VOA, BUDAPEST — More than a decade after Soviet soldiers left the region, Russia is seeking to return to eastern Europe, this time with lucrative arms deals aimed at competing with the expanding NATO alliance.
At the Central European Defense Equipment and Aviation Exhibition in Budapest, arms traders and their clients shout for attention.
Among those potential clients are Hungary's riot police, once feared by dissidents protesting against communism. Today it is showing the public how it copes with challenges of a new, democratic era.
But one thing has remained the same, the evident need for weapons and bulletproof vests. And if it's up to Russia, Hungary and other former Soviet satellite states will continue to look to Moscow to supply them.
The presentation by one Russian arms export company, the Rosoboronexport State Corporation, was one of the main attractions at this year's three-day exhibition. With annual exports valued at about $4 billion, Rosoboronexport claims to be the world's second largest weapons trader, selling anything from tanks and missiles to supersonic jet fighters.
But its profits have come under pressure as NATO expands toward countries that were once part of the Soviet military alliance, known as the Warsaw Pact, and other nearby nations.
New NATO members such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland are often pressured to buy from western defense companies to upgrade their Soviet-style military.
But Rosoboronexport's spokesman, Ivan Skriljnik, tells VOA that his state-owned company believes it can keep some of its defense market in eastern Europe by providing logistical support.