They are one of the best air-defence systems on the market and Russia is happy to shop them around: and that’s exactly what is making the United States nervous.
The S-400 surface-to-air-missile system has never before been used in combat but multiple buyers from multiple countries has some experts concerned about their geopolitical implications.
Moscow is shopping the defence system to a variety of nations, including allies of the US, with prospective weapons deals with Turkey, China, India, Algeria, Belarus, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
In fact, Russia could generate more than $30 billion in sales of the S-400 over the next 12 to 15 years according to the Moscow Defense Brief.
The S-400 contains four missiles which can shoot down targets ranging from 40 to 400 kilometres. The weapons system was described by The Economist in 2017 as “one of the best air-defence systems currently made.”
Turkey was subject to international criticism as one of the latest nations to sign a deal with Russia for the defence system.
As reported by Reuters, Turkey and Russia struck a $2.5 billion deal last year that Moscow would sell the S-400 system, and Turkey had already reportedly paid the first installment. Russia could deliver the system as early as 2019 or 2020.
As a result, Turkey was threatened with sanctions from the US and condemnation from fellow members of NATO. Some experts believe the international arguments generated by the weapons system sale is entirely intentional.
Former Russian diplomat Vladimir Frolov said the weapons allowed Putin to simultaneously generate revenue while driving a wedge between the US and some of its allies.
“The S-400 has both commercial and geopolitical dimensions,” Frolov told Bloomberg. “It creates an opening for Russian influence for years to come.”
Further than Turkey, India also confirmed this month it was to go-ahead with their S-400 purchase.
In an interview with Russian media outlet TASS, Indian Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran confirmed the purchase of the missile system.
“Military-technical cooperation between India and Russia was discussed during the meeting [in May] between the leaders. We are committed to all our agreements in this sphere, including purchase of S-400,” he said.
While there are other surface-to-air-missile systems on the market, the S-400 has an edge on its competitors. It contains a longer range and better radar than American competitor the MIM-104 Patriot.
Perhaps most importantly: the S-400 can be set up and ready for action within five minutes while other similar truck-mounted systems can take more than an hour.