Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 196

In his remarks yesterday at China’s national defense academy, Sergeev reportedly outlined certain key points of current Russian defense thinking. He said, for example, that the threat of large-scale military aggression against Russia had diminished for the near term. He also confirmed to his audience that Russia intends to rely more on its nuclear deterrent as the country goes through the painful process of reforming its conventional forces. One result of that reform, Sergeev said, is that Russia intends to reduce its military forces deployed along the border with China.

But for all the talk of military doctrine and geopolitics yesterday, it appeared that the two sides focused their attention with particular intensity on the issue of bilateral military-technical cooperation. Sergeev admitted frankly to some problems in this area, and described the state of such cooperation between Beijing and Moscow as merely “satisfactory.” He also suggested that a team of experts from each country had been ordered yesterday to work through the night in an effort to resolve some of these problems (Itar-Tass, October 22).

The issue is of considerable importance to Moscow and its cash-strapped defense sector. China and India are far and away the largest purchasers of Russian military hardware, with reports suggesting that some 75 percent of the country’s current military contracts have been signed with either Beijing or New Delhi (Vremya MN, October 13). Russian arms sales to China alone are estimated to have amounted to some US$6 billion in the years between 1991 and 1997 (Russky telegraf, January 29; Itar-Tass, October 20). Those contracts include the sale of twenty-six Su-27 fighter jets to China in 1992 and another forty-eight in 1995-96; the 1996 sale to China of a license to manufacture another two hundred Su-27s, the delivery of 4 Kilo class submarines and six S-300 air defense complexes in 1994, and a contract to provide China with two Russian “Sovremenny” class destroyers and a host of other naval weapons.