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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

Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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