The story with the denial of visas to several members of the Russian delegation, who were going to Farnborough international air show in the UK, has puzzled not only Russians, but representatives of other countries, who were intended to conclude contracts with Russia at the air show. The move also affected the aviation industry of Ukraine, which, in fact, initiated the fuss.
Representatives of the Ministry for Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, Russian Federal Space Agency, the Russian Aviation, Russian Technologies, Rosoboronexport, MiG, Sukhoi design bureaus, and many other companies were going to attend one of the largest air shows. Farnborough is known for multi-billion contracts. However, many members of the Russian delegation could not travel to London to participate in the show due to the absence of invitations and visa denial.
Farnborough is one of the world's largest aerospace salons that takes place every two years. During the exhibition, leading manufacturers of aircraft and space equipment present their latest achievements in the field of civil and military aviation and enter into large contracts for the supply of aircraft and helicopters. In 2012, the contracts and agreements that were signed at Farnborough for the supply of more than 750 aircraft totaled about 72 billion dollars.
Visas for Farnborough were denied, first and foremost, to the heads of delegations of the companies that export military aircraft. The officials, as planned, were supposed to hold important talks within the framework of the air show. "Problems with issuing UK visas to most of the Russian delegation is a sign of weakness and unhealthy competition, which may adversely affect the image of the host country," Sergei Kornev, a representative for Russia's defense export giant, Rosoboronexport told reporters.
The official reminded everyone that Russia was ranked second after the United States in global arms exports. "So the lack of visas for several members of the Russian delegation to visit only one exhibition could not negatively affect the global process of military-technical cooperation of Russia, but it can affect the image of the host country," RBC quoted the representative of Rosoboronexport.
Thus, Sergei Kornev stressed out that the scandal with Farnborough would not affect the military-technical cooperation of Russia, as the country comes second in world arms exports. Yet, Kornev believes, there are reasons for London to be concerned about its reputation. To make matters worse, the British banned demonstration flights of Russian aircraft, which had already been delivered to the air show. To crown it all, Russia was added to the list of the countries, which would not be allowed to purchase British aircraft and equipment.
One has to admit that the situation with visas for Russians is unprecedented even for the UK, although the country has long been known for its generally sluggish service in this field. Aerobatic team "Russian Knights" missed Farnborough in 2012 also because of problems with documents. During that scandal, Russian officials said that Russia may boycott next international air show at Farnborough in 2014. The boycott did not happen, but now the legendary aerobatic team will not be able to perform at this year's salon either.
Moscow sent a note of protest to the British Foreign Office. However, the British authorities openly admitted that they deliberately undermined the participation of the Russian delegation in the air show due to events in Ukraine. Strangely enough, it is Ukraine that supplies aircraft components to Russian companies. It just so happens that as long as Russia will not be able to conclude any contracts at Farnborough, the Ukrainians will have to remain empty-handed as well.
"Farnborough is a major European air show. Therefore, it will strengthen the positions of European competitors of Russian aircraft makers, - President of the Center for Strategic Communications, Dmitry Abzalov, said in an interview with Pravda.Ru. - If the same had happened at Le Bourget, we could have assumed that someone is lobbying the interests of manufacturers. The French have not allowed that to happen, though."
It is quite possible that this is an attempt to knock out major competitors, specifically - Russia - from the market. Moscow, together with India, develops a promising fifth-generation aircraft. Moreover, against the backdrop of the difficult economic situation, more bets are placed on cheaper equipment, and Russian products enjoy demand at this point. The West may try to remove Russian defense aviation companies from the European and international markets. It will be quite difficult. Most likely, it will strengthen Le Bourget and increase its representativeness.
On the other hand, the lost contracts will be concluded in other places, such as Le Bourget, for example or, more probably, at Russian summer air show MAKS.
"Generally, if we try to understand not only economic but also political reasons for the Farnborough story, we need to start from saying that the UK is one the most consistent supporters of strict policies against Moscow. Not all European countries follow this line, including Germany, France, Italy and Holland. Therefore, such maneuvers may even lead to an isolation of the UK," said Dmitry Abzalov.
In general, it is possible that aircraft manufacturers, to avoid visa scandals, will try to sign large and serious contracts at other airs hows, which may eventually raise the status of Russia's MAKS.
"To put it mildly, I deeply doubt that Russia's non-participation at the air show in England will painful affect earnings of Russian defense structures ... But, of course, Russian aircraft manufacturers will have to eye other salons to compensate for the opportunities that were lost at Farnborough," Dmitry Abzalov said.
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France is used to terminating large-scale contracts, as that was the case of the Russian-French deal on Mistral helicopter carriers