Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia's military exports are booming in part because Syria's civil war has helped advertise the effectiveness of those weapons to the world.
"Russia will be actively developing military-technical cooperation with all interested countries, including in most high-tech segments — on those armaments for aviation, air defense, land troops and the navy that have demonstrated their utmost efficiency during the Syrian operation,” Putin said Monday according to TASS, a state-run media outlet.
"The export of military hardware has grown for a third year in a row to more than $15 billion," he added.
Putin's comment is an implicit repudiation of recent U.S. sanctions on the Russian defense industry, pursuant to a new law passed last summer that came into effect in January. Congress drafted the sanctions law in response to Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the invasion of Ukraine, and Putin’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has used chemical weapons in the conflict.
Putin added that “Russia’s military-industrial complex has enough orders for the supply of cutting-edge and next-generation defense systems for several years to come.”
Some of those deals have pressured American diplomats to avoid uncomfortable fissures in military cooperation and diplomacy with allies. Turkey and Iraq are both contemplating a deal for Russian anti-aircraft defense systems. The Russian weapons are not interoperable with western defenses, a particularly important issue given Turkey’s membership in NATO. And both deals could expose those countries to U.S. sanctions under the 2017 law.
“I have emergency need of an air defense system,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosoglu told reporters in February. “Why should we not meet this requirement with NATO? But, of course, when it is not met within this platform, we need to look for alternative resources ... And when we talked to Russia, this was actually an agreement that we reached before the legislation in Congress was enacted.”
U.S. diplomats maintain that the sanctions law is hampering Russian defense deals. “Since the enactment of the [Russia sanction] legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in February.