This paper aims to evaluate an "external component" in the performance of Russian shipbuilding as one of the key national "strategic industries." After the post-Soviet collapse and a series of economic crises, the situation in the industry, in general, and export performance, in particular, remains unstable. In assessing the major factors influencing the development of Russian shipbuilding, in addition to economic and market drivers and constraints, attention should be paid to the political and geopolitical considerations that have the potential to play a significant role. The authors investigate whether the export orientation of Russian shipbuilding focusing on the high-tech niches of specialized civil vessels and warships (a) has a good chance of success and (b) could substantially contribute to the industry's steady and robust growth. The paper concludes that non-economic factors have a significant role in the development of Russian shipbuilding, insofar as they hamper the assessment of the cluster's general performance and its foreign trade component.