Russian defence companies aren’t officially listed as participating in the Abu Dhabi-based IDEX 2023 expo but will be in a “separate pavilion.”
IDEX 2023 — As the war in Ukraine nears its first anniversary, Russian defence firms plan to showcase their wares at the IDEX 2023 expo in the United Arab Emirates, hoping to lure Gulf nations as customers, or establish joint production of high-tech platforms, including fighter jets.
“Today we are actively working on proposals for the most relevant forms of partnership with the Middle East states, primarily related to technology transfer, joint development and offset programs,” Rosoboronexport CEO Alexander Mikheyev in a press release reported by the Russian TASS news service on Feb. 16. “Rosoboronexport is considering various options for the joint creation of modern high-tech products, including a fifth-generation fighter based on the Checkmate light tactical aircraft, further work on the development and production of air defence systems, equipment for the Navy, and weapons for the ground forces.”
Literature for IDEX 2023 doesn’t show Russia or Russian firms as exhibitors, but the release said a “joint Russian exposition at IDEX 2023 will be located in a separate pavilion. where Rosoboronexport and defence-industrial complex enterprises will present the latest high-tech military products for all branches of the armed forces.
In the statement, Mikheyev said he considered Middle East nations to be Russia’s traditional partners and highlighted some of the work Rosoboronexport has done in the region.
As for the Checkmate, Russia’s answer to America’s fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and the F-35, the plane made its international debut at the Dubai Airshow 2021 also in the UAE. At the time a company official reportedly said that it was in talks with three Emirati entities, Tawazun Economic Council, Mubadala Investment Company and EDGE Group, about the production of composite materials and telecommunications technology for this aircraft in particular. But since then, no news has come of any potential agreements.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute, said IDEX 2023 will be an interesting test for the interest in Russian wares, after the Russian military’s problems in Ukraine.
“The poor performance of many of Russia’s defence systems in the war in Ukraine has dented international confidence in Russia as an arms supplier,” he said. “Participation in IDEX may be a way to try and regain some of the momentum that has been lost over the past year, especially to regional markets in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, which have also been the focus of Russian commercial and diplomatic activity in recent months.”
He added that Russia would probably want to attract customers in the Gulf and to regain confidence as a supplier of arms. From the Gulf states’ perspective, it may be that frustration with the US over lack of access to latest-development aircraft such as the F-35 or other cutting-edge electronic warfare products could prompt renewed interest in Russian alternatives.
“Years of US and other international sanctions on Russian entities have not stopped countries around the world, including close US political and security partners in the Gulf, from continuing to engage with Russian companies, including state-owned and sanctioned entities,” Ulrichsen said.
There’s also frustration in Gulf capitals, Ulrichsen said, over some restrictions placed on them by Washington, including based on concern over Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s previous involvement in the conflict in Yemen.
“Political and defence officials in the Gulf may also anticipate that by making it clear to the US that they have alternative options, they may try and exert leverage on US policymakers to drop some of the restrictions and take action to facilitate the approval of arms sales to the Gulf, out of concern that they could be losing the region to adversarial states such as Russia or China,” he concluded.
Whatever the outcome of the Russian pitch, IDEX 2023 is sure to be an interesting one with US, European and Russian defence systems standing (relatively) beside one another on the show floor here, while the systems take each other on for real in Ukraine.
News Source: Breakingdefense