Thu, Jul 05, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Tank ballet helps drive Russia’s global arms trade

GROWTH TREND:President Vladimir Putin has vowed to expand Moscow’s market share as Russia prepares to beat last year’s record-breaking global tank exports

The Guardian, MOSCOW

Tanks are designed to do many things: to shoot, to drive unstoppably over fields, to intimidate the enemy. In Russia, they are also designed to dance.

Russia marshaled five of them last week to perform in a “tank ballet,” Invincible and Legendary, choreographed by Andrei Melanin of the Bolshoi Theatre.

As one of the main attractions at a new annual arms fare designed to boost Russia’s standing in the global arms trade, they swayed and waved their gun turrets like limbs to the thumping beat of a Carmen aria souped up on techno.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russian arms export deliveries for the first six months of this year had totaled more than US$6.5 billion, a 14 percent increase on the same period last year. That put Russia on track to beat last year’s record-breaking total sales of US$13.2 billion, analysts said.

In 2005, Russia’s arms exports stood at US$6 billion, Putin said at a military-technological cooperation commission meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“We definitely must keep this positive trend,” he said.

With a 24 percent share of the global arms trade, Russia was the world’s second-largest arms exporter, lagging only behind the US, with its 30 percent share, Putin said. Moscow delivered arms to 55 countries in all.

While 150 countries at the UN are trying this month to hammer out a global arms trade treaty, Putin shows no sign of reining in Russia’s ambitions.

“We must focus on expanding Russia’s presence in the global arms market,” he said. “This applies to the geography of our deliveries and to the list of products and services.”

Bringing the arms trade under centralized control was one of Putin’s main tasks during his first round as president. He created Rosoboronexport, the state arms dealer, in November 2000, less than a year after gaining the presidency. By 2007, he had signed a decree giving it a monopoly over the arms trade.

Russia’s main customer remains India, its Soviet-era ally against US-armed Pakistan. One key market has become Venezuela, with Russia lending the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez billions of dollars to buy arms. Other clients include Algeria, Vietnam, Malaysia and Syria.

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