CSTO Countries as Suppliers of Military Equipment

Russia, as a country with a well-developed defense industry, is the main supplier of armaments, military and special equipment for the needs of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states.


However, challenges and threats associated with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan require a rapid increase of capabilities to secure the CSTO borders, and for this purpose, the military-industrial complexes of Belarus and Kazakhstan will also be involved in the military products supply to the CSTO member countries. This statement was made by Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and Chairman of the CSTO Interstate Commission for Military and Economic Cooperation (ICMEC) Yuri Borisov.

The issues of improvement of military-technical cooperation and integration of military-industrial systems of CSTO member states have been raised long ago. In 2009, Nikolay Bordyuzha, Secretary General of CSTO, noted that the issue of military-technical cooperation was becoming one of the main issues in the activities of the Organization. Now it seems that words have moved to action: the September meeting of the ICMEC and the session of the CSTO Collective Security Council resulted in an announcement not only of the involvement of Minsk and Nur-Sultan military-industrial complexes (MIC) in strengthening the Tajik-Afghan border, but also of the formation of a joint budget of the CSTO members for conducting research and development in the military sphere. “This is a new direction. We are starting to move from simple verbal coordination to a more serious integration,” Yuri Borisov commented.

The Collective Security Treaty was signed on May 15, 1992 in Tashkent. On May 14, 2002, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was established. On October 7, 2002, in Chisinau, the CSTO Charter was adopted, according to which the main objectives of the organization are: strengthening of peace, international and regional security and stability, collective protection of the independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of the member states, and in achieving all of these the member states use political means as the priority.

Currently, the CSTO includes six member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The Collective Rapid Deployment Force of the Central Asian Region (CRDF), the Collective Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), the Peacekeeping Forces (PF) and the Collective Air Force (CAF) of the CSTO are formed within the organization. CSTO carries out its activities in cooperation with various international and regional organizations.

According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs


The level of development of the military-industrial systems, scientific and technological reserves and the military-technical potential of the CSTO member states, and therefore the contribution they will be able to make to the organization's joint projects, are not equal and even not comparable.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the bulk of the design bureaus and industrial enterprises that produce finished products were concentrated in Russia, and the cooperation chains with the MIC of the former Soviet republics were broken. During the difficult years of the formation of sovereign states, development of the defense industry actually dropped out of sight, and some enterprises, whose products were no longer in demand when they had found themselves in a difficult economic situation, ceased to exist. Today, the situation has generally improved, but the peculiarities of the defense industry of the CSTO countries are still conditioned by the “local areas of specialty” that took shape in the Soviet years.

The Russian defense industry remains the undisputed leader in the CSTO, not only is it capable of providing its own armed forces with modern types of weapons and military and special equipment, but also it ranks second in terms of arms exports in the world. At the same time, Tajikistan, whose economy is based on agriculture, has virtually no industrial base, let alone the defense industry. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have facilities that can repair armaments and even produce simple items for their own needs, but it would be strange to talk about ambitions of these states to act as exporters in the global arms market. Belarus and Kazakhstan, although they have a fairly developed defense industry and even export a significant amount of military products, are not always able to produce weapons, military and special equipment as the final product themselves and are quite limited in the range of manufactured items.

For obvious reasons, different CSTO countries have different potential for military-technical cooperation. At the moment, one of our key goals is to create a joint product using the competences and experience in military-technical cooperation that the CSTO member states possess

Dmitry Pantus, Chairman of the State Military Industrial Committee of the Republic of Belarus

But each of these countries has the tasks of military construction and ensuring its military security. Therefore, of course, they are interested both in the purchase of weapons from Russia through the CSTO (because for the equipment of national formations included in the collective forces, there are supposed supplies of weapons, military and special equipment on special terms, at the lower, “clubby” prices, effective in purchasing for the Russian Army, with the same military characteristics) and in the integration of defense industry within the organization to develop their own industrial capabilities and even export joint products to third countries.

