strong show of Russian arms
MOSCOW - With Russian naval groups
conducting exercises as far as the Indian Ocean, in
tandem with Russian strategic bombers, Moscow continues
to pride itself on the global reach of its arsenals.
This week, Russian warships begin long-planned naval
exercises with India. In their largest deployment since
the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian warships
are to conduct naval exercises with India in the Arabian
Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
warships, including the Black Sea Fleet's flagship
missile cruiser Moskva and the Pacific Fleet's
anti-submarine ships Marshal Shaposhnikov and Admiral
Panteleyev, are already in the region.
vessels from Russia's Black Sea fleet will train with
the Indian navy's Western fleet in the Arabian Sea on
May 22-23, while the Pacific Ocean fleet vessels are to
conduct maneuvers with India's Eastern fleet in the Bay
of Bengal on June 1-2. Russian admiral Vladimir
Pepelyaev has told the RIA news agency that the training
would involve air defense, joint hunts for submarines,
as well as search and rescue operations using naval
Russian President Vladimir Putin
said earlier this month that the joint exercises are a
first of their kind for Russia since the Soviet collapse
in 1991. In April, Russia's Defense Ministry denied
media speculation that the deployment to the Indian
Ocean had anything to do with events in Iraq. "We
purposely delayed the start and waited for the end of
the war" in order to avoid misunderstanding, RIA quoted
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying earlier this
However, the naval war games may not be
completely detached from post-Iraq international
discussions after all as Ivanov travels to Washington on
May 21-22. Presumably, Moscow would not mind to remind
the only remaining superpower that Russian still has
some capabilities to project military force well beyond
Moreover, Ivanov praised May 14
Russian air force exercises that involved six strategic
bombers firing cruise missiles over the Indian Ocean. He
said that it was the first time in more than a decade
that this type of exercise was carried out "at a very
long distance" from Russia's borders. Last week, Russian
air force exercises involved six strategic bombers
firing cruise missiles over the Indian Ocean.
Incidentally, Ivanov made his comments on the
exercises during a working visit in the Malaysian
capital Kuala Lumpur on May 19. During this trip,
Malaysia has agreed to buy 18 Russian-made fighter jets
SU-30MKM worth about US$900 million. The aircraft are
scheduled to be delivered in stages beginning in the
middle of 2006.
"This contract is very significant
for Russia. We are gaining a foothold in this market,"
Ivanov stated. "Russia and Malaysia are building
long-term military and technical cooperation because the
contract implies technical servicing of the jets as well
as their eventual upgrade," Ivanov was quoted by RIA as
saying. "We are ready to have joint military and combat
training," he said.
Russian media outlets have
speculated that Malaysia also mulled procurement of
nearly 100 Russian-made T-90S tanks, as well as BTR-3
and BMP armored vehicles, Metis-M anti-tank missiles and
Igla hand-held air defense missiles.
understood that Kuala Lumpur may pay for the Russian
jets and other arms in part with commodities such as
palm oil. Hence, the deal echoes a $600 million contract
Malaysia clinched in 1994 for 18 MiG-29 fighters. The
jets were paid for in part with palm oil.
Russian analysts have questioned the wisdom of yet
another barter deal. Proceeds from the Malaysian
contract are unlikely to reach the state coffers or the
Russian army, argued Alexander Sharavin, director of the
Moscow-based Institute of Political and Military
If Malaysia pays for Russian aircraft
with supplies of palm oil, then nobody could know where
the profit from it goes, Sharavin said. He claimed that
in the course of barter deals the commodity usually goes
to third countries, and up to half of the profit would
go to middlemen.
The SU-30MKM deal goes ahead
regardless of potential disagreements on other issues.
For instance, Kusama, the wife of Chechen separatist
leader and Russia's sworn enemy, Aslan Maskhadov, as
well as their son, daughter and grandchildren, have
reportedly taken refuge in Kuala Lumpur. Russian media
outlets also claim that Maskhadov's son is doing
business in Malaysia and uses the proceeds to fund
terrorism in Chechnya.
Nonetheless, the jets for
Malaysia will be built by Irkut Corp at its plant in
Irkutsk. The plant is now working on a $1.8 billion
contract signed in 1996 to deliver Su-30 fighters to
India. India is due to start manufacturing Su-30MKIs
under license at plants in India as soon as 2004.
Russian-made SU-30MKM fighter jets, with a
maximum altitude of 17 kilometers and a range of some
2,700 kilometers are armed with supersonic X-31A
missiles designed to strike sea-based targets.
The Malaysian contract is Russia's second
aircraft deal in Southeast Asia in as many months. When
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri traveled to
Russia last month, Jakarta agreed to purchase two
long-range Su-27s and two Su-30s for delivery this year.
Indonesia's military chief General Endriartono Sutarto
indicated plans to procure at least another 44 planes
over the next four years at the estimated $1.4 billion
Aircraft sales remain a cornerstone
of Russia's arms exports, estimated at $4.8 billion in
2002. In January, China's Defense Ministry and Russia's
arms export monopoly Rosoboronexport clinched $1 billion
deal regarding the shipment to the Chinese navy of 24
Su-30MKK multirole naval fighters.
Russia is also trying to get new buyers for its
aircraft. South Korean air force commander Kim Dae-wook
is due to visit Russia from May 21 to 25. South Korean
military officials are due to meet Vladimir Mikhailov,
commander of the Russian air force, announced Alexander
Drobyshevsky, spokesman for the Russian air force. The
Korean delegation is scheduled to visit the Russian air
force near Moscow, as well as aerospace plants.
(Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All
rights reserved. Please contact [email protected] for
information on our sales and syndication policies.)