Russia » Politics
Author`s name Michael Simpson

Is It Fear That Opens Closed Doors?

Indonesia began re-equipment of the army with Russian weapons
Although the US gunmakers disregard any competition from the side of Russia's defense establishment, all the same, any attempt of Russia to maintain relations with its old clients and to find more new clients are closely observed. And it is clear why: every year Russia manages to sell more and more weapons abroad. And it was not in vain that Russia's Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov thanked the USA for free advertising of the Russian weapons. Thanks to US's awkward diplomacy revealed during the war in Iraq, vague intentions of some countries to buy "some Kalashnikov stuff" in Russia are getting more and more definite very quickly.

It is well known that Indonesia leadership is going to re-equip the army with Russian weapons. In fact, the country has already started this re-equipment.

As Reuters reports with reference to the Indonesia Ministry of Commerce, on April 24 Indonesia signed a contract on purchase of 4 Russian warplanes and 2 helicopters to the sum of $192.9 million. A part of the sum, $15 million, will be paid with rubber, tea, coffee and palm-oil. In a similar situation, America would certainly turn the nose up at such a deal, but the deal is quite good for Russia. Especially that this contract is just very beginning. The payment with goods is much more important that several tens of millions in money. 

Starting with September 2003 till October 2004, Russia is to supply two Su-27 and two Su-30 MK planes, two Mi-35 helicopters and 30 units of spare parts for the technique to Indonesia. Within four subsequent years, Indonesia's Air Force will get 44 warplanes of Russian origin, and the country will finally have its 4 air squadrons consisting of 12 Russian planes each. It should be mentioned here as well that recently Indonesia has already bought war and transport helicopters, armored troop vehicles and about 10,000 Kalashnikov guns. With the help of Russia, Indonesia is going to modernize the Air Force and anti-aircraft defense force with S-300 missile complexes, Igla anti-aircraft missile complexes and other military equipment. 

Indonesia Air Force Commander Chappy Hakim said in Jakarta that someone might be shocked with the deal, but the deal wasn't concluded spontaneously. Supplies of Russian weapons to Indonesia was almost the top issue on the agenda of negotiations between Russia President Vladimir Putin and Indonesia President Megawati Sukarnoputri on April 21. It is interesting that it was the USA itself that encouraged the Indonesian authorities for conclusion of the deal with Russia.

The problem is that the USA imposed an embargo on armament trade with Indonesia 12 years ago and it is still in force. Before the embargo was imposed, Americans had sold US outdated weapons to the sum of $400 million to Indonesia. The sales were stopped because of mass violation of human rights during clashes with separatists in East Timor. The Indonesian authorities made several attempts to persuade American authorities to remove the embargo or at least to relax it somehow. However, the USA didn't agree to change the situation with the embargo. So, Indonesia had to seek other ways-out of the situation.

In 1997, Indonesia made attempts to negotiate supplies of modern weapons with Russia. The deal was frustrated with a financial crisis that broke out in South-Eastern Asia and with a subsequent default in Russia. What is more, Russia's authorities (probably, because of some secret promises made to the USA) were not so much enthusiastic about the suggestion of Indonesia at that time. To all appearance, now the situation has changed.

In addition to the agreement on regular purchases of Russian weapons achieved during the visit of Megawati Sukarnoputri to Moscow, cooperation between the two countries will soon increase in other spheres as well. The Indonesian president declared that the country was interested in cooperation with Russia in the oil and gas field and in the space program sphere. It is not ruled out that in the future the first Indonesian astronaut will go to the space with Russia's help. This means a new step in cooperation between the countries. As it turned out, cheap and reliable Russian weapons can open those sectors that used to be closed some time ago.

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