However, the CSTO countries are no less interested in building military-technical relations on a bilateral basis. And the Russian Federation is not necessarily one of the parties to these interactions. Also, it is not always about the import of weapons, military and special equipment.


Belarusian MIC was an important component of the defense industry of the Soviet Union. By 1991, about 120 defense enterprises and organizations, including 15 design bureaus and research institutes were located on the territory of the republic. According to experts, many of them were saved thanks to the right management decisions. Due to its location on the western border, the country had practically no enterprises producing finished products – traditionally, the Belarusian defense industry produced components for weapons systems and military equipment. An important component of the Belarusian defense industry has been, and remains to be, plants for repair and modernization of armaments and military equipment, which provide an opportunity to earn money from maintenance and upgrading of Soviet-made equipment. All this has determined the specifics of Belarus as a supplier of military products and services.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Belarus ranked 17th in the world in total exports of conventional weapons from 1991 to 2020. The list of specific transfers cited by SIPRI is generally confirmed by data from the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA), which compiles its databases based on reports submitted by countries.

From these sources we know that in the 1990s Belarus supplied two Su-24 bombers and 25 MiG-29 fighters, including six MiG-29UB trainers from Russia to Algeria; six BM-21 Grad MLRSs to the Democratic Republic of Congo; 40 T-55 tanks and two Mi-24/Mi-35 helicopters to Ethiopia; four Mi-24/Mi-35 helicopters to Rwanda, two of those to each Serbia and Uganda, and two more (of the four) to Sierra Leone. In addition to all that there were eight Mi-24/Mi-35s, Sudan received nine T-55s and another 60 such tanks in the early 2000s. One hundred T-72M1 tanks were supplied to Hungary and one hundred T-72B tanks to Morocco. Peru received X-25 and X-27 anti-radar missiles (100 each), X-58U (25 each), 18 MiG-29 and Su-25 missiles, more than 250 R-60 short-range air-to-air missiles and 70 R-27 medium-range air-to-air missiles. Angola got 21 BMP-1 and 62 BMP-2 armored infantry fighting vehicles, one Su-24 bomber, seven Su-22 and seven MiG-23 fighters, two Su-27C, 12 2S7 Pion self-propelled guns, 24 BM-21 Grad MLRS, 12 D-30 howitzers, 62 T-55AM-2 tanks and 22 T-72M1 tanks. Pakistan has probably received 1,920 9M119 anti-tank missiles for the T-80UD.

In the early 2000s, Minsk supplied 10 D-30 howitzers to Armenia, and in the same years 30 similar howitzers were supplied to Azerbaijan, as well as 60 T-72M1 tanks and 12 2S7 Pion self-propelled guns. Cote d'Ivoire also received 10 2B11 transportable mortars, An-12 transport aircraft, four Su-25 assault aircraft, two Mi-24/Mi-35 and one Mi-8T helicopter, 13 BMP-1 and the same number of BRDM-2, six BM-21 Grad MLRSs and the same number of BTR-80 armored personnel carriers. Djibouti received two Mi-24s/Mi-35s and Nigeria received the same number of vehicles. Eritrea received two S-125 Pechora SAMs and 70 B-601 SAMs for them and nine BM-22/9P140 Uragan MLRSs. Iran received 37 T-72M1 tanks (probably re-exported from Russia) and seven Vostok-E radars, while Nepal received two Mi-8MT/Mi-17 helicopters. Once again, Sudan accounted for a large volume of deliveries: 12 BM-21 Grad MLRS, 24 D-30 howitzers, 10 2S1 Gvozdika SAUs, nine BMP-2, two BTR-70, 39 BRDM-2 and 15 Su-25 attack aircraft. Syria was supplied with 300 Igla MANPADs and 33 MiG-23 fighters. Uganda received 10 T-55AM-2 tanks and four Mi-24/Mi-35 helicopters, and two more helicopters were delivered in 2010s. Yemen received 27 T-72B tanks, 92 T-80 tanks and 68 GTD-1000 tank engines.

