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Defense Watchdog Outguns Think Tanks

Published: August 6, 2014 (Issue # 1823)



  • Ruslan Pukhovs CAST is a rarity in an industry dominated by the state.
    Photo: For SPT

  • A Buk missile launcher, the same weapon accused of destroying flight MH17.
    Photo: Vladimir Filonov / SPT

After the neglect and decay of the turbulent 1990s, Russias defense industry has become a hive of activity.

The country exported almost $17 billion worth of military equipment from 2012 to 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, and a whopping $650 billion is currently earmarked for a domestic rearmament program through 2020. Defense industry officials are also racing to replace equipment imports with domestic production in an effort to help Russia cope with U.S. and EU sanctions, and the recent cutoff of military ties with Ukraine.

The chances are that any company gunning for a piece of that market will at some point come into contact with the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, or CAST, a for-profit think tank.

CAST is best known for its bimonthly magazines Eksport Vooruzheniy (Arms Exports), which is published in Russian, the English-language Moscow Defense Brief, and Periscope, a Russian-language media digest. But CAST also does market analysis and miscellaneous defense crap that brings in money, according to its founder, Ruslan Pukhov.

CAST has been around for 17 years an impressive stint for any Russian company, let alone in the defense industry, which is dominated by the state and plagued by occasional bouts of spy mania.

It does not exist in isolation Russia has plenty of military analysts and people studying its arms industry but CAST stands out among its competitors like a pirate at a forex trader convention.

This is partly due to its founders personality: In a field dominated by heavy-jowled, ponderous men and soft-spoken military nerds, Pukhov is known for his rapier wit and, unofficially, the ability to deliver analysis using expletives.

An ironic message is displayed on CASTs website: We dont sell weapons :) (although we have been asked to, on occasion). You would hardly expect to see this on the website of the Institute of Global Security Problems in Moscow or even SIPRI.

But more importantly, CAST is a rare example of a privately owned and thriving company in a field populated by state institutes and think tanks affiliated with various governmental agencies and state-run corporations.

The St. Petersburg Times sat down with Pukhov to find out how to make money researching the Russian arms market, how to dodge conflicts of interest and spy allegations, and why so-called Sunday defense analysts are more useful than having access to classified information.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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