Russia has no obstacles for military cooperation with Iran – arms exports chief

Russia’s military equipment is known worldwide, and state arms trading corporation Rosoboronexport is one of the biggest players on the market. RT spoke to its chief about current deals and future trading plans.

RT: Anatoly Isaikin, General Director of Rosoboronexport. Thank you very much for taking time for our program today. Mr. Isaykin, what countries does Russia trade with in the arms market?

Anatoly Isaikin: It’s easier to say what countries Russia doesn’t trade with. Last year we supplied weapons to 53 countries all across the globe.

RT: Russia used to lead in the international arms market. Then Russia’s place was taken by the Americans, but now Russia is gradually coming back. What place does Moscow rank?

AI: You’re right. The Soviet Union, but not Russia, was one of the biggest suppliers of military equipment and weapons. Since the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, significant changes took place, first of all, in its military-industrial complex. A significant part of the biggest enterprises remained in the territory of independent states.

Therefore, it’s obvious that it took Russia some time to restore its military and industrial potential. Back then we slashed the sales of weapons abroad.

Since the beginning of 2000 supplies of Russian military equipment and armament have been constantly growing. If we started with almost $3 billion – I mean in 2000 – then in 2009 we targeted $7.4 billion.

First of all, I am referring here to the figures for Rosoboronexport’s sales, not to all supplies. Consequently, we steadily come second after the United States in supplying arms abroad.

RT: And will you ever be the first?

AI: We are working on it, but it’s really hard.

RT: Mr. Isaikin, it’s always been said that the armament market goes not as much for economic as for political significance. Russia’s former partners, actually, as a rule, paid by friendship. How is Russia building its current relations, especially concerning going back to its old markets?

AI: I wouldn’t divide military-technical cooperation into two parts and estimate what prevails, politics or economy? In my view, both parts are essential. I believe the whole world bears in mind these two directions while establishing military and technical cooperation.

As for foreign policy, everything is also evident. After all, a country ordering weapons in Russia has confidence in Russia.

RT: Recently you said that there are no obstacles to delivering S-300 air defense missiles to Iran. Does it mean the talks with Saudi Arabia have failed? Or did it agree to supply weapons from Russia, despite its plans to arm Tehran? If it’s true, when do you expect to start dispatching air defense missiles?

AI: When I said that we don’t see obstacles to selling Iran any kind of weapons, including these missiles, first of all, I meant there is only one restriction here, which is the UN Council sanctions. When it applies such sanctions against any country, Russia strictly follows them. But no sanctions have been imposed on Iran.

RT: So far!

AI: Neither yesterday, nor today. That’s why we have every right to military cooperation with Iran in all directions. I’d like to emphasize: there are no formal restrictions. Personally, I’ve never been concerned about the supplies of defense weapons. And the S-300 is related to missile defense systems. It’s not an offensive armament. Each state has the right to defend its national borders. Therefore, I don’t see any threat or violation of the bipolarity in this region when supplying this type of arms.

RT: You’ve recently mentioned that negotiations with Iraq and Afghanistan are currently being held. What weapons are they interested in most of all? In what format will the deals be brokered – on market terms or as some kind of assistance?

AI: These two countries used to be major customers of Soviet arms. They still have a substantial arsenal of Soviet, not Russian, weapons. It’s natural that since 2003, when their military and political situation changed inside the countries and around, their armies have a growing demand for such weapons.

We keep receiving requests to supply armored vehicles, small arms, transport aircraft and helicopters. Our helicopters have showed themselves in the best way in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have proven to be the most reliable. Other equipment, which usually NATO has, as a rule, requires extremely thorough maintenance. It’s necessary to arrange special infrastructure for it, and this is a huge financial investment for these countries.

RT: The Russian government recently said it signed a contract with Libya for $1.3 billion. It prompts a question; isn’t it dangerous to sign contracts with such disturbing, in Western opinion, partners?

AI: Honestly, I don’t find Western countries, including the US, concerned about the delivery of arms to Libya. The United States excluded Libya from the list of countries which provide support for terrorism. The US opened an embassy in Tripoli and is negotiating the supply of military transport aircraft and strengthening coastal defenses. Great Britain is also involved in intensive talks there. France is taking an active part in negotiations on gas projects and weapons supplies. Experts say the contracts are worth around $10 billion, where arms supplies make up almost 50 percent.

So, as you see, these three countries, the leading producers of arms, in no way view Libya as a disturbing area – let alone Russia.

RT: Then how realistic is the scenario of supplying weapons to NATO countries? What type of equipment could be attractive to them?

AI: It already takes place. We’ve already been supplying arms to a number of NATO countries. We keep relations with “old members of NATO” and with Eastern Bloc countries which joined the alliance. We cooperate with France, Germany and Italy in the development of high-tech weaponry.

It’s a rather advanced field, therefore it requires more and more investment. Companies need to allocate more funds, more knowledge and more experience. Usually countries cooperate to develop these types of weapons. As for the Eastern Bloc countries, we assist them mostly in the maintenance of equipment they’ve had since Soviet times.

RT: Let’s now move away from NATO. Don’t you find it a bit strange to cooperate with India in the sphere of modern military technologies, for example, in designing the 5th generation of fighter jets? They also say that Russia is buying an aircraft carrier from France. Won’t such moves weaken Russia’s defense?

AI: Our cooperation in new projects, especially in developing arms of the 5th generation, is just a necessity. Countries are forced to join their efforts here. Yes, that’s right, we work together with India in developing a 5th generation jet fighter. But other countries also follow this way. Let’s take the F-22 Raptor jet, which is a 5th generation jet. It was designed with the use of new technological achievements of other countries, too. Of course, first of all, these are NATO countries. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with it. We are willing to cooperate with any country in this field, especially with our strategic allies – as India is, first of all.

RT: Earlier you said that in 2009 your company’s exports increased by 10%, which makes up $7.4 billion, or an additional $15 billion in contracts. But there is an opinion that the defense industry has been working at its limit for a long time. Is it true?

AI: It is true that defense industry factories have become busier with the growth of exports. In fact, it requires an increase in industrial capacity. Soon, our current capacity won’t meet the demand in orders – for example, missile defense systems. That’s true, we now have so many requests for S-400 systems that we won’t be able to satisfy them in coming years.

RT: But will Russia manage to remain on the market under such conditions?

AI: No doubt, we’ll remain. We speak about the increase of supplies and consequently the increase of exports. Here I see good prospects for further development of military-technical cooperation and the growth of supplies.