The 2010s saw as many exports of weapons, military and special equipment from Belarus as the previous ones. Four Mi-24/Mi-35 were exported to Afghanistan, 20 Vostok-E radars (probably produced in Vietnam under license) and five S-125T Pechora-2T air defense systems – to Vietnam. Angola received 22 2S7 Pion self-propelled guns, 18 D-20 howitzers, 54 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers and 12 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzers, 12 BM-21 Grad MLRSs and four BM-22/9P140 Uragan MLRSs. Azerbaijan received 11 Su-25, 93 T-72M1 tanks, two Buk-1M air defense systems, 26 howitzers 2A36 Hyacinth, six Polonez air defense systems (jointly developed by Belarus and China) and 300 missiles A200 to them. China received five Il-76 transport aircraft, Cote d'Ivoire received four BTR-70 armored personnel carriers and eight Cayman armored personnel carriers. Iraq received nine Su-25s and Libya four Mi-24s/Mi-35s. Myanmar received two similar helicopters, and two Kvadrat-M air defense systems and 100 SAMs 3M9 to them. Seven Mi-24/Mi-35 helicopters, three Mi-8Ts, 76 BTR-70s, eight Su-24s and four Su-25s were supplied to Sudan. Four (of eight) MiG-29Cs were delivered to Serbia – a batch of eight units is to be completed in 2021. Four Karakal anti-tank systems and 10 BM-21 Grad MLRSs were supplied to Turkmenistan, and 22 T-72B tanks, to Uganda. There were also reports of deliveries of equipment to the UAE, Sweden, Slovakia, Poland, South Korea, and Oman.

The UN practices themselves are based on certain registers, which were compiled many years ago and include the traditional types of weapons, so to speak, heavy ones. These are artillery and aviation systems, tanks, armored vehicles and so on. Much of what Belarus produces and sells does not fall into these categories

Alexander Alesin, military expert

All of the above is a large volume of supplies, but it is mostly equipment that was left in the republic after the collapse of the Soviet Union – a ‘garage sale.’ At the same time, such a content of military-technical cooperation does not fully reflect the structure of Belarusian military exports. Today it is dominated by high-tech products of domestic production – electronic warfare (EW) and reconnaissance systems, automated control and guidance systems, satellite equipment, optoelectronic products, strike drones, and new light armored vehicles. Venezuela, China, the UAE, India, and Chad cooperate with Belarus in these areas. It is not only about the purchase of finished products, but also about organization of joint and licensed productions, where Minsk acts as a supplier of technology.

Deliveries through the CSTO are also a significant volume of Belarusian military exports. A number of systems are being upgraded for Kazakhstan, some products are supplied to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and non-lethal weapons may be supplied to Armenia in the future, experts say.

Russia is also a big consumer of Belarusian defense industry products. According to some estimates, Russia accounts for 25–30% of the country's military exports, and the share of Belarusian supplies in the Russian State Defense Order is up to 15%. A number of items are critical for Russian defense enterprises. Among the main imported items there are multi-axle chassis, optical instruments, navigation systems, and thermal imagers. Joint research and development projects are underway, and integration and cooperation projects for the defense industry are being discussed and implemented, including those within the framework of the Union State.

At the same time, Minsk is working to diversify contracts and expand the geography of supplies. In 2017, Belarusian-made materiel was supplied to 69 countries, in 2018 – to 76 countries, in 2019 – to 97 countries already. In part, Belarus is trying to move away from dependence on Russian supplies and Russian contracts, but as the international situation becomes more complicated and the domestic political situation stagnates, it will be harder to do so.


Kazakhstan is not yet a significant supplier of military products, but it has the potential to become one. According to SIPRI, in 1991–2020 Nur-Sultan was in the top-50 suppliers of materiel and became 48th in the world ranking of arms exporters .

With the collapse of the USSR, Kazakhstan's MIC inherited more than 50 enterprises evacuated to the republic during the Second World War. These enterprises mainly produced equipment and weapons for the navy, and in terms of some items Kazakhstan covered up to 90% of the needs of the USSR Navy. The republic's MIC also produced radio-electronic equipment for aviation needs, radar stations, missile systems, weapons for tanks, small arms, and certain components of air defense systems.

