Moscow is ramping up its efforts to export military hardware around the world. While this doesn’t signal that the buyers of that equipment will cozy up with the Kremlin, it certainly could create new rifts with Washington.
Russia is looking to address the decline it had experienced in recent years in arms exports, and it remains the second-largest arms exporter behind the United States—accounting for 20 percent of the total global arms sales. Between 2016 and 2020, Russia delivered major arms to forty-five states, and it has continued to eye new markets.
Exports declined due to the coronavirus pandemic. But this year, Russia has sought to reverse the trend, and it has lined up buyers in Africa and Latin America for its cutting-edge “Athlete-E” and “Strela” armored vehicles that were developed by Russia’s Military-Industrial Company (VPK).
The AMN-2 Atlet (Athlete) was officially unveiled at the Russian Army 2019 arms trade show. It is a new generation of 4×4 protected light utility vehicles (LUV) that was designed to be mine-resistant and ambush-protected. The vehicle’s armored hull provides protection against small-caliber rounds and splinters. The 4x4 Strela also benefits from ballistic protection and can reportedly withstand small arms fire from AK-74, AKM and SVD rifles.
While efforts continue to expand into the African market, last week it was about lining up the Latin American buyers.
“This interest was expressed as soon as these armored cars were demonstrated and the information about them appeared,” VPK CEO Alexander Krasovitsky told TASS on Monday
“But it’s necessary to understand that any potential partner is always cautious about new models, he waits for the information of vehicles’ exploitation in the country where they were developed and countries that have already purchased such models,” added Krasovitsky.
Venezuela and Uruguay were specifically named as two of the nations that have expressed interest in both the wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs) and armored vehicles.
“We are working with the Uruguayan side, as well as with other countries in the region,” the VPK chief explained. “We offer almost the entire range of our hardware to supply in the region.”
It is unclear how the international sanctions against Venezuela will impact any sales of arms to the South American nation. However, while most of Europe and North America continue to adhere to the sanctions, Russia continued to maintain support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Kalashnikov Group Boats Going to Rio
In addition to the potential sale of VPK vehicles in Latin America, the Kalashnikov Group announced this week that intends to participate in the tender for the delivery of assault boats to Brazil.
“We expect Brazil to open two tenders for vessels of this type by the end of 2021. The Kalashnikov Group intends to take part in them,” the press office of the Kalashnikov Group, which is carrying out work to create assault boats, told TASS.
“At the Army 2021 forum, we featured another new vessel built by the Rybinsk Shipyard (part of the Kalashnikov Group)—an inflatable attack boat,” the press office added. “During the forum, a large number of foreign delegations, including from South America, visited the Kalashnikov Group’s demonstration center. But it is early to talk about any specific details.”
The combat watercraft were presented at the recently concluded SITDEF 2021 international defense technology show that was held at the Peruvian Army’s headquarters in Lima. The South American defense show has been held every two years since 2007, and Russia's Rosoboronexport state arms seller has been a constant participant.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.