Claim in 2016: Russia’s “economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy, except oil and gas and arms.”

Partially Correct: Russia also successfully sells goods and services in the space and nuclear-power industries. (Fact-check done in December 2016.)

Source of the claim: U.S. President Barack Obama (Dec. 2016).

Russia also successfully sells space launch services, rocket engines, nuclear fuel and nuclear power stations to other countries, including the U.S. and EU members.

  • U.S. and European astronauts would have no way of getting to the International Space Station and back if they weren’t buying rides on Russian-made spacecraft.
  • The American government and American companies have also been purchasing Russian fuel to power inter-planetary missions and even engines to power rockets that launch satellites to … spy on Russia. The U.S. alone has spent billions of dollars on launch services and space equipment from post-Soviet Russia.
  • Other countries also buy nuclear power plants from Russia, whose Rosatom company has repeatedly beaten Western competitors to win NPP tenders around the globe, amassing billions of dollars’ worth of orders. Rosatom is currently working on 26 reactor projects in 13 countries, including Hungary and Finland, according to Reuters. By comparison, Westinghouse is working on eight of its AP1000 plants, according to the news agency.
  • While energy did account for 59% of Russia’s $227 billion worth of exports in January-October 2016, machinery, equipment and transport vehicles accounted for another 7%, while metal and metal products accounted for 10%. Not all of these products were arms, given that Russian arms exports are projected to total $15 billion this year.

In short, it is an exaggeration to claim that Russia doesn’t export anything “that anybody wants to buy, except oil and gas and arms.”