Weapon Sales Earning
Russia Big Cash Flow -
US Remains Top Seller
MOSCOW (AP) -- Undeterred by protests and possible sanctions, Russia is barreling ahead with arms sales and nuclear projects in some of the world's most volatile regions, earning badly needed cash but straining relations with the United States.
Russia has been accused recently of providing missile technology to India, Iran and Iraq. It's selling an anti-aircraft missile system to Cyprus and fighter planes to China and is building a nuclear power plant in Iran.
The United States and Israel, the most vocal critics of Russia's increasingly aggressive sales, fear the arms will fuel tensions in already jittery regions -- even though Washington supplies weapons to other nations in some of the same areas.
One big worry is that Iran may use Russian nuclear power plant technology to advance its suspected atomic weapons program. Those fears took on new urgency when Pakistan and India, longtime rivals in the same region, joined the nuclear arms club.
Russia also has spoken out against arms proliferation -- including nuclear ones. But at the same time, Moscow is attracted to the money and the opportunity to regain some of the influence the Soviet Union wielded as a superpower.
"First of all, it's money," said military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, who writes for the respected newspaper Segodnya. "Second of all, it's money, and third of all, also money."
Weapons bring big dollars into Russia's empty coffers and jobs to depressed regions that are just as dependent on the military industry today as they were in the Soviet era.
"This creates a lot of political pressure to sell to anyone," Felgenhauer said.
This year Russia expects to export $3.5 billion worth of weapons to 58 countries, an increase of $1 billion over 1997, according to the state arms trading company, Rosvooruzheniye.
It hopes to export at least $5 billion annually by 2000, and possibly more.
Russia says it is doing nothing wrong. And many Russians see a double-standard in Washington's protests. The Russians note the United States sells weapons to countries in potential hot spots, including Israel, Taiwan, Greece and Turkey.
"If America can sell to everyone, why can't we sell to everyone?" asked Felgenhauer.
Russia has denied some of the recent reported arms deals, including U.S. claims it was helping India build a sea-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead deep into Pakistan.
It said other arms sold were for defensive purposes, such as the $200 million anti-aircraft missile system for the Greek portion of the divided island of Cyprus.
Nuclear projects like the power plant under construction in Iran are said to be for purely peaceful purposes.
However, Russia acknowledges Iran has tried to obtain technology for long-range missiles. Moscow says all the efforts were rebuffed, but the U.S. Senate recently voted to impose sanctions on Russia for allegedly sharing missile technology with Iran.
A Russian think tank, PIR-Centre for Policy Studies, said recently that 800 Russian gyroscopes used to guide missiles to their targets were intercepted in 1995 en route to Iraq, in violation of UN sanctions.
Russia initially denied involvement, but later said the equipment was exported without government permission, raising questions about how much control the Kremlin has over the arms and nuclear stockpile inherited from the Soviet Union.

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