Russia Steps up Weapons Sales to China

By Sergei Blagov | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Moscow ( - Moscow and Beijing have clinched a deal under which China would procure $2 billion worth of Russian military hardware and technologies in 2004.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and his visiting Chinese counterpart, Cao Gangchuan, have signed a major agreement on defense ties.

According to the deal, China plans next year to bring its $2 billion in military purchases from Russia closer to a ratio of 30 percent spent on serially produced weapons and 70 percent on production licenses and defense technologies.

Highlighting the agreement's importance for Moscow, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov both met with Cao Thursday, with Putin noting "serious progress in military-technical cooperation" between the two giants.

Cao's Dec.15-22 visit includes tours of armament factories in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod, where vessels are being manufactured for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The new deal indicates the increased importance of the arms trade for both countries.

China accounts for nearly half of Russia's arms exports. A recent Pentagon report to Congress said Beijing was heavily reliant on Russian military assistance.

Aircraft sales remain a cornerstone of Russia's arms exports, estimated at $4.8 billion in 2002.

Russia has also sold, or agreed to sell, long- and short-range anti-aircraft missile systems, ship-based anti-aircraft missile systems, fighter jets, destroyers, and conventional submarines.

Some Russian politicians have questioned the strategic wisdom of the Kremlin's policy of selling arms to China, a neighboring state that becomes stronger with each purchase.

Viktor Ishayev, governor of Russia's eastern Khabarovsk region, complained that Chinese maps had allegedly painted vast areas of the Russian Far East "in Chinese colors."

Ishayev speculated that China was considering the annexation of at least 1.5 million hectares of Russian territory.

Putin dismissed Ishayev's concerns, saying that longstanding border disputes between the two nations were close to a final resolution.

Moscow's and Beijing's positions have converged in recent years on a variety of important international issues.

Both have warned of U.S. "unilateralism," a unipolar world system, and opposed this year's war in Iraq.

As Pyongyang's longtime allies, they have opposed attempts by the U.S. to take strong action against North Korea in the U.N. Security Council over the nuclear crisis.

Russia and China say they support a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, but call for a cautious approach towards dealing with the Stalinist regime in the North.

The two countries have also opposed the planned U.S. ballistic missile defense system, although the Kremlin has of late moderated opposition, even indicating a willingness to cooperate in developing the missile shield.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.