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UK Defense Ministry: Russia's arms exports drop due to war, sanctions

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 17, 2024 5:12 PM 2 min read
Photo for illustrative purposes. Bullet casings sit in packets before loading into belts for use in machine guns at Ukroboronprom's Mayak PJSC manufacturing plant in Kyiv on March 9, 2016. (Vincent Mundy/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Russia is facing a major drop in arms exports, the U.K. Defense Ministry said on March 17.

The drop is explained by two factors: Russia's own costly demand to keep replenishing the weapons and equipment destroyed in its war against Ukraine; and sanction-related customer demand decline.

In its daily intelligence bulletin published on X, the ministry cited research conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which revealed that Russia's arms exports fell by 53% between 2019-2023 compared to the previous four-year period.

"As a result, Russia dropped from second to third place in the global arms export rankings," the ministry said, citing the report published on March 11. "Russian arms export volumes were 52% lower in 2023 than in 2022, while only 12 countries received major Russian arms in 2023, compared to 31 in 2019."

Spearheading what many Ukrainian soldiers describe as a self-destructive but effective offensive on multiple axes of the front line across Ukraine, the replenishing demand of the Russian army is huge. Artillery, FPV drones, and seemingly never-ending human resources are the driving forces of Russian combat operations.

While Ukraine has destroyed equipment such as tanks and armored infantry vehicles in huge numbers over the past two years of the full-scale war, Russia is still able to keep deploying its offensive tools as if it is not suffering any losses, according to the Ukrainian soldiers on the ground.

On top of its own demands that likely prevent Russia from exporting more arms, "reduced customer demand due to the risk of associated sanctions and global condemnation of Russia's responsibility for the war" is likely another factor, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry.

International companies still conducting business with Russia have been condemned for supporting the country in waging a brutal war against Ukraine. The West has issued rounds of sanctions to disrupt Russia's economic war machine.

Surpassing Russia for the first time, France ranked second in the largest arms exporters ranking issued by the SIPRI research. The U.S. is in the first place.

Russia's arms exports include engines, aircraft, missiles, armored vehicles, and air defense systems.

Roughly 68% of Russia's arms exports over the past four years were from countries in Asia and Oceania, including India, whose arms imports from Russia amounted to 34%.

But despite the decline in arms exports, Russia's economy appears to be resilient, with the International monetary Fund (IMF) forecasting a 2.6% gross domestic product (GDP) in 2024.

Citing Russian state-controlled news agency Interfax, Reuters reported in February 2023 that Russia's annual arms exports are roughly $14 to 15 billion.

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