In January 2018 the U.S State Department hailed “real success” in its campaign to undermine Russian arms exports, claiming that as a result of these efforts Russia would come up several billion dollars short in its export earnings. This allegedly came as punishment for Russia's “malign activity”, and involved the U.S. actively threatening countries around the world with severe repercussions should they pursue arms deals with Russia. “We have spent a considerable amount of time and energy on engaging with partners... and pushing them to stop potential deals,” a senior senior State Department official announced at a press briefing. The official continued: “we have been able to turn off potential deals that equal several billion dollars... its real money, and it’s real revenue that is not going to the Kremlin and is not going to Russia as part of the intent."
When questioned on examples of Russian arms deals derailed by U.S. efforts, the State Department was unable to provide any. The veracity of their claims of success remain questionable, but 2017 did see a year of unprecedented successes in Russian arms exports - not only to longstanding clients such as India and Algeria but also to several new strongly Western aligned states. Unprecedented exports to Western allies included the sales of advanced S-400 Triumf SAM systems to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Morocco and further contracts under discussion with Bahrain and Egypt - all longstanding Western clients for which such acquisitions would have been unthinkable just three years prior. Other examples included Israeli interest in the BMPT-72 tank support vehicle, the Philippines' purchase of Russian firearms and talks held by the UAE and Pakistan to acquire the Su-35 air superiority fighter. These states have all been staunch allies of the Western bloc since the Cold War, and their interest in purchasing Russian arms indicates either than the State Department was overstating its own successes, or that the U.S. would have seen far greater numbers of unfavourable purchases among its allies than it already did. Since the new year Argentina and Indoensia, two other longstanding Western clients, emerged as customers for Russian fighters in January alone.
U.S. measures to undermine Russian arms exports closely resemble those used to undermine North Korean exports before the imposition of a UN resolution to this effect in 2006. The U.S. military was known to impound arms shipments, despite their legality at the time, as well as using extensive diplomatic and economic pressure to prevent states from acquiring North Korean arms. While a security council resolution banning Russian arms exports outright is hardly a feasible prospect, the Western bloc has escalated its efforts to undermine Russian arms exports as part of its effort to isolate the country and undermine its economy. Alongside their economic impact, reducing Russia arms exports also serve to increase states' reliance on Western arms by forcing out a leading competitor - thus earning significant revenues for Western producers. Increased reliance on Western arms globally also provides the Western bloc with a key means of influencing the balance of power globally in its favour, as American and Western European producers have on numerous occasions demonstrated their propensity to cut the supply of spare parts to their clients when these states conducted policy against Western interests. Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia Egypt, Turkey, Argentina, Venezuela and Vietnam are all key examples of this. Ensuring a greater reliance on Western arms around the world is thus a key tool for the Western bloc to continue to influence balances of power across the world to suit its interests, something Russian exports from Indonesia and China to Iran and Argentina continue to undermine.