In 1949, a new automatic rifle changed the world. The original Автома́т Кала́шникова-47, better known as the Kalashnikov AK-47 changed the nature of firearms forever. The incredibly durable, powerful and perhaps most importantly inexpensive rifle designed by in the Soviet Union, was soon sold and also manufactured around the world. The model remains in production in multiple nations to this day.
While the AK-47 was a crucial piece of hardware for the Soviet Union, the automatic riffle became even more renowned for its importance in revolutionary struggles for liberation in the developing world (aka third world) where soldiers with often little or no training were able to stand up to well funded colonial armies and win, owing to the great equaliser that was and remains the AK-47.
Since the 1940s, weapons have grown ever more sophisticated, but in terms of a battlefield rifle, as well as in urban combat situations, the original Kalashnikov remains a force to be reckoned with. At the other end of the spectrum, the modern missile systems used by wealthy imperial powers like the US are incredibly costly. A single tomahawk missile made by the American corporation Raytheon costs $1 million. At the even higher end of the spectrum, a US manufactured cruise missile costs around $60 million to replace.
The Chinese and Russian equivalents of US weapons cost far less money dollar-for-dollar which is why systems like the Russian made S-400 missile defence units have become widely popular even in countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which is considering purchasing Russia’s cutting edge system soon. The fact that in spite of their lower cost, the S-400s are thought by many to be superior to the US made Patriot system, is another motivating factor for strong stales.
But be that as it may, systems like Russian BUK missile launchers and S-400 missile defence systems are still not ‘cheap’ in real terms. The solution is simple. Russia must work to replicate the success of the AK-47 in large arms including in so-called weapons of mass destruction, while China must also use its honed production techniques to mass manufacture affordable but deadly weapons systems that can be easily purchased by developing nations.
Just as countries like Vietnam, Angola, Cuba, Laos and Mozambique did not have the top fight Soviet weapons of the age, they were still given weapons and training from Moscow that helped such countries defend themselves against colonial tyrannies
Something similar is needed today. China and Russia have the ability to both design and manufacture slightly reduced power versions of their large scale weapons systems and sell them at a low cost or loan them to developing nations.
For example, if Syria in 2011 had a weapons cache even half as power as the equivalent size of those in China and Russia, the conflict may well have been over before it begun. Similar techniques used to mass produce the AK-47 can be used to produce high quality but low cost short range missiles, medium range ballistic missiles, missile defence systems and even low-grade tactical nuclear weapons.
Russia and China are already the key arms suppliers to the developing world. If China and Russia either jointly or cooperatively developing an initiative to mass produce incredibly high grade but low-cost weapons for use by developing nations, it would help equalise the developing world of the 21st century with the imperial world of the 21st century, just as the AK-47 did the same in the middle of the 20th century.