Russia sells weapons at Abu Dhabi arms fair depite sanctions

AFP , Tuesday 21 Feb 2023

Russia showed up in force Monday at an arms fair in the United Arab Emirates, displaying combat-tested weapons up for export, including rifles and air defence systems.

Visitors view mockups of ground vehicles as they tour the Russian pavilion during the International Defence Exhibtion (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi International Exhibition Centre on February 20, 2023. AFP


At an isolated pavilion at the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, Moscow's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said it had more than 200 full-scale models of armament, ammunition and military gear.

Russian armoured vehicles, attack helicopters and anti-aircraft missile systems were also on display at IDEX, which opened Monday, as crippling Western sanctions push President Vladimir Putin to seek new markets for arms exports.

The UAE has maintained a neutral stance towards Russia's war in Ukraine, which is nearing its one-year anniversary.

The oil-rich Gulf nation has also emerged as a top destination for rich Russian emigres fleeing the impact of Western sanctions.

Russia is one of 65 countries participating in the biennial arms fair in the UAE capital, which runs until the end of the week and is considered the region's largest.

Russian deputy premier Denis Manturov, who is under sanctions, visited IDEX on Monday, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

"The UAE has retained its first place among the countries of the Arab world in terms of trade with the Russian Federation," TASS quoted him as saying.

"In 2022, trade between Russia and the UAE increased by 68 percent and reached $9 billion," he said.

"Highly competitive"

Russia is the second largest arms exporter in the world after the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In a statement ahead of IDEX, Rosoboronexport head Alexander Mikheev called Middle Eastern states "important partners" and said his firm was "working out proposals... that could be of immediate interest" to countries in the region.

He told TASS at IDEX on Monday Rosoboronexport was preparing to offer reconnaissance and strike drones to foreign partners.

Russia supplied twenty percent of the Middle East's arms imports between 2000-2019, but the Arab Gulf's arms market has been firmly dominated by American and European firms, said Albert Vidal, a Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University.

"While Russian firms may be trying to take advantage of the UAE's search for a more diversified pool of suppliers, they will not have an easy time locking defence contracts with Abu Dhabi," he told AFP.

"In addition to traditional Western suppliers, they now face highly competitive arms exporters like South Korea, Israel, and Turkey, all of which are already cooperating closely with the Emirati defence industry."

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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