In the first years of independence, under conditions of sharp reduction of financing and lack of demand for the MIC products due to their narrow specialization and fragmentation, entire industries were shut down. At the same time, the necessity to form national armed forces still set a task of their technical equipment, i.e. providing them with weapons, military and special equipment. In many respects this problem was and is being solved thanks to profitable deals through the CSTO. However, Kazakhstan is looking for new opportunities and creates conditions to provide for the needs of defense and security agencies on its own – both by reforming and modernizing existing enterprises and by building advantageous military-technical relations with foreign partners.

At the doctrinal level, Kazakhstan has declared establishment of joint enterprises with foreign partners on its territory with technologies transfer for production of materiel and diversification of military-technical ties as a priority area of military-technical cooperation. Turkey, Israel, South Africa, France, and Russia have become Nur-Sultan's traditional partners in this area.

In 2010, an exhibition of weapons, military and technical equipment “KADEX-2010” was visited by the Turkish President Abdullah Gul, and in 2011 the joint venture ‘Kazakhstan Aselsan Engineering’ was launched to manufacture electro-optical devices. Under the contract, the Turkish company Aselsan provided Kazakhstan with technical documentation, materials and equipment for production of components in the interests of the defense industry of Kazakhstan. The company has also set up production of SARP remotely piloted combat modules for the Arlan armored infantry fighting vehicle. A joint venture was established with the Turkish company Otokar for production of Cobra armored infantry fighting vehicles, which were already in service with the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan in 2012.

Today, the defense industry complex of Kazakhstan has a considerable export potential and occupies a certain niche in the economy of our country; contemporary models of Kazakhstani military hardware exhibit a high level of competitiveness. Kazakhstan has developed a modern space infrastructure, with satellite communications and remote sensing systems capable of providing communication services, as well as images of the Earth's surface monitoring from space

Beibut Atamkulov, Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development of Kazakhstan

In 2015, Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering, a joint venture with Paramount Group (South Africa), began production of armored wheeled vehicles in Kazakhstan. The company produces Arlan, Alan, Nomad, and Barys armored personnel carriers. So far this equipment is used for domestic needs, but the company has already been visited by delegations from Kuwait, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Serbia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, India, Germany, and Russia. The possibilities of cooperation were discussed in detail with Russian KAMAZ.

With the participation of Israeli companies Soltam systems and IMI, production of MLRS Naiza, as well as modernization of Semser self-propelled howitzers and Aybat mortars have been organized in Kazakhstan. A joint venture company, Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering, was established with the French Airbus Helicopters, it assembles, sells and services a line of Airbus helicopters, and also trains technicians and pilots in the CIS and Central Asia. Also, the National Company Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary together with Airbus Defense and Space launched a Spacecraft Assembly and Testing Complex (SATAC) in order to create a base for design, manufacture, assembly and testing of spacecraft, payload components and space equipment elements in the republic. The SATC is operated by the Ғalam joint venture. Tales Kazakhstan Engineering is working with France's Thales to assemble radars, and with Spain's Indra Sistemas – on manufacturing radars and other military radio-electronic products. Negotiations on technological cooperation were conducted with representatives of Poland, Japan, Germany, and the USA. A number of projects are being implemented with Ukrainian enterprises.

Of the CSTO countries, the closest cooperation has been established with the defense industries of Belarus and Russia. For example, cooperation on the development, manufacturing and supply of various automated control systems has been agreed with the Belarusian company Agat; modular staff vehicles are being jointly produced with Midivisana; a joint venture for the production of anti-aircraft missile and radio equipment is being considered with the Tetraedr Research and Production Enterprise. Among the joint projects with Russia there are organization of large-scale assembly of Russian Helicopters' equipment in Kazakhstan; establishment of the joint venture KAMAZ Engineering with KAMAZ; negotiations on projects to upgrade and produce anti-aircraft equipment for the ground forces with the Machine-Building Design Bureau (KBM); and joint production of heavy military equipment with Uralvagonzavod.

