Germany just cancelled a defense deal with Russia—who’s next?

Merkel’s taking a tougher line with Putin
Merkel’s taking a tougher line with Putin
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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As European countries try to balance their economic dependence on Russia with their desire to punish president Vladimir Putin for meddling in Ukraine, Germany has stepped ahead of the pack to poke the bear in the eye, canceling a €123 million ($165 million) defense deal (paywall) with Moscow earlier this week.

In response, the Kremlin has said it will sue Rheinmetall, the German defense firm that was to supply parts for a military training facility for the Russian military. The deal, signed in 2012, was suspended by Berlin shortly after the annexation of Crimea in March; this week’s move permanently bars the delivery of the equipment. Last week the European Union banned all arms exports to Russia, but that only covers future deals.

Germany’s decision may inspire other European nations to cancel previously agreed defense deals with Moscow. Here are Russia’s other big suppliers in the EU:


Europe’s second-largest arms exporter after Germany is under intense pressure (paywall) to cancel its €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) deal with Russia for two Mistral-class warships. But the French have a long-standing relationship with Russia, with military exports worth €159 million ($213 million) between 2001 and 2012, according to data from the Campaign Against Arms Trade. In 2012, exports topped €53 million ($71 million), according to European Union records (pdf), with Moscow purchasing everything from small arms to military vehicles.


Italy sold Russia about €15 million ($21 million) worth of military equipment in 2012—and over €51 million ($69 million) between 2001 and 2012, according to European Union and CAAT data. In 2010, when Russia began to greatly increase defense purchases from Europe (including the order for the French Mistrals), Italian exports soared to €14 million ($19 million), from just about €640,000 ($800,000) the previous year.

United Kingdom

British prime minister David Cameron has been one of the most vocal European leaders calling for the cancellation of deals with Moscow, calling France’s insistence on delivering warships to Russia “unthinkable.” At the same time, the British prime minister has recently taken heat from parliament to definitively scrap the country’s many arms export licenses to Russia. The UK’s defense exports to Russia, according to EU documents, were worth about €10 million ($13.4 million) in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available. British exports consisted of small arms, naval vessels and aircraft, and related equipment.

Czech Republic  

Prague has sold Russia planes, ammunition, light weapons, small arms, explosives and more—amounting to about €34 million ($46 million) of exports in the past 10 years. Exports in 2012 were about €5.5 million ($7.3 million), dominated by light transport aircraft and ammunition.

As these numbers indicate, Moscow’s military imports from Europe—barring those Mistrals—are mostly small-bore. They certainly pale in comparison with Russia’s own exports worldwide: $13.2 billion in 2013. But Germany’s cancelled deal was meant to be symbolic, and other European governments will likely come under pressure to stand with Berlin.