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Russia Courts Mideast With Military Hardware

  • Daniel Schearf

As Russia's economy heads into recession, its defense industry is one of the few that seems to be prospering. And that was made clear at Russia's International Aviation and Space Show (MAKS) this week with the display of its military hardware. The recession, coupled with Western sanctions, has also meant courting customers and allies from the Middle East.

Russia's International Aviation and Space Show traditionally boasts an impressive display of military and civilian aviation hardware.

But this year, it was the military sector of the industry that stole the spotlight, as the air show was used to showcase the country's military might.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed that point when he spoke at the show.

"We are to enhance Russia’s unique advantages in the aviation field and consolidate our leading role in manufacturing military aviation equipment. Therefore, we should carry out modernization and upgrading in aviation and space rocket manufacturing, bring in state-of-the-art facilities and ameliorate every link in order to improve our products’ quality and characters," Putin said.

Although western companies were present, Russia's defense industry is squeezed by sanctions over Ukraine and the loss of Ukrainian suppliers. The latter, says military analyst Alexander Golts, hit Russia particularly hard.

“Something like 300 enterprises in Russia received components from Ukraine. When all of this disappeared, you can imagine the level of losses,” Golts said.

While a controversial deal to sell advanced missile defense systems to Iran was delayed, Russia, according to Moscow State University political scientist Viktor Mizin, is courting other Middle East customers and allies.

“Now that its friendly regime of Bashar [al]-Assad is literally under fire in Syria; and, of course, Russia managed to restore ties and even military cooperation with Egypt. But, still probably it needs more allies, and especially now that the oil prices are diving,” Mizin said.

While Russia's aviation companies are having their ups and downs, deals expected later this year could help to steady the industry.

But much will depend on Russia's military spending and the economy.

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