Arms Sales and Sanctions Monthly Snapshot captures a selection of the most salient open source material on Russian arms sales and information related to Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) Section 231 sanctions. The snapshot is compiled monthly. The RAND Corporation gathers this open source material as part of a project for the U.S. Department of State to monitor activities related to CAATSA Section 231. Open source materials are selected for the Monthly Snapshot based on analyst judgement to illustrate the diversity of sources, regions, and weapons systems.
This Monthly Snapshot captures a selection of the most salient open source material on Russian arms sales and information related to Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) Section 231 sanctions during October 2023. The RAND Corporation seeks credible open-source material, curates it, but does not verify the content of this open-source material as part of a project for the U.S. Department of State to monitor activities related to CAATSA Section 231.
Selection: Open source materials are selected for the Monthly Snapshot based on analyst judgement to illustrate the diversity of sources, regions, and weapons systems
According to the report, Kazakhstan intends to sell 117 decommissioned Soviet-era aircraft. These aircraft, manufactured in the mid-1970s and 1980s, are said to be operational in other countries, including Russia and Ukraine. Kazakhstan has assessed that these aircrafts are unfit for use and would be economically unfeasible to modernize. However, Russia and Ukraine have reportedly retrieved these aircrafts from storage to make up for the losses they have sustained in the ongoing conflict.
The Argentine Air Force has officially terminated the contract with the Russian Technopromexport company, which provided technical maintenance and repair of the Mi-171E helicopter. This agreement was signed in 2021, and the maintenance was supposed to be carried out in Russia. Since the National Bank of Argentina only carries out transfers in dollars, these funds were blocked, and the invoices issued by Technopromexport were not paid.
The article discusses the agreement between France and Armenia, according to which the French will reform the Armenian army and equip it with new weapons. This partnership goes against Russia's interests. Previously, Armenia purchased weapons primarily from Russia. Now France suddenly became an important supplier. Additionally, it is perceived negatively by Russia that Armenia, a CSTO member, buys military systems from a NATO country.
The development of large-scale military operations in Ukraine after the start of the Special Military Operation led to a heavy burden on the Russian defense industry, leading to the suspension of the production of equipment intended for export. This decision not only deprived the Russian state of foreign exchange earnings but also worsened the image of the Russian defense industry in the eyes of its foreign clients. Under these conditions, the Russian authorities decided to switch to international partnerships when conducting foreign trade, setting the goal of restoring Russia's share in the global arms market by 2030 and increasing the share of joint ventures to 40% of military exports.
Russia acknowledged the challenge of delivering exports given its prioritization for meeting its domestic needs. The report adds that Russia has stated a willingness to share technical and manufacturing expertise with its partner countries so they can "launch full-scale production on their territory and develop their own industrial base." Rosoboronexport indicated it plans to double the number of technological sharing partnerships by 2030. The press release reportedly held up the collaboration with India on the "licenced production and maintenance of Russian Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters, main battle tanks-like T72s and T90Ss- Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty (BMP) 1/ 2 infantry combat vehicles, Ak-203 assault rifles and assorted tank and other ammunition," as a model for the new export format.
The report discusses the growing defense relationship between Serbia and China. Russia's defense companies are focused on supplying Russia for its war in Ukraine, causing Serbia to seek an alternative source of defense equipment. Serbia has reportedly purchased about $310 million worth of defense equipment from China, replacing Russia with China as Serbia's top source for defense equipment. Serbia's defense relationship with China is expected to grow as Russia remains engaged in Ukraine.
According to the report published by the Center for Naval Analyses, Russia invasion of Ukraine has brought about changes to the international defense industry. Some of Russia's customers have cancelled orders or decreased their dependence on Russia for arms, choosing instead to invest in their domestic defense industries. The report also mentions that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has created opportunities for other arms sellers to win over some of Russia's customers. The report adds that Russia's arms exports will continue to decline and Russia will only sell excess defense systems to strategic partners.
The report claims that Western sanctions and Russia's poor military performance in Ukraine have reduced the demand for Russian systems as well as Russia's ability to supply the systems. However, Russia still has defense contracts with most of its legacy customers, such as India and Vietnam. The report notes that Russia's isolation has led to stronger and deeper defense cooperation with countries hostile to the United States and Europe, creating an axis of countries that can help Russia sustain its war against Ukraine and further their own regional ambitions.
The article discusses military-technical cooperation between Russia and China over the decades. It alludes that while the Chinese industry has developed to the level that China no longer needs to buy Russian aircraft, earlier imports from Russia significantly influenced this development. The purchase of military systems from Russia reportedly helped Chinese experts learn and build their capacities enough to make them self-sufficient. According to the article, analysis shows that China's dishonest behavior of reverse engineering systems has resulted in about $20 billion in losses to Russia.
The article notes that there are ongoing negotiations between the DRC and Russia "via Belarus" to acquire spare parts for its T-55M, T-62, and T-72 Russian tanks to upgrade the Congolese Army's tank fleet, as well as an interest in acquiring spare parts for its BMP-1 and BTR-70 vehicles. These negotiations as well as negotiations last begun year to purchase Mi-35M, Mi-171, and Su-30 aircraft from Russia have remained paused due to the DRC's concerns of violating US CAATSA sanctions. The DRC however has sought to not fully align itself with Russia and maintain a relationship with Ukraine, including holding talks on possibly donating defense material to Kyiv as well as repeatedly voting in favor of UN resolutions that condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Measures Impacting CAATSA and Other Sanctions Measures
The report claims that Russia is bypassing Western sanctions and increasing the production of its Kinzhal missile with the help of European firms. The report finds that Russian defense manufacturers have continued to obtain sanctioned goods through Russian subcontractors such as Sonatec, Osctec and KEB-Rus.
The Kazakh trade ministry has labeled the claims by deputy trade minister, Kairat Torebayev, that Kazakhstan had banned the export of over one hundred items to Russia as incorrect. The deputy trade minister announced that items such as chips, drones and electronic components were banned from export to Russia while the trade ministry announced that "no prohibitions have been imposed on the export of any goods to the Russian Federation in relation to the anti-Russia sanctions." The ministry however mentioned that it was implementing controls on the export of dual-use goods in line with the country's international obligations.
According to the report, Russia's war with Ukraine is resulting in significant economic and military losses for Russia. To deal with the effect of Western sanctions, Russia evades sanctions through third countries and fails to comply fully with the oil price ceiling. Russia also faces challenges from the shortage of qualified manpower and is increasingly turning to forced prison labor to address this. The report discusses the integration of prison labor in the domestic economy and the human rights abuses of the convicts. The report suggests that the use of prison labor could continue well after the war in Ukraine.
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This monthly snapshot is part of a U.S. government foreign assistance effort to help countries comply with U.S. and international sanctions associated with the purchase of Russian advanced conventional weapons.