Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 143

In the last several days, Russia has suffered significant setbacks to its foreign arms sales in southern Asia. Indonesia has reportedly dropped all plans to purchase Russian military jets and helicopters worth as much as US$1 billion while top Russian naval officials contradicted each other over the sale of a Russian aircraft carrier to India. Last September, Russia and Indonesia signed a protocol of intention for the sale of twelve Sukhoi Su-30 jet fighters and eight Mil Mi-17 combat helicopters. The Asian financial crisis prompted the Indonesians to postpone the deal in January but contract negotiations continued. On July 25, an Indonesian newspaper quoted the new head of the Indonesian Air Force as saying the deal was off.

Doubt has arisen in other arms negotiations as well. India and Russia have been conducting intermittent talks for more than five years over the sale to India of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. On July 23, the commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet–where the ship is assigned–said the Defense Ministry had decided to sell the carrier. Three days later, however, on July 26, the Navy’s commander-in-chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, said the matter had not yet been settled.

Originally named the Baku, the Admiral Gorskhov was the last of the four Kiev-class carriers built for the Soviet Navy. Laid down in 1978, it was not commissioned until 1988. The ship has been out of service since 1993. Kuroyedov admitted that it “was not technically fit for use in combat” and added that the Navy could not afford to repair it. Russian military officials hinted that the carrier sale could bring as much as US$2 billion, but such a figure is wildly optimistic. The Indian Navy recently canceled a program to build their own carrier, which would have cost less than half that amount.

Russia did make one modest foreign sale over the weekend. The Malaysia government announced that it would buy two Mi-17 helicopters for some US$17 million. The aircraft will be used for firefighting, search and rescue. (Russian and foreign media, July 23, 26)