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Clara Ferreira Marques

Weapons Failures Could Disarm Russian Arms Diplomacy

Exploding tanks and errant precision weapons are bad advertising for defense exports that were already lagging. In Asia and elsewhere, that could be good news for the West.

Buyer beware.

Buyer beware.

Photographer: Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russia’s botched invasion of Ukraine has been a public relations disaster for the world’s second-largest exporter of weaponry. Plentiful images of exploded Russian tanks — their turrets ejected and abandoned in fields — a reportedly high failure rate for some Russian precision-guided missiles and the embarrassing loss of the supposedly upgraded flagship cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea are poor advertisements for military prowess. Never mind that the war was supposed to be an easy win for a modernized force.

Add in questions around competitiveness and the supply difficulties that lie ahead — between sanctions and Russia’s urgent need to replace its lost equipment — and the export picture is grim.  Given just how much security ties matter in Moscow’s friendships, the diplomatic implications could create an opening that the U.S. and its allies should seize.