There Goes the Russian Defense Industrial Complex

India plans to replace 2,000 Russian BMP-2 Infantry Vechicles with American Strykers

Shankar Narayan
8 min readJun 20, 2024
India is dumping the Russian BMP-2 in favor of American Strykers

The day US-manufactured Patriots won over the missile barrage the Kremlin launched in May 2023, something flashed in my head. No, it wasn’t the ability of the Patriots or the fact that the air-defense systems were able to bring down the Kinzhal missile that the Kremlin marketed as invincible. My internal flash news was, “There goes the Russian defense industrial complex.”

Yup.

Shortly after the Patriot battery ordered to protect Kyiv came out on top of the blistering assault launched by the Russian forces, I wrote:

Patriots took one punch but delivered 18 to Putin and his generals, and in the process it has put an end to Russia’s weapons export business. I think yesterday was the end of Russia’s weapons export industry. The days where Russia exported billion of dollars worth weapons to countries around the world is over.

The war in Ukraine has busted all the hypes and myths the Kremlin delivered to the world to sell its weapons. They were spectacularly overpriced products that offer barely anything in return. In many cases, Western weapons cannot even be compared against Russian weapons. Future buyers will scoff at any attempt by Moscow to do that, given the performance of Russian weapons on the field.

Russians have often marketed their S-400 Triumf air-defense systems as the best in the world with 100% success rate. Ukraine has destroyed an estimated 15 S300/S400 launchers and air-defense parapernalia over the last two months.

The hits delivered to the Triumf by the U.S. supplied ATACMS were so brutal that Russians were forced to move their experiemental S500 air-defense systems to protect the Crimean bridge. Russian air-defense systems are a fast depleting resource and they have proven to be unreliable against the Ukranian army that continues to operate without a fully equipped air-force.

Not just air-defense, Kremlin’s war against Ukraine has brutally busted Russian claims about its missile prowess.

“The Kinzhal system is a high-precision hypersonic aircraft missile system. The missile flying at a hypersonic speed, ten times faster than the speed of sound, can also maneuver during all stages of its flight trajectory, which also allows it to overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads in a range of over 2,000 kilometers

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile system has been successfully tested and put on combat duty. This is a formidable weapon, unparalleled in the world,” Putin said in the past.

And then, this happened:

Screenshot from Reuters

Of course, the Kremlin denied that it ever happened.

And then they did this.

A nation’s ability to develop missile technology is extremely important. Without strong missile technology, no one is going to believe that your air defense systems are worth the demonstration.

The Impact on Weapons Sales

According to Russian news agency Tass, in 2015, “Russia exported its defense-related products to 58 nations worldwide, with the overall number of Russian partners in this sphere exceeding 100”.

All the nations that bought Russian air-defense systems are now aware of their performance in the field. These nations would have also observed the challenges faced by the next-generation Armata tank, which was touted for its ability to protect the crew. It was marketed as a great weapon that can withstand intense attacks. Despite running so low on tanks, the Russian armed forces are refusing to introduce the Armata tanks in Ukraine due to fear.

They fear that their next-generation weapon cannot withstand intense attacks from the last generation weapons in Ukrainian hands.

By 2022, Russia accounted for nearly 15% of global arms exports, ranking second only to the United States. In a world devoid of competition, there could have been sustained demand for Russian weapons. However, the reality we inhabit is far from it.

Why would anyone continue to purchase weapons that perform so poorly on the battlefield?

The prolonged conflict in Ukraine has persisted for years, transforming Russia into an unpredictable supplier. With domestic security concerns mounting and manufacturing capacities stretched thin, Russians are now compelled to draw from reserves to equip their own forces. Given these circumstances, how can buyers rely on the Russian defense industry to prioritize fulfilling orders or supplying spare parts during periods of crisis?

Those relying on Russian weapons find themselves helpless. Spare parts are scarce, and undelivered orders will remain unfulfilled. How long will it take to recitify this situation? No one knows. This forces nations that rely on Russian weapons to confront the need to distance themselves from Russian arms sooner rather than later.

India, recognizing these realities, has reached a turning point. They’ve determined that the time has come to gradually move away from reliance on Russian weapons.

