Yesterday I blogged about the comments made by Russia’s Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister of Defence General Nikolai Makarov who said that the Russian Army had too many AK-74 rifles and would not be ordering more of them until 2014. I pointed out that this would be a blow to AK manufacturer Izhmash who are struggling to stay solvent.
Reading between the lines, I believe that the Russian Army faces a problem also face by the US Army: politicians. Over here congressmen, for better or worse, regularly try to make the US Army upgrade its firearms, something they are always reluctant to do. It sounds like in Russia the politicians make their army buy guns it has no use for. I can sympathize with the Russians, from time to time I also run out of gun storage space.
A few readers emailed me suggesting that Izhmash could make a lot of money if it exported more guns to the USA. They certainly could make a fortune. Their newer guns like the Saiga-22, a .22 rifle patterned after the AK-105, would sell incredibly well, as would some of their older guns like the Tigr (Dragunov).
The problem is that the State Department struck a deal with Russia back in 1996. In exchange for lifting the Soviet-era ban on firearm imports, the Russians would agree to a list of restrictions on what could be exported to the USA. Only firearms listed in T.D. ATF-393 can be imported into the USA from the former Soviet states. These restrictions were purportedly to prevent the US market being flooded with cheap handguns. The other roadblock to importing Izhmash’s guns is the BATFE ban on importing guns that they do not consider to be “sporting guns”. This bans imports of all guns with vaguely tactical features such as a pistol grips or flash suppressors.
If Russia could negotiate a lift of these import restrictions, they would be able to keep Izhmash workers employed without forcing the Army to take guns it does not want. That said, subsiding Izhmash may well be cheaper than the trade concessions they would have to offer the United States (assuming the State Department and White House were even interested in entering negotiations).