Procurement: May 19, 2005

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The news stories of the Russian sale of 100,000 assault rifles to Venezuela left out a few important details. Most stories described the rifles as AK-47s. Not so. Russia hasn't manufactured the AK-47 (or its upgraded version, the AKM), for many years. Instead, Russia now makes the AK-74, a weapon similar to the American M-16 (firing a a slightly smaller 5.45mm bullet), and the AK-101 (which fires the U.S. 5.56mm round) and the AK-103 (which fires the same 7.62mm bullet of the old AK-47). Venezuela bought the AK-103, which is essentially a very up-to-date design of the old AK-47. Normally, the AK-103 sells for about $800 each (including cleaning supplies, magazines, spare parts and the like.) But many of the AK-74s headed to Venezuela from Russia are being billed at $1200 each, the additional $400 going into the pockets of Venezuelan politicians who got behind the weapons purchase and distribution (to friends of the current Venezuelan government) of the weapons. New weapons, old traditions. Venezuela could have bought newly manufactured (but not by Russia) AK-47s for $400. But this purchase was not so much about weapons, as it was about politics.

 


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