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Russian Clients and Global Foreign Policy Strategy: Evidence from Foreign Military Sales


Using a new database that documents all active foreign military sale contracts involving Russia as the seller which were either ongoing or started between 2008 and 2015, START researchers evaluated the following questions:

  1. Who are Russia’s allies and clients and where is it seeking to extend its influence within the EUCOM AOR?
  2. How do foreign military sales effect Russian cooperation and conflict with the United States?
  3. Will Russia become more assertive as its military capabilities continue to improve?

We found that of 206 states identified as a being a part of a combatant command, Russia has a buyer-seller security relationship with 66 of them since 2008, roughly one-third of all states. Of the top four buyers from Russia—India, China, Venezuela and Algeria—two of them are part of the “BRICs”: the “rising” powers of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Providing extensive military sales to BRICs countries is consistent with an oft-stated Russian foreign policy goal that Russia wants a more multipolar balance of power. In addition to multipolarity, the foreign military sales data indicate that a top Russian foreign policy interest lies in cultivating friendship with countries with whom it shares extensive energy resource development opportunities. This includes both the Caspian Sea region, in which Russia has relied heavily on international law and regional cooperation, as well as development in Algeria and Nigeria.

While Russian foreign military sales to states do not change the balance of either its cooperation or conflict with NATO, a principal aim of Russian foreign military sales is to empower those states that will challenge American predominance either economically, militarily or both. There is little evidence from the foreign military sales data to suggest that Russia will become more assertive from its improving capabilities.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Stevenson, John, and Garett Tippin. "Russian Clients and Global Foreign Policy Strategy: Evidence from Foreign Military Sales," Report for the Strategic Multilayer Assessment, U.S. Department of Defense. College Park, MD: START, 2015. https://www.start.umd.edu/sites/default/files/publications/local_attachments/START_RussianClientsandGlobalForeignPolicyStrategy_Aug2015.pdf

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