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Policy Paper

From Kalashnikov Ammunition to Bunker Buster Bombs Russian Weapon Industry : Advertisement in the Syrian Field

By: Ayham Saif Eddin Université libre de Bruxelles Brussels 12 December 2016


Wars, tensions, and various kinds of conflicts, with their bloody consequnces on the humanitarian situation, and the massive losses they cause have always led to increasing profits for many of the huge arms manufacturing companies around the world. Digging in the Syrian conflict, indicators of these increasing profits and expanded arms sales can be identified clearly while researching arms sales of the Russian arms manufacturing companies. The costs of the Russian intervention to protect their interests in Syria can be easily covered by their arms sales which were doubled since the beginning of the Russian intervention in Syria. This policy paper addresses citizens in developed countries ‘including Russia’ where weapons manufacture companies are active and have a big role in fuelling armed conflicts around the world, so much pressure is needed by these people on their governments and politicians to tighten the measures and regulate laws that can control arms exports to conflicted

countries and warzones. Moral obligations might trigger these people after reading shocking facts in my paper. Introduction

- Since the very beginning of the Syrian conflict, it was obvious that the revolution or the insurgency against the regime would pursue the difficult route to settle this conflict between the very motivated and determined revolutionary members and the regime represented in all of its security and military agencies. It was not long before People began to realise that most of the revolutionary groups have started to recieve different types of military support from both foreign and some Arab intelligence agencies. People following the bloody conflict in front of TV screens were startled about the quantity and the quality of the military support that these groups have recieved. This insanely increasing arming by the side of the oppositin militias was observed personally during some humanitarian missions when delivering some convoys of humanitarian aid to the besieged cities and towns under the control of these forces. It then became apparent that the losses will be extremely high.

The street fighting after few months of the beginning of the conflict was no more limited to personal pump action shotguns and few Kalashinkoves that were captured from the security forces and their centres, this was soon escalated with the advancement of the revolutionary groups who were now using the most modern and accurate weapons produced by western weapons companies. Very modern pistols, battle rifles, assault rifles, very expensive sniper rifles (like the Austrian Steyr SSG69 and the German high tactical Blaser R93), anti-materiel and anti-tank rifles, heavy and general- purpose machine guns, anti tank rocket launchers, wire- guided anti-tank missile, autocanons, mortar guns and other very destructive weapons and ammunitions. On the other side of the conflict, the Syrian regime had deployed all of its

heavy military front-war armory in the streets and the rural suburbs of Damascus as well as other provinces. This armory had been specifically combiled by this regime since 1970s in case of any possible conflict with the neighbour enemy Israel. As a result, The consequences were to be catastrophic, and the costs of this conflict became increasingly high.

and the costs of this conflict became increasingly high. A Fighter from the (FSA) carrying an

A Fighter from the (FSA) carrying an Austrian Steyr Aug assault rifle

A scenario to understand the monetary cost of this conflict can be simplified by the following: Two fighters of the opposition forces prepare and launch a ground-based Tow BGM-71 anti-tank guided-missile produced by Raytheon (a major US weapons company and manufacturer) costing 58,908$ covered by some military support programs of some of the pro-Syrian opposition countries , the missile hits and destroys a T-72s tank for the Syrian army, produced by UralVagonZavod (a Russian largest main-battle manufacturer in the world) and costing 2,000,000$ paid by the Syrian regime in debt for the Russians, this amount of money nowadays in Syria equals 1,050,000,000 Syrian pounds because of the huge inflation. Undoubtly, these weapons companies are taking advantage of such a bloody conflict, the syrian

conflict provides an enormous opportunity for these companies to advertise and test new modern high-destructive weapons and technologies. For them, there is no better than a real field with real losses to test the capabilities of new weapons to attract customers and weapons investors. Weapons Industry and Military Production – Historical Context:

- The US entering the First World War in 1941 is an important event to note down in the history of arms race, the USA had produced massive quantities of different weapons, military planes, and nuclear weapons till the end of 1945, putting it on the top of the list of the most powerful and most technologically-advanced military forces in this world. Finally, the Cold War consisting of the two big nuclear-powers (the USA and the Soviet Union) between 1947-1991 now seems to be continuing with the raising tension between the USA and the Russian Federation in Eastern Europe and in Syria. Nowadays, this arms race will be drastically different than the later, due to the spread of more advanced new technologies and horrible weapons of mass-destruction.

advanced new technologies and horrible weapons of mass-destruction. Soviet heavy tank KV-1 in service during World

