Russia admits manufacturing weaknesses

The Russian government promulgated an interesting decree recently. It prohibits the import of foreign goods or work by foreigners for the Russian defense and security sectors, except in cases where the goods or labor is not available domestically. The accompanying list of goods that are exempt from the restriction because they are not produced in Russia nicely demonstrates the areas where Russian defense industry is weak.

Here’s a rough translation of the list:

  • Casting machines used in metallurgy
  • Machines that remove material by laser or other light or photon beam, ultrasonic, electric discharge, electrochemical , electronic beam, ionic – beam or plasma arc processes
  • Waterjet cutting machines
  • Machining centers and unit construction machines used for metal processing
  • Metal lathes
  • Machine tools for drilling, boring, milling, tapping, threading by metal removal
  • Machines for deburring, sharpening, grinding, honing, lapping, polishing or other finishing of metal or ceramic metal using grinding stones, abrasives or polishing products
  • Machines for planing, cross- planing, grooving , broaching, gear cutting , gear grinding or gear finishing , sawing, cutting- off and other machine tools for working metal or ceramic metals by removing material
  • Machine tools ( including presses) for working metal by volume stamping, forging or stamping
  • Metal working machines (including presses) for bending, folding, straightening, cutting,  punching or notching; presses for working metal or carbide metals
  • Other machine tools for working metal or ceramic metals without removing material
  • Machine tools ( including machines for assembly using nails, staples , glue or other means ) for working wood, cork , bone, hard rubber , hard plastics or similar hard materials
  • Measuring or checking instruments, including appliances and machines for measuring or checking geometrical quantities

I don’t know much about machine tools, so someone else will have to address the question of what fraction of machine tools commonly used in defense industry is found on this list. Even someone with little knowledge of the intricacies of industrial production can see that the list shows that there are significant weaknesses in Russian industry’s ability to produce high-tech tools for modern construction methods.

Secondly, the promulgation of the decree in the first place shows that protectionist impulses continue to dominate in the Russian government. To the extent possible, the government is seeking to produce domestically whatever equipment it can.