All of the military-technical projects listed above are currently aimed at meeting Kazakhstan's domestic needs. But all this increases the republic's export potential – on the one hand, the defense industry is developing and becoming more competitive, and on the other hand, Nur-Sultan will have something to offer in the world arms market.

Kazakhstan also works according to a more traditional scheme – selling off the ‘Soviet heritage’ in the form of unclaimed excess articles of armaments and military equipment. However, judging by official statements, this is done not so much to make money from exports, but to prevent uncontrolled storage and use of military equipment in the republic. In 2018, it was once again announced that Kazakhstan intended to modernize Soviet-made military equipment at the facilities of Kazakhstan's defense industry and then export it – to exclude shadow exports within the country. According to Beibut Atamkulov, then Kazakhstan's Minister of Defense and Aerospace Industry, what cannot be repaired and modernized should be scrapped.

It was this traditional form of military-technical cooperation that became the basis for SIPRI and UNROCA databases formation. According to these sources, in 1991–2020 Kazakhstan exported the following: four BM-21 Grad MLRSs, 28 D-30 howitzers, and 24 M-46 howitzers were supplied to Angola. Three BM-1 Grad MLRSs were supplied to Congo (it is supposed that the recipient could be the DRC). Ethiopia received 106 howitzers, including 100 D-30s and six M-46s. Kyrgyzstan and Nepal each received two Mi-8T/Mi-17 transport helicopters. Serbia received 226 Igla man-portable air defense systems and Sri Lanka received four An-24 transport aircraft. North Macedonia received 12 BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, Azerbaijan – eight MiG-25 fighters, India – 15 53-65 anti-ship missiles, Georgia – 758 9M114 anti-tank missiles and 5,552 C5KpV missiles. There are data on the transfer of two armored vehicles to the UAE, 53 T-72 tanks to Belarus, and about 150 BMPs (infantry fighting vehicles) to Slovakia.

North Korea has received 24 anti-aircraft guns KS-19, four gun laying radars SON-9 for KS-19 and about 30 units of MiG-21. A scandal erupted over MiG deliveries to North Korea – Kazakhstan was going to supply Pyongyang with more units, but under pressure from the U.S. State Department the deal was terminated and Nur-Sultan has not received any money for the 30 aircrafts already delivered.

It is known that Kazakhstan in the first years of independence continued supplies of materiel to China under contracts signed back in the Soviet Union, presumably, we are talking about torpedoes. In later years, Nur-Sultan was engaged as a contractor for Russian export contracts.


As part of the Soviet Union, Armenian military-industrial complex did not produce any finished goods and was specialized mostly in research work and production of components for military purposes. Even then, the events in Nagorno-Karabakh demanded that the republic should start producing some basic necessities – weapons and ammunition – and build its own repair and maintenance facilities.

Armenia relies heavily on arms supplies through the CSTO, mostly from Russia. The republic does not receive any weapons, military and special equipment as military-technical assistance, but buys them for money. However, questions sometimes arise about the expediency of purchasing certain armaments or military equipment.

The possibility of setting up enterprises to service wheeled and airborne vehicles and armored vehicles was discussed with a number of Russian companies. Assembly plants are currently being organized in the country. One of the most important projects is localization of production of AK-103 Kalashnikov automatic rifles in Armenia. While the first stage of localization will involve assembling from imported Russian components, the second stage supposes creating a complete production chain.

The opportunities Armenia has in connection with Russian military-industrial complex will be used to meet domestic needs. It is especially important now, as it has become clear that the military construction system as a whole requires serious reforms. Judging by the statements of some official representatives of Yerevan, the country has export ambitions, but it is unlikely that they will be fulfilled in the near future.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan within the CSTO are also counting on military and technical assistance, mainly in the form of gratuitous supplies of weapons, military and technical equipment. However, such assistance is provided not only by Russia, but also by other states outside the CSTO that are interested in regional security, such as China and India. The inability to provide for their own needs is due to the same peculiarities of the Soviet military-industrial complex.

