U.S. Defense Contractors: Russian Threat Is Great for Business

Retired Army Gen. Richard Cody, a vice president at L-3 Communications, the seventh largest U.S. defense contractor, explained to shareholders in December that the industry was faced with a historic opportunity. Following the end of the Cold War, Cody said, peace had “pretty much broken out all over the world,” with Russia in decline and NATO nations celebrating. “The Wall came down,” he said, and “all defense budgets went south.”

Now, Cody argued, Russia “is resurgent” around the world, putting pressure on U.S. allies. “Nations that belong to NATO are supposed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We know that uptick is coming and so we postured ourselves for it.”

Speaking to investors at a conference hosted by Credit Suisse in June, Stuart Bradie, the chief executive of KBR, a military contractor, discussed “opportunities in Europe,” highlighting the increase in defense spending by NATO countries in response to “what’s happening with Russia and the Ukraine.”

The National Defense Industrial Association, a lobby group for the industry, has called on Congress to make it easier for U.S. contractors to sell arms abroad to allies in response to the threat from Russia. Recent articles in National Defense, NDIA’s magazine, discuss the need for NATO allies to boost maritime military spending, spending on Arctic systems, and missile defense, to counter Russia. …

Stephen Hadley, the former National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush now serving on the board of Raytheon, a firm competing for major NATO military contracts, has argued forcefully for hiking defense budgets and providing lethal aid to Ukraine. Hadley said in a speech last summer that the U.S. must “raise the cost for what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” adding that “even President Putin is sensitive to body bags.”

The business press has noticed the development. The Washington Business Journal noted that “if anyone is benefiting from the unease between Russia and the rest of the world, it would have to be Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp,” noting that the firm won a major contract from Poland, which is revamping its military in response to Russia. Roman Schweizer, an analyst for the defense industry with Guggenheim Securities, predicted last year that U.S. arms sales would continue to rise, particularly because “eastern NATO countries will increase procurements in the wake of continued Russian activity in Ukraine.”

U.S. Defense Contractors Tell Investors Russian Threat Is Great for Business