Mother Russia is also turning out to be the mother of all arms sellers.
The former Cold War superpower, where crusading journalists and anti-corruption bankers are regularly bumped off gangland style and the rule of law has become a joke, has just been designated the leading exporter of arms in 2005 to developing countries by a report issued by the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the US Congress. According to the report, China, India and Iran are Russia’s best customers for its booming arms industry which took in $1.6 billion more than 2004 to reach $7 billion in sales to developing nations. American arms sales occupied third spot behind second-place France.
But it is Russia’s supplying of weapons to rogue countries like Iran and Venezuela that is causing friction with America. Sadly, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose outward democratic façade hides the heart of the former Cold War KGB official that he once was, sees nothing wrong with arming nations that have made no secret of their intent to use them against their neighbors and to destabilize their regions. Russian arms have also been used against American forces and allies, making one wonder with friends like Russia, who needs enemies?
Last summer’s Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon is the most recent example of Moscow’s double-dealing. During that conflict, Israel complained to Russia that Hezbollah was armed with Russian-made anti-tank missiles. This weapon turned out to be one of that terrorist organization’s most effective weapons. According to one report, it was responsible for the deaths of 50 of the 118 Israeli soldiers who died in the 34-day war.
Israel did not accuse Russia of arming Hezbollah directly, but of having given the missiles to Iran, Hezbollah’s supplier. Ehsan Ahari, a defense consultant, confirmed the effectiveness of this weapon when he wrote: “…Russia’s RPG-29s made a name for themselves for making a high kill ratio of Israel’s heavily armored Merkava tanks.” These rockets, the Virginia-based consultant wrote, came to Hezbollah through Syria. America has designated both Syria and Iran state sponsors of terrorism and prohibits arms sales to them. Which obviously would not hinder Russia, since the former communist power itself also has a long history of state-sponsored terrorism behind it
A larger type of Russian anti-tank weapon also destroyed a couple of American tanks in Desert Storm II. However, a complaint to the Kremlin, it was reported, immediately stopped all further supply of this missile to the Iraqi battlefield.
Russian perfidy regarding arms for Iran does not stop with the RPGs. According to Ahari, Russia has also agreed to sell the Iranians 29 SA-15 Gauntlet surface-to-air defense systems and to upgrade its Russian combat aircraft and T-72 main battle tanks. These are weapons America will face if its military should take action to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Already in 2002, a report of the Defense Intelligence Agency stated Iran could temporarily close the Persian Gulf to shipping because of Russian anti-ship missile sales, forcing a halt to the all-important oil shipments.
Last year, Israel asked Russia not to go through with a deal to sell advanced, shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, claiming a deal had been signed between the two countries. Israel rightly feared, as last summer’s war showed, that such weapons could find their way into the hands of Islamist terrorist groups. At the same time, the United States threatened sanctions against Russia if it went through with plans to sell Syria an updated version of a Scud missile that could hit anywhere in Israel. In both cases, Russia denied that any deal was in the works. Such denials, however, would carry some weight if Russia showed it had ever considered all the possible end uses of these weapons by its two shady customers.
In typical unconscionable fashion, Russia also shipped arms in 2004 to Sudan, which was involved in a program of genocide in Darfur that the United Nations termed the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Russia sent Sudan 12 MIG warplanes five months ahead of schedule right when the UN Security Council was beginning to discuss a resolution against this African country for assisting in the ethnic cleansing. According to statements taken by Amnesty International officials, refugees claim Russian military planes had already been used to bomb the unfortunate Darfur civilian population. It is feared these new planes will also be used against these civilians. At the time of the shipment, Amnesty International and other human rights groups were also trying to get an outright arms embargo against Sudan. Which would not bother Putin’s Kremlin, since it is in the habit of closing down such human rights organizations in Russia.
While earning hard currency is a major reason for arms sales to undesirable states that also include China and North Korea, the Russian leaders’ Cold War mentality of opposing or harming American interests wherever possible also guides their dysfunctional sales policy. But Russia’s irresponsible actions may, in the end, backfire, as her anti-Western customers may eventually turn her own weapons against her interests. But as it now stands regarding the proliferation of Russian arms around the world, Mother Russia should immediately be declared an unfit parent.
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