07/26/2021, 09.45
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Moscow sells warplanes to Burmese generals

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Sukhoi Su-30SME multirole fighter jets and military training aircraft​ delivered . After China, Russia is the main supplier of weapons to Naypyidaw. Like the Chinese, the Russians support Min Aung Hlaing's coup junta. Burma's military leadership relies on the Kremlin to balance Beijing's influence.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - In recent days Russia has delivered a consignment of Sukhoi Su-30SME multi-role fighter jets and military training aircraft to Myanmar, contracted by the regime a few months ago. Head of the Federal Service for Military Cooperation, Dmitry Šugaev confirmed the sale to Interfax over the weekend.

Šugaev says "the supply of these technologies will significantly strengthen the capabilities of Myanmar's military aviation." During the Maks-2021 Air Show, in the presence of Vladimir Putin, he explained that "Naypyidaw remains one of Russia's key partners in Southeast Asia."

Myanmar has been using Russian Mig-29 and Jak-130 aircrafts for a long time; the two countries have a close cooperation in the military field, as confirmed by the head of the Russian war trade agency Rosoboronexport, Aleksandr Mikheev.

Sipri reports that between 2011 and 2020 Moscow sold weapons to Naypyidaw for 649 million euros. With sales of €1.2 billion, China is the leading supplier of armaments to Myanmar.

Russia is actively supporting the Myanmar Armed Forces, which seized power on February 1 in a military coup led by General Min Aung Hlaing. The Russians (like the Chinese) have refused to condemn the action, arguing that the Tatmadaw (the Burmese army) is the only force capable of guaranteeing unity and peace in the multi-ethnic country. The USA, the European Union and Great Britain have imposed sanctions against those responsible for the coup.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin visited Naypyidaw in March. He conducted negotiations with local military leaders and also attended the parade in honor of the 76th anniversary of the establishment of the Burmese Armed Forces. Defense Minister Sergei Šojgu, one of President Putin's closest men, had visited Myanmar in January, signing several agreements even then for the delivery of Pantsir-C1 short-range anti-aircraft missile systems, Orlan-10E reconnaissance drones and radio-location stations.

A Myanmar military delegation traveled to Russia last month to learn about Pantsir production techniques, accompanied by Aung Hlaing himself and Air Force Chief Maung Maung Kiaw.

Military cooperation with Russia serves Myanmar to balance (at least in part) the preponderant influence of China on the political life of the country, of which it is the largest trading partner and the main investor. Myanmar is an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi Jinping's mega-infrastructure project to make Beijing the pivot of world trade.

On his trip to Russia, Aung Hlaing had complained about "foreign state" interference in supporting rebel ethnic minorities on Myanmar's northern border," which faces China's Yunnan province. Balancing Chinese and Russian influence is a political game Myanmar has been trying to play since the 1990s.

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