MOSCOW -- The chief of Russia's state arms-trading company said Wednesday that Moscow will sign a deal with the United States to tighten control over portable anti-aircraft missiles but won't restrict sales of other weapons to countries out of favor with Washington.
Russian officials have said the deal will be signed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Feb. 24 summit between Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, the Slovak capital.
Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rosoboronexport, said the U.S.-Russian agreement will restrict sales of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to "hot spots" and envisage "tight control over the use of every unit sold."
Chemezov said his company was strictly observing international law while selling weapons abroad, but warned that it wouldn't obey U.S. recommendations.
"If the United States makes its own decisions, it has no effect on us: we proceed from international law," he said at a news conference.
Chemezov gave few details on prospective arms sales, and refrained from commenting on exports to the sensitive Mideast region.
The United States and Israel have been angered by Russia's intention to sell upgraded anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. Russian officials denied that such a deal was in the making, but Syrian President Bashar Assad defended his nation's right to buy anti-aircraft missiles from Russia during a visit to Moscow last month.
Russia's arms exports last year totaled $5.8 billion, achieving a post-Soviet sales record, Chemezov said, adding that Rosoboronexport accounted for about 90 percent of the sales.
Even Soviet weapons sales never matched last year's amount in terms of hard currency earnings, Chemezov said. The Soviet Union was exporting weapons worth an estimated $20 billion a year during the 1980s, but most were provided to Soviet allies on a credit or barter basis or even free of charge.
Even though arms exports have risen steadily since the Soviet collapse thanks to the Russian weapons' comparatively low price and reliability, their volume has now reached a ceiling, Chemezov said.
"Regrettably, we have approached the limit of our sales -- $5-$6 billion," he said.
Most Russian weapons now being sold were designed in the late 1970s or early 1980s -- one example is the best-selling Su-27 fighter jet -- and the defense industries would need huge investments to design and produce their successors, Chemezov said.
One way to boost sales is to sell production licenses for existing export items. Russia has already sold licenses for manufacturing the Su-27 and the Su-30 fighters to China and India, respectively.
The two Asian nations have remained top Russian weapons customers since the 1990s. They account for about 80 percent of Russian arms sales, and their share is expected to remain high, Chemezov said.
Plans to sell more Russian weapons to Indonesia and Sri Lanka were thrown off by the December tsunami, but talks with Thailand were continuing and Moscow may agree to accept poultry and other products as payment for weapons, Chemezov said.
He said his company signed a deal with Morocco last month and is negotiating a contract with Saudi Arabia. Rosoboronexport is also working with new NATO members in Eastern Europe to upgrade their Soviet-built weapons to NATO standards, Chemezov said.
He acknowledged that quality deteriorated after the Soviet collapse because of slackening standards at defense enterprises. Increasing spare parts sales and developing a network of maintenance centers for Russian weapons abroad are key goals, Chemezov said.