Sunday, July 15, 2007

Profits Not Honored in Home Country

And, since we're not socialists anymore, we want our royalties for the Kalashnikovs everyone and his dog are making, say the Russians:

"The famous Kalashnikov assault rifle has become not only an example of daring innovative thought but also a symbol of the talent and creative genius of our people," President Vladimir Putin said in a decree.

At the same events, Russian officials and arms manufacturers are clamoring over who should be allowed to put Kalashnikov rifles on the market.

Some arguments are based on quality, and Russia claims, without offering evidence, that the copies and clones are not as well made as the genuine article. There is some support for this on black markets in Iraq, where the Russian Kalashnikovs often fetch higher prices than their clones, although whether the rifles are better or simply more coveted is not clear.

Other arguments are rooted in what the Russians claim is law, as the arms industry insists that the factories that the Kremlin once sponsored, and now are in sovereign, post-Soviet countries, have no right to manufacture or sell items of Soviet design.

"More than 30 foreign companies, private and state based, continue the illegal manufacturing and copying of small arms," said Sergey Chemezov, the former KGB officer and confidant of Putin's who directs Rosoboronexport, the state arms-marketing agency. "They undermine the reputation of the Kalashnikov."

So far, few customers have paid notice. The largest customer in the market, the United States, has purchased whatever weapons it sees fit, coloring the AK-47's 60th birthday, like much of Kalashnikov history, with another angry struggle.

"We cannot tolerate the situation when only 10 percent of the Kalashnikovs are manufactured legally," said Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister. "We cannot stand for this. We must fight."

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