The consequences and fears of the fall of Kabul and virtually all of Afghanistan to the Taliban are still being felt around the world as President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to open today, Sunday 22 August, the seventh Army 2021 International Military-Technical Forum, the largest static and dynamic exhibition of weapons systems and defence equipment from the Russian Federation's air-land and naval military-industrial complex.
Although it may seem otherwise, the Kremlin has not taken advantage of the global crisis of confidence in the United States caused by its exit from Afghanistan to urgently mount a show to demonstrate its military hegemony and take over from Washington. It is a coincidence that the jihadists took control of Kabul and a week later Vladimir Putin is to inaugurate Army 2021. It stands to reason that there will be a greater number of visits by foreign official delegations and professionals from around the world, possibly even delegates from Afghanistan's new Taliban leadership.
Army 2021 is an annual event that this year takes over from the International Defence Industry Fair of Turkey (IDEF), which was inaugurated in Istanbul on 17 August by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and closed last Friday. But it is worth pointing out that Army is not a conventional trade fair, with an exhibition part and a parallel programme of presentations, conferences and seminars.
It is a gigantic multidisciplinary exhibition set up simultaneously in different large venues by the Russian Ministry of Defence, which aims to demonstrate the enormous variety, potential and capabilities of the defence systems offered by the national industry, especially in robotics and non-lethal weapons, through real displays of around fifty thematic exhibits.
All of the above in the land, naval, air, space and cyberspace domains, in combat logistics, health in operations and even in the construction of bases and facilities for military purposes. Its ultimate goal is clear: to increase foreign sales of Russian weapons systems and industrial and logistical cooperation in the defence sphere, thereby increasing Russia's influence on a global scale.
Army 2021 also covers the defence research, development and innovation component and the component aimed at shaping the diversification of Russia's state and private industry towards projects of state or national interest. In the latter case, the aim is to set war industry structures on the path of transformation.
The huge exhibition will run until 28 August at Patriot, a military theme park with indoor and outdoor pavilions and auditoriums, and at the nearby Kubinka air base, both located some 60 kilometres west of Moscow.
Both venues will host an extensive programme of presentations, forums and seminars to showcase the latest developments in smart weaponry, emerging technologies, new logistics projects and light and heavy weapons systems for the armed and security forces. One of the novelties is the participation of the Russian shipbuilding industry for the first time, a request of the Chief of the Navy, Admiral Nikolay A. Yevmenov.
The spectacular dynamic tests to demonstrate to the Russian and foreign authorities the great manoeuvring and firing capabilities of the Russian Army's new ground robots, tanks and combat vehicles in service, as well as the new versions developed by its industry, will take place on the tracks of the Alabino Military Training Range, close to the above-mentioned venues. In total, Army 2021 will be held on almost half a million square metres outdoors and a further 65,000 square metres indoors.
Defence Minister General Serguei Shoigu is confident that the expected attendance of between 97 and 115 official delegations headed by ministers and senior military and police officers will be met. They will have the opportunity to see the offerings of around 1,500 exhibitors from 15 countries, mostly Russian companies but also from nations such as Belarus, Brazil, India, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
The Russian defence ministry expects its procurement organisations to sign 45 contracts worth $6.8 billion during the event. It is not yet known what these contracts will be for, but it is known that some of them are for the acquisition and modernisation of fighters, transport aircraft and trainers, the construction of minesweepers and corvettes, and also for missiles.
In terms of dynamic displays, scheduled demonstrations include live-fire rescue simulations as well as live-fire exercises involving tanks, vehicles of all types and troops on foot. Army 2021 will be followed from 28 August to 4 September by the so-called International Army Games, a set of 34 military competitions featuring Kremlin allies equipped with Russian weaponry.
According to the organisers, 7,000 military personnel will take part in the competitions. They are qualifying exercises in, for example, T-72 tank firing and movement, naval landing, precision mortar fire, deep diving and marksmanship, and the skills of master gunsmiths, who must disassemble and assemble D-30 howitzers, PKM machine guns and AK-74M assault rifles against the clock.
Of the 34 events, sixteen will take place in Russia; three each in Belarus, China and Iran; two each in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam; and one each in Algeria, Armenia, Serbia and Qatar. Some 260 teams from the above countries will take part, as well as from Venezuela and, for the first time, from Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cyprus, Malaysia and Swaziland.