Arms Transfer Policy During the Soviet Union:

- During the Rule of the Soviet Union, arms manufacture and arms transfer were positioned on the top of the agenda as far as to focus on, the Soviet Union used conventional arms exports to achieve political, military–strategic and economic goals with the political goals being the dominant factor when the decision to export conventional arms was taken . Arms manufacturing also brought distinctive positive effects and profits to the economy and the treasure of the Soviet Union which allowed them to improve arms production capabilities, and quality of the arms they produced to challenge competitors in the International arms market. Of course the Soviet Union gave preferences and privileges to the socialist countries (especially WTO countries) who enjoyed a privileged position in the military market of the Soviet Union . Newly independent socialist countries “table 1” also received huge shipments of weapons and military equipment from the Soviet Union which reinforced the Union domination on these countries and attached them militarily and strategically. The leadership of the Soviet Union was very clear that these weapons should be used by these countries for defensive purposes and not for aggressive actions which could destabilize the

region. For example, when Syrian troops entered Lebanon in 1976, an action which was neither approved nor supported by the Soviet Union, this had an immediate effect on arms exports to Syria. Export supplies were temporarily suspended and the number of military specialists in Syria was reduced .




Table 1. The 10 largest recipients of major conventional weapons from the Soviet Union/Russia, 1982–96


Ian. A. (1998) Russia and the Arms Trade. P 39



Ian. A. (1998) Russia and the Arms Trade. P 39

Ian, A. (1998) Russia and the Arms Trade. P3


Russian Arms Exports to the Middle East – The US Competition:

- The Middle East is a region of high military expenditure in relation to the level of the GDP of the countries in this region. From the beginning of the 1980s, regimes in the middle east tried systemati- cally to increase armament and military capabilities of their military forces to face the threat of future conflicts with some regional rivals and enemies. The Iraqi-Iranian war in 1980, the Syrian-Israeli October war in 1973, the US invasion for Iraq in 2003 and the spread of terrorism in the region, the tension between Iran and the Gulf countries with the increasing military capabilities of Iran and the threat of a potential conflict between Iran and the US (because the Iranian nuclear crisis) which might ignite the whole region, also the July war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and many other regional conflicts were enough to raise the military spending in the Middle East by 34 per cent over the period 1999–2008 . The middle east received 21 percent of the world arms exports between 2004-2008, the volume of deliveries to the Middle East was 20 per cent higher in the period 2004–2008 than in the period 1999–2003 .

The Russian Federation as well as the former Soviet Union have managed to establish a profitable market and permanent costumers in the Middle east. Iran, Syria, Libya and Iraq (especially under the rule of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein) were the major Russian arms



4 S, P. Freeman. (2009). Arms Transfers To The Middle East. P1

5 S, P. Freeman. (2009). Arms Transfers To The Middle East. P2

importers in the region. Other countries like Egypt, the Gulf countries, and Israel were more dependent on arms and military equipment imports from the United States. It can be seen clearly that the United States is dominating the arms exports for the region with 53 per cent of the volume of deliveries of major conventional arms, up from 46 per cent for 1999–2003,compared to 7.1 percent for the Russian arms exports .

Even if Russia has a small share of these arms exports to the middle East, the Russian regime have been trying to keep this share or even increase it by signing new arms exporting contracts with some countries of the region (table 2.1), the reasons are simply due to the Middle East proximity to Russia’s southern borders, this is home to a large Muslim population that is exposed to ideological influences of the Middle East, and due to the fact that the Middle East is the primary arena of international conflict in the world today , hence keeping a footstep in this important and strategic region would guarantee an active presence for Russia in the region’s relative issues, Russia has set its sights on the Middle East as its next target and is investing considerable effort to regain a politically influential role in the region, alongside the United States .




Table 2.1. Arms Transfer Agreements with the Middle East, in millions of current U.S. dollars, 2001-2008

6 S, P. Freeman. (2009). Arms Transfers To The Middle East. P3

7 Zvi, M. Yiftah, S. and Olena, B,M. ‘Russian Arms Exports to the Middle East: A Means or an End?’. Sipri. P87

8 Zvi, M. Yiftah, S. and Olena, B,M. ‘Russian Arms Exports to the Middle East: A Means or an End?’. Sipri. P87


The Soviet Relations with the Baathists in Iraq and Syria:

