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Sales of Russian arms hit record levels

Russia exported a record $7 billion worth of weapons in 2007, making it one of the world's leading arms traders. And the State plans to increase this figure, injecting more money into the defence sector in the coming years. But in this business, success

Russian arms remain world-class.  Its air defence systems, planes and tanks are among the best in production. This year saw big contracts signed with countries such as India, Venezuela, Syria and China. Inventive pricing policies and personal lobbying by President Vladimir Putin have helped boost Russia's bottom line.

But the basic appeal of Russian arms remains unchanged.

The director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (C.A.S.T.), Ruslan Pukhov, says Russian weapons sell because they work.

“This is a weapon made to fight, to defend countries. This is not a weapon for parade purposes. It has the reputation of something simple and deadly,” Pukhov said.

Technological lag

Russia remains the world's second largest weapons supplier, behind the U.S. Exports have nearly doubled since 200, and 2007 also marks the sixth consecutive year of growth.

But is the situation as rosy as it seems?

“Russian arms exports will stay at this level for the next two or three years, but could then witness a dramatic fall, if Russia cannot solve its internal defence issues,” Pukhov said.

While its current generation weapons are some of the best in the world, when it comers to Hi Tec innovation, it lags behind.

The average age of employees in Russia's defence industry is more than fifty. That's old when it comes to a business that relies on cutting-edge technology.

Arms race?

Moscow has been criticised for selling weapons to regimes with questionable intentions. Some believe contracts with India and Syria contribute to arms races in unstable regions, and Washington has condemned Russia's arms links with Iran.

In its defence, President Putin says Russia complies with all international regulations, and will respect any future embargoes.

Analysts say if countries are intent on buying weapons, it makes sense for Moscow that they buy Russian.

Foreign policy expert Aleksandr Pikaev says there it makes strategic sense.

“People believe that if you sell arms to China you know better how your potential enemy is armed and therefore you would be better prepared for neutralising that threat,” Pikaev said.

Russia is unlikely to abandon the strategy that has brought it to the summit of the world's arms trade. If the success is to continue, it has to both change itself, and pay attention to the changes in the world around it.

Meantime, RT military analyst Evgeny Khruschev responded to criticism of Russia's choice of customers. To watch the interview follow the link.

Replacing aging arsenal

Tests of two intercontinental ballistic missiles intended to replace the country's aging rocket arsenal have been a success.

The RS-24 missile was launched from Plesetsk in northern Russia and hit its designated targets in Kamchatka some 7,000 kilometres away.

Later, a submarine in the Barents Sea also launched another missile hitting the test site in the same area.

The highly developed technological weapon is capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and is said to be able to penetrate any defence system.

President Vladimir Putin has praised Russia's military for the successful tests. Speaking to the Defence Minister, Putin said the tests would help to bolster the nation's security.

“This is a beautiful and festive firework, and it was thanks to hard work by military experts and civilian engineers. My congratulations to all of them, this is a serious step in strengthening Russia's defence capability,” the President said.

The tests come amidst continued Russian opposition to US-plans to build a missile defensive system in Poland and the Czech Republic.