Russia’s blunders on the battlefield in Ukraine are scaring away longtime partners and other countries that have come to depend on Moscow for weapons systems, munitions and maintenance, according to a key State Department official.
Far from solidifying Russia’s preeminence as a world power and a choice weapons provider, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Jessica Lewis warned the Kremlin’s decision to launch a massive invasion of Ukraine has instead saddled Moscow with a “strategic failure” that is reverberating across the globe.
“We are seeing countries coming to us and saying [they] may need to diversify in ways they haven’t before off of Russian equipment,” Lewis told the Defense Writers Group during a meeting Friday in Washington, on the anniversary of the Russian invasion.
“They are seeing the failure of Soviet and Russian doctrine in the war [in Ukraine] but also seeing, raising questions I will say, about the equipment that Russia is providing and Russia’s ability to keep providing that equipment,” Lewis said, adding, “We think that this moment in time presents an opportunity for us.”
Lewis declined to share specifics about the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on U.S. foreign military sales over the past year. But she said there has been a “tectonic shift” that started first with U.S. allies on NATO’s eastern flank before spreading.
“We have deepened and strengthened our relationship with India,” Lewis said, noting New Delhi’s long-running dependence on Moscow for military systems.
“I feel very good about where that [U.S.-India relationship] is going,” she said. “We are making very good progress on that front.”
Lewis also cited Ecuador as a “good example” of a country with lots of Russian-made military equipment that has now turned to Washington.
“There are countries that we see in Africa that are interested,” Lewis added in response to a question from VOA. ”I’ve had countries in the Indo-Pacific region come to me.”
Some of these countries, she said, are looking to replace Russian equipment and systems that no longer work. Others simply are looking for a more reliable partner, which has the added benefit of freeing up equipment that can be sent to Ukraine and used immediately.
“That is actively happening,” Lewis said, when pressed by VOA.
Russia’s invasion in Ukraine and the success of Ukrainian forces with U.S. systems and support have likewise highlighted to countries why they may be better off getting their arms from Washington, as opposed to Russia or even China.
“This total package approach where people get the training, the maintenance and the sustainment over many years… [is] part of what we offer that China and Russia don’t offer,” Lewis said.