- the USSR found immense economic and military investments in Iraq and Syria since 1970s (in the time of Saddam Hussein and Assad the father) not to mention the geopolitical importance of these two countries and the richness of Iraq with its 2,514,000 petrol barrel production in 1980. The Soviet Union found the Baathists and AL Baath systems in these two countries ideologically rather interesting and attractive, these strong socialist systems are based on Arab solidarity in the face of the western influence and domination in the region. In particular, Al Baath system is strictly secular and far removed from mixing politics with religion, as it is the case within many Sunni regimes in the Gulf Countries, the USSR was the major arms and military equipment supplier for Iraq and Syria, furthermore they also provide these two countries with economic aid, military, and non-military technicians, which all had brought these systems closer to the Soviet Union. The Baathist systems in Iraq and Syria were dependent of this military support from the Soviet Union, but as one report from the US Central Intelligence Agency has described: “The

Baathists do not need Soviet diplomatic backing to counter US support for Israel, nor do they require Soviet help at the UN .”


The USSR continued to supply Syria with arms and military

equipment during 1960s, but this level was reduced after the six-day

war in 1967

Jordan, and Egypt, and Israel from the other side, in which the Arab depended principally on weapons and ammunitions from the Soviet Union (with exception of Jordan whose army was equipped with American weaponry). On June 11 from the same year, a ceasefire was signed, the Arabs defeat was heavy with more than 20,000 casualties compared to less than one thousand by the Israeli side. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) full equipment and advanced technologies imported from the US made crucial difference, it was from this point, which stemmed the importance for the Arab countries to improve their military capabilities and economic ties with the USSR.

The Soviet – Syrian military cooperation which dates back to the mid-1950s, was intensified again after October war in 1973. In the latest war, the Soviet weapons that were used by the Syrian troops in Golan Heights made a great difference, lessons had been learned since the six-days war in 1967. In the first wave, the Israeli air forces initially lost 40 military planes as a result of the Soviet “SAM” anti- craft batteries used by the Syrian Army, Soviet anti-tank weapons also gave the Syrian special forces the military preferences on the Golan fronts.

10 between the Arabs on one side including: Syria,

9 The US Central Intelligence Agency. (1969). Soviet Relations with the Baathists in Iraq and Syria. P.1

10 The US Central Intelligence Agency. (1969). Soviet Relations with the Baathists in Iraq and Syria. P.5


Egyptian SAM-6 anti-craft missile system in service in 1973

The role of the Soviet Union in this war was so obvious by supplying Egypt and Syria with weapons, ammunition, and military equipment

by air and sea starting October 9, The Soviets airlifted 12,500–15,000 tons of supplies, of which 6,000 tons went to Egypt, 3,750 tons went

to Syria

replace the Syrian army forces losses, the Historian Jamal Hammad asserts that this shipments included 400 T-55 and T-62 tanks. In addition to couples of hundreds of Soviet technicians whom their main task was to repair damaged SAMs and radar systems, and

assemble fighter jets

military support that the Syrian army had received and which of course increased the Israelis losses. The Soviet cultural center in Damascus was targeted by an Israeli airstrike, The Soviets reacted by deploying two destroyers off to the Syrian coast. The Soviet warships in the Mediterranean were authorized to open fire on Israeli

11 , moreover supplied another 63,000 tons, mainly to Syria to

12 . Israel was furious with the tremendous

11 Zeev Schiff. (1974). October Earthquake, Yom Kippur 1973. P303

12 Abraham Rabinovich. (2004). The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East. P.325

combatants approaching Soviet convoys and transports

it can be viewed clearly, the huge trend in the Soviet and American arms exports to the Middle east between 1965 – 1973 due to the previous wars between some Arab Countries and Israel.

13 . In figure 2

Figure 2: Arms Transfers to the Middle East Between 1948 and 1991 Note: the line indicates the number of arm transfers programs initiated in each year, counts were computed from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.


The Soviet-Syrian military cooperation and the Soviet arms exports to Syria witnessed another wave of intensification between 1980-1991. During that period, the Syrian regime under the leadership of Hafez Al-Assad received arms and military shipments worth over 26$ billion, these shipments included 56 launchers of tactical and sub- strategic missile systems, about 5,000 tanks, 1,200 aircraft, 4,200

artillery pieces and mortars and 70 warships

the Soviet Union in December 1991, arms exports in Syria dropped

14 . After the dissolution of

14 Oksana, A. (2011). Russia’s Military Involvement in the Middle East. P38

from 1.47$ billion to 1.05$ billion as Russia started to demand hard currency payment for its arms and military supplies. The economic difficulties that faced the new Russia made the new regime more careful and stricter when reviewing Russian arms agreements and arms export contracts. Russian officials in Putin's administration continue to insist that any deliveries to Syria be made under strict commercial conditions. Equally, Syria also believes that Moscow's wish for greater influence in the region may provide leverage if it waits to obtain better payment terms for any future Russian arms supplies .

