The Russian defense industry, despite its recorded 28% growth rate over the past decade, has shifted its sights towards Latin America due to the crisis in Syria and changing economic and ideological ties towards the European Union throughout former Soviet satellite states. Latin America, and especially Venezuela, has experienced a 61% growth rate of its military expenditures since 2004, which is great news for a needy Russian defense industry that has seen the disappearance of its primary trading partners of Eastern Europe, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and Syria.

Although Russia's economic motive for increasing to Latin America stands as fairly clear due to the changing geopolitical situations of its clients, the more interesting aspect of the trade relationship rests with the demanding countries. In Venezuela, whose purchases of Russian defense goods accounted for over 60% of its total international purchases, has stated that the purpose was to defend against an American military invasion. For Mexico and Colombia, on the other hand, the motive has been the fight against narcotics trafficking.

For Chile and Brazil, other countries that have invested heavily in Russian arms, the motive is less clear. Regarding Brazil especially, many international political economy analysts assume that Brazil's expansion of its military capability accompanies its rise as an economic power in an increasingly multi-polar world of international influence. Developing countries often use many tools to project themselves on the global stage as a force not to be ignored in global affairs, such as hosting major international events like the FIFA World Cup or Olympics, as well as developing its military capabilities. Brazil, much like the other BRICS countries of China, Russia, and South Africa, has heavily invested in both. 

Returning back to the Russian defense market, the question remains regarding sustainability. Although Latin America is experiencing a boom in defense spending, global trends and relations can drastically impact the reliability of target markets, as Russia has experienced heavily in the Middle East and Eastern Europe within the last 20 years. As long as anti-US sentiment, drug cartels, and the desire for global prestige remain ongoing trends in Latin America, Russia will have a strong demand market, but the fragility of these ideological and tangible characteristics should be of concern to Russia, especially if these countries decide to invest in their own defense capabilities.

Share this article