Russkiy Newsweek yesterday said a source close to the Defense Ministry claims Moscow is considering buying Italian IVECO M65 vehicles, also known as the LMV (Light Multirole Vehicle). The source said negotiations are in the final stage, and LMVs are reportedly being tested in Russia, but opinions on their suitability for Russian conditions are varied.
Another problem–the LMV is basically an analogue of Russia’s Tigr, produced by Arzamas Machinebuilding Plant, a company belonging ultimately to Oleg Deripaska. The LMV is 1.5 or 2 times more expensive than Tigr and carries fewer personnel. But it is considered more explosion resistant. Deripaska’s people dispute this, however, saying it depends on how close the vehicles are to the explosion.
Russkiy Newsweek says the LMV was shown to Putin last year, and Medvedev this year. It adds LMV to a list of proposed or actual Russian arms buys abroad, including British sniper rifles, Israeli UAVs, and French Mistral helicopter carriers. The possibility that United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK or ОСК) chairman and Deputy PM Igor Sechin (a long-time Kremlin insider and Putin crony) could still derail the Mistral deal is raised, but somehow this seems unlikely now for many reasons. Why wreck a lucrative deal when you can get a piece of it instead?
The article concludes noting that this is the logical continuation of a new Russian military-technical policy–Russia can no longer be considered a closed market and soon Russian companies will have to compete with foreign producers for this internal market, according to CAST’s Ruslan Pukhov.
But there’s more to this story than that . . . some foreign samples are always good if you can get them, some palms might get greased in the process too. It’s not a bad idea to scare the domestic defense industries, but are they really in a condition to compete with foreign producers? Rather than stimulate them to get better and more efficient, they could just collapse in the face of a real competition for sales. And it really goes against everything Russian to rely on foreigners, especially when they’re part of an allegedly hostile NATO. But mucking about in NATO’s Old European rear area isn’t bad for stirring a little alliance discord. Just weeks ago too the Russian press had stories featuring President Medvedev with the Tigr and the VDV seems pretty committed to the vehicle. Let’s just say many factors are in play, which will be the critical ones?
An official denial is a pretty good indication of how things will go, but time will tell what develops on this front.