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New Russian arms deals could shake up Mideast market

As Russia considers expanding in the Iranian and Saudi arms markets, the rest of the world is asking what such moves would mean for Moscow’s foreign policy and security role in the region.
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While Washington is concerned about Russia selling missiles to Iran, arguing it would “greatly boost Iran’s air defenses,” Moscow is seriously considering going further in arming the United States' top ally in the region, Saudi Arabia. This possibility raises questions over the role Russia wants to play in the regional security framework in general and how its arms export policy serves its foreign policy in particular.

Historically, Russia (including when it led the Soviet Union) has been one of the world’s largest arms exporters. Today, like any manufacturing industry, arms production has a sound economic significance to the sanctions-crippled Russian economy. The industry is made up of 20 companies, including the air defense giant Almaz-Antey, with a total revenue of $12.25 billion as of 2009. The industry provides about 20% of all manufacturing jobs in the country and employs around 3 million people. In a critical time for the industry, President Vladimir Putin has ensured it is not only export-oriented but serves state defense orders, making it one of the drivers of the Russian economy and a symbol of national pride. As a result, in 2007, Russian defense orders amounted to 302.7 billion rubles ($12.35 billion at the 2007 exchange rate average) — skyrocketing from 62 billion in 2002 ($1.9 billion at that year's exchange rate average).

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