Military supplies to Syria were practically frozen with an exception of a contract for T-72A tanks in 1992-1993 at a total cost of 270$ million. In 1997 Russia only supplied Syria, with spare parts worth 1$


billion, made it almost impossible to sign any new contracts when Russia draw a linkage between debt negotiations and new arms

supplies agreements

Russian regime opened the gates of its arms stores to the Syrians again, Syria is one of the important importers which at that time was potentially said to be the third Russian arms importer after china and India, in addition blocking this country would result in losses to the Russian arms market and would also weaken the historical ties that had been built up during the Soviet Union role.


16 . Syria’s increasing debt to Russia that had now reached 11$

17 . These difficulties didn’t last long before the

Syria Under Assad the Son Leadership: Improving Ties with Moscow


Oksana, A. (2011). Russia’s Military Involvement in the Middle East. P40


Oksana, A. (2011). Russia’s Military Involvement in the Middle East. P39


Oksana, A. (2011). Russia’s Military Involvement in the Middle East. P30

- Damascus under the Leadership of president Bashar Al-Assad was determined on regaining the Russian trust and reestablishing ties that had been built between the two capitals more than half a century ago. History lessons regarding Syrian relations with the Arab neighbours were well understood by the young doctor who was recalled in 1994 from the hospital where he was studying in London, to Damascus after his eleder Brother Bassel died in a car accident, he was to be prepared to take over the leadership of the country after his father. History Lessons had proven that there was no trust in the historical and even the religious ties with the neighbouring Arab countries who were now dominated and controlled by the capital western camp, therefore it is necessary to improve relations with strategic partners of some foreign systems (like Russia,Iran, and North Korea) to guarantee a diplomatics and military shield against the western domination or military intervention against Damascus especially after toppling down the regime of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, and after the UNSC approved resolution 1559 calling for the withdrwal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon, (which Russia didn’t vote in favor for this resolution, but didn’t veto it either. Instead, it abstained ) which caused an increasing international isolation for Syria.


Russian-Syrian ties then seemed set to improve on the basis of Moscow not insisting that Damascus repay its entire Soviet-era debt in return for Damascus buying Russian weapons. The deal seemed to

be quite a sensible one : in exchange for Moscow's "flexibility" on the debt Syria would become what the Russian arms industry desperately

needed: a cash paying customer

19 . In addition, the Syrians provided




Mark N. Katz. Putin’s Foreign Policy Toward Syria. P.54

Russia with a renewed foothold in two of its ports, Tartus and Latakia (where two Russian naval military facilities are located). With the beginning of 2005, Russian-Syrian relations seems to dramatically increase, after Al-Assad visited Moscow in the same year, Russia decided to write off 13.4$ billion of the Syrian, an agreement which caused another flow of Russian arms exports to Syria. The increasing ties and trust between the two capitals didn’t only include the arms domain, many contracts were signed allowing Russian oil companies (Russian TATNEFT) to explore oil and develop gas production in Eastern Syria. Syria's oil minister, Ibrahim Haddad, described TATNEFT as "the first Russian oil company in recent years to

conclude a contract to extract oil in Syria



to conclude a contract to extract oil in Syria 20 ." Russian 2k22 Tunguska surface-to-air gun

Russian 2k22 Tunguska surface-to-air gun and anti-craft missile system delivered to Syria

Into the Middle of the Syrian Field – The Role of the Russian Support

- With the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, Moscow’s position from this bloody crisis was very clear: A continuous military support and diplomatic shield to the Syrian regime against the insurgency and the terrorists who were supported by some Western regimes and wished to take over the country. During the first months

20 Mark N. Katz. Putin’s Foreign Policy Toward Syria. P.56

of the conflicts, Russia supplied the Syrian regime with different kinds of weapons and ammunitions in their fight against the oppositions armed groups, who had as well started to receive huge

quantities of different weapons and military equipment (with embargo on anti-craft missiles systems even the shoulder launched ones). in early 2012 Russia's contracts with Syria for arms were unofficially estimated to be worth 1.5 billion US dollars, comprising 10% of

Russia's global arms sales

gunships, Buk-M2 air defense system, Yak-130 jet trainer, Mi-8 and

Mi-17 helicopters

21 including: MI-25 refurbished helicopter

22 , and massive amounts of various ammunitions.)