According to Indian news channels:

India plans to replace more than 2,000 Russian-designed BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles in service with its army with the latest generation of American Stryker armored personnel carriers, writes The Times of India. According to the publication, negotiations with the United States on this issue are at an “advanced stage.”

It is assumed that at the first stage, New Delhi will purchase a certain number of Strykers as part of the American Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, then the countries will establish their joint production in India. The final stage of cooperation should be the development of future versions of these machines.

This deal is not yet finalized. The Indian government is currently in discussions with the American government, exploring their options. While they have expressed interest in placing an order, they have sought assurance that the United States will manufacture the Strykers within India.

The process of negotiation and finalization will likely take some time before official agreements are reached. However, the significance of this stage cannot be overstated. The West finds itself at a critical juncture where there’s a genuine opportunity to gradually reduce India’s dependency on Moscow for defense needs — a monumental development.

The significance of India’s shift away from the Russian defense industrial complex.

Putin’s aggressive military production, fueled by revenue from oil sales, poses a grave concern. Kremlin investing in weapons manufacturing enables the perpetuation of conflicts, displacing countless individuals from their homes. From Chechnya to Grozny, Aleppo to Mariupol, the consequences are devastating — and the question remains, what’s next?

If he keeps manufacturing, he is going to find a way to use them.

India’s departure from reliance on Russian arms is huge. As the world’s fifth-largest economy with limited domestic defense capabilities, India’s decisions hold considerable weight. Its substantial defense expenditure, which continues to grow alongside its economy, will continue to impact global arms production.

Consider that during the fiscal year 2021–2022, India allocated ₹478,196 crore ($58 billion) for defense. If India were to continue purchasing Russian weapons, it would pose a significant problem for the democratic world, as it will allow Russia to build and sustain production capacity.

The geographical landscape surrounding India paints a compelling picture of its security challenges. Bordered by the sea on two sides and facing threats from various directions — volatile borders with Pakistan to the northwest and China to the northeast — the Indian territory is indeed encircled by potential threats.

Given these circumstances, it’s natural for the Indian government to be wary of a strengthening nexus between Russia and China. Striving to maintain a balanced position, India has refrained from openly opposing Moscow, opting instead for diplomatic neutrality. Moreover, India’s significant oil purchases from Russia have served to bolster the Russian economy, albeit indirectly supporting the Kremlin’s agenda.

However, despite India’s efforts to curb the growing Russo-Chinese alignment, the inevitability of this partnership looms large. Recognizing this reality, India must confront the truth that it cannot prevent China and Russia from joining forces. Beijing’s influence over Moscow is evident, rendering any hope of Russian support for India in a conflict with China unlikely.

In light of these geopolitical dynamics, it is in India’s best interest to take proactive measures. Diversifying its weapons procurement, as exemplified by the shift away from Russian arms, is a crucial step towards bolstering its defenses. By reducing reliance on Russian weapons, India can better prepare for potential conflicts in its northern regions and mitigate the risks posed by the Russo-Chinese nexus.

Will this help Ukraine?

No.

Not immediately.

The decision by the Indian government to distance itself from Russian weapons is unlikely to have a direct impact on the current war in Ukraine. India is not going to immediately align itself with the Western coalition or intervene in support of Ukraine.

Instead, India is likely to maintain its neutral stance, engaging in diplomatic dialogue with both Ukrainian President Zelensky and Russian President Putin. However, this shift in India’s procurement strategy will undoubtedly send a strong message to Moscow. The move away from Russian arms will have a chilling effect on Russia’s arms exports in the future, contributing to a decline in its global influence.

While Putin may continue to sell weapons to nations like Iran, North Korea, and African countries, the long-term sustainability of this strategy is questionable. Selling weapons to Iran, North Korea and other African nations is not the same as selling weapons to India.

Millions take a lot of time to become billions.

Moreover, the erosion of Russia’s reputation as a reliable arms supplier could ultimately undermine its geopolitical ambitions, limiting its ability to exert influence on the world stage.

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Thanks for reading. Making critical information on Ukraine accessible is one way to fight misinformation. That’s why I’ve made 210 stories free to the public in 2024, including this one. Feel free to share it with anyone.

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Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.