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Money, weapons and geopolitics are colliding all over the world as Russia — the world's second-biggest arms exporter — seeks to narrow the gap with the U.S.

Expand chart
Note: The Trend Indicator Value unit is based on known costs of some weapons systems and represents the transfer of military resources rather than financial value; Data: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Snapshot: Standing beside Vladimir Putin earlier this month in Ankara, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the purchase of an advanced Russian S-400 air defense system was a “done deal,” despite protests from Turkey’s NATO allies. Putin said delivery of the system would actually be accelerated.

The big picture: As in the Cold War, choosing to buy arms from Russia or the U.S. is "absolutely a political statement," says Rachel Stohl of the Stimson Center.

  • For Turkey and Erdoğan, this is an opportunity "to leverage intimate ties with Russia to gain more from the U.S., particularly in Syria," according to Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
  • Meanwhile, Russia exported $1.1 billion in arms last year to Egypt, historically a top U.S. customer, per SIPRI. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is hedging his bets between Moscow and Washington, and he's not the only leader in the region doing so.
  • Russia is making some inroads across the Middle East, but “competition in the region is much more intense than in Asia,” by far "the most important export market for Russian arms,” according to a Chatham House report. 56% of Russia’s arms exports since 2000 went to India or China.
  • Stronger U.S.-India ties pose a threat to Russia’s dominance in that market, but those ties have also pushed Pakistan and Russia closer together. The last two years were the first in more than a decade that Pakistan imported more Russian than American weapons.

The bottom line:

  • Weapons exports are “one of the few areas of manufacturing in which Russia can be considered a world leader,” and Moscow’s “efforts to cultivate new relationships across the world... have proven successful,” per Chatham House.
  • The U.S., which exported to twice as many countries as Russia last year, has some advantages, according to Stohl: “Russia doesn’t have all of the systems” wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia (the top U.S. customer) want, and many countries are afraid to jeopardize their relationships with Washington.
  • Russian arms, however, come with fewer strings attached.

Go deeper: Cold War 2.0.

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Democrat Mark Kelly sworn in to U.S. Senate

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Astronaut Mark Kelly (D) was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday after defeating incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) last month for the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain.

Why it matters: Kelly's swearing-in by Vice President Mike Pence narrows the Republican majority and moves the Senate balance to 52-48.

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Sen. Jim Inhofe. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he plans to move ahead with a crucial defense-spending bill without provisions that would eliminate tech industry protections, defying a veto threat from President Trump.

Why it matters: Inhofe's public rebuke signals that the Senate could have enough Republican backing to override a potential veto from Trump, who has demanded that the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Scoop: Uber in talks to sell air taxi business to Joby

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uber is in advanced talks to sell its Uber Elevate unit to Joby Aviation, Axios has learned from multiple sources. A deal could be announced later this month.

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