Tajikistan was and remains to be an agrarian country with an underdeveloped economy and therefore relies mainly on foreign assistance to provide its armed forces with everything they need. Obviously, there is no need to talk about any exports of materiel.

The situation in Kyrgyzstan is somewhat different. In fact, in addition to repair facilities, the country had only one production facility for finished goods: the Dastan plant, which produced Shkval torpedoes. Despite its underdeveloped military-industrial complex, Kyrgyzstan, according to SIPRI data for the period 1991–2020, was not too far behind Kazakhstan in terms of performance and ranked 52nd in the list of exporters of materiel. It is known that several Mi-24s were supplied to Sudan, 15 Mi-24s/Mi-35s, 19 MiG-21 trainers and 36 SET-65 Raccoon-2 torpedoes to India – probably the latters were produced under license in India. Crete received four MiG-21s, previously upgraded in Romania, and six Mi-8T helicopters were leased to a Canadian company. It is possible to export other armaments and military equipment inherited from the Soviet Union that are not in demand by the Kyrgyz Armed Forces.

At the same time, the CSTO countries are interested in the republic's own ability to provide for its needs, at least in terms of military equipment, communications equipment, ammunition, and the repair of weapons, military and technical equipment. The CSTO countries with a more developed military-industrial complex, such as Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, might be able to provide assistance to Kyrgyzstan in this regard.


The main task of integrating military-industrial systems of the CSTO member countries, which is regularly declared at the ICMEC meetings, is organization of joint ventures to repair and maintain the weapons, military and technical equipment systems in service and to provide them with necessary spare parts in due time. However, the experience of military-industrial complexes and competencies of at least half the members of the Organization make it possible to expect much wider use of the existing potential.

First, we are talking about saturating the collective forces with modern types of weapons and military and technical equipment, developed and produced in cooperation. Export deliveries through the CSTO are not commercially attractive for defense industry organizations, because they are just as unprofitable as domestic contracts under state defense orders. Joint efforts and joint contribution to the development of new products will reduce time and cost of development and production, as well as enrich experience and competence of MICs of all parties involved in such a cooperation. This work becomes more relevant against the background of the decision to accelerate implementation of the CSTO interstate target program to strengthen sections of the Tajik-Afghan border as well as the approval of the Plan to equip the CSTO CORF with modern weapons and equipment.

Secondly, it is possible to talk about creation of export models of weapons and military and technical equipment that will be offered as joint developments to the markets of third countries. Experts believe that this is also a promising area of cooperation between defense industries of the CSTO countries. And since the Organization pays great attention to advertising and exhibition activities, national exhibitions of weapons military and special equipment in the CSTO countries could become a beautiful showcase and a useful tool for promoting such products.

As for the further development of closer ties, we should develop more joint ventures, including those in the military-industrial complex. The territory is ready, you have an overabundance of everything – let's go there, we will produce for Russia and for ourselves, and develop industry

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan's experience, these new tasks can be solved through organization of joint ventures. We already have a successful experience – this is the interstate financial and industrial group Defense Systems founded in 2000 which at the first stage included Russian and Belarusian companies later joined by some Armenian companies, and now participation of Kazakh and Kyrgyz companies is being studied. However, a sincere interest of countries and companies to participate in such projects is a prerequisite for success, rather than formal allied obligations and blind adherence to declared goals and objectives of the Organization.

The export success of Belarus, Kazakhstan and even Kyrgyzstan with third countries can only be rejoiced. And this experience of military-technical cooperation should be deeply analyzed and comprehended. It should also be taken into account in the process of development of the interstate system of cataloguing supplies for the armed forces in the CSTO format, the work on which is currently underway. This will make it possible to establish new and restore lost ties between MICs of the CSTO countries, speed up development and production time, and reduce costs of weapons, military and special equipment and their components.

All of this could combine to make activities of CSTO suppliers of materiel more effective and strengthen relationships within the organization.

Author: Olesya Zagorskaya
©New Defence Order. Strategy  №1 (72) 2022

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