The Russian arms sales and military support for the Syrian regime provoked western criticism against the regime in Moscow, who was now risking the stability of the Russian relations with many western countries in addition to many important Arab countries in the region (such as Libya, Tunisia, and the Gulf countries) and making Russia vulnerable to international sanctions because of its negative role in the Syrian conflict. Despite all of the previous risks, Moscow has decided to go on supporting the regime until the end, in doing so protecting its military presence in Syria and its foothold in one of the most important regions in the Middle East, especially after losing two important allies in Iraq and Libya. Leaving the whole region as an easy target to the American agenda was not of Putin’s choices.

Direct Military Intervention – Advertising Russian arms in the Syrian Field

- “In full compliance with international law, at the request

of the legitimate government and the country’s president, we made

a decision to launch our military operation. From the very start, we

were very clear about its goals: support of the Syrian army in its lawful struggle with terrorist groups.” These were president Putin’s

21 Galpin, Richard (2012). Russian arms shipments bolster Syria's embattled Assad. BBC News. Retrieved 4 February 2012.

22 Sayginer, Ozge. (2012). "Why Russia will never back down? Reasons behind supporting the Assad regime". The European Strategist. Retrieved 23 June 2012.

words at a meeting in the Kremlin’s St George Hall in which he presented state decorations to service personnel and defense industry specialists who distinguished themselves in the performance of special missions in the Syrian Arab Republic. By the 30 th of September 2015, Russia had started deploying a considerable part of its most modern and qualified armory in the Syrian field in a show of strength and advanced military capabilities. A strong clear message to the west had been sent, that relations between Moscow and Damascus were far away from the understanding of many of Western politicians and governments.

Many reports said that Russian Defense Ministry was planning to test new weapons in Syria, Admiral Kuznetsov’s air grouping is going to use kh-38 missiles and new guidance system SVP-24 for unguided

bombs in a combat situation

carrier’s naval aircraft may test the new X-38 missiles in combat

action at the end of the year

among the new Russian warplanes in Syria are the Su-35S Flanker, the Su-34 Fullback, the Su-30SM Flanker and the Su-24M2 Fencer,

there are also two new surface-to-air missiles, the S-400 SA-21 and the Buk-M2E SA-17 “Grizzly”, three new cruise missiles, and the

KAB-500 satellite-guided bomb

Russia to prove the supermacy of the their arms manufacturing and military technologies in a real conflict situation.


, According to the RBTH source, the

24 . The Washignton Times reported that

25 , this provided a big opportunity for

Meanwhile, Russia also tested some new military jets’ first performance over the Syrian skies, The redeployment of advanced Su-35S warplanes to Russia’s Khmeimim airbase in Syria


24 Russia Beyond the Headlines. Russia to test new missiles in Syria later this year.

25 Putin using Syrian civil war as testing ground for new weapons

Rowan Scarborough. The Washington Times. Sunday, February 28, 2016

evoked the interest of both Russian press and some foreign media Obviously, all of these tests and deployment of new weapons have attracted the attention of new clients which reflected positively (Figure 3) on the Russian arms sales since the beginning of the Syrian conflict. Deputy CEO of Russia’s state arms exporter

Sergey Goreslavsky stated: "Following the results of this operation [in Syria], the interest in Su-34 bombers has increased. Several countries are showing the most substantive interest in this machine. They are

from the Middle East but I won’t name them



27 ."


Russian su-35s redeployed in Syria in early 2016

Figure 3: Russian Arms Sales between 2002-2014 Source: SIPRI Arms Industry Database

26 Russia’s advanced Su-35S fighter jet: premier performance over Syrian skies. Tass Russian News Agency. 4 th February 2016

27 Middle East eyes Russian Su-34 bombers after Syria operation — arms exporter. Tass Russian News Agency. 29 th March 2016



To conclude, The Russian administration has proven that out of the Syrian conflict, it is willing to turn wars and conflicts into huge profits and large investments. No doubt that the costs of the Russian military intervention will be covered by profits of the arms sales that have doubled since the massive deployment of the Russian weapons in the Syrian field as figure 3 shows. But on the other side, and away from the military file, Russian aggressive practices and violations of the laws of war might have repercussions at the international level, further isolation coupled with extra international sanctions will be awaiting the Russian regime in the next few months and years. The Russian role in the Syrian conflict lowers the humanitarian file of this country to an extreme limit, which may need a long time to recover.