On May 18, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov signed a contract to supply 18 Su-30MKM fighters to the amount of $900 million to Malaysia. The public in Russia has given diverse evaluation to this action. The Sukhoi company proclaimed this action to be positive and very profitable for Russia. The design bureau was glad that the contract was signed, head of Sukhoi’s press service Yury Chervakov said.
“These fighters can stay in the air for quite a long time and accomplish combat missions. Without refueling, they can cover up to 4,000 km,” Chervakov says.
“Countries of the region have lengthy borders and vast water areas,” he continues. In his words, this is the reason why Russian-made warplanes are enjoying high demand in South East Asia where positions of the Americans are traditionally strong.
In his turn, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Su-30MK “is among the most state-of-the-art and flawless multi-purpose aviation complexes having extensive range ability and powerful modern armament systems,”
In his opinion, initialing a contract for supply of warplanes to Malaysia “evidences Russia’s readiness to develop cooperation with Malaysia in the hi-tech field.”
Some media agencies, however, have hurried to announce this contract as dumping by stressing that Malaysia will use foodstuffs and consumer’s goods as payment. Supposedly, cocoa oil will flood Russia. In the meantime, Malaysia is not famous for its cocoa oil alone. It has been the world’s third largest producer of semiconductors and is leading the worldwide production of raw rubber (36% of the global production). So, this country may also flood Russia with computers, rather than cocoa oil alone.
Traditionally, from Malaysia Russia is exporting raw rubber, coffee, palm oil and some other goods, while the imports include mineral fertilizers, transport vehicles and military hardware. To date, the share of Russia-Malaysian military-technical cooperation has been insignificant. Between 1993-97, Malaysia had spent $3.2 billion to purchase armaments and military hardware and less than 10% of that amount had fallen to the lot of Russia. Therefore, a contract for supply of 18 Su-30MKM fighters is very significant within the framework of conquering the arms market of South East Asia, where the UK, Germany and France are traditionally strong. It is noteworthy that in the tender for purchase of warplanes, the Russian fighter has outrun the US F-18 fighter.
In Sergei Ivanov’s words, the contract envisages after-sale services and upgrade for the aircraft. Malaysia is a quickly developing country is in the economic sphere, and, besides this state has enough influence at ASEAN. Ivanov reminded that some legal formalities remain incomplete so far, but the main contract provisions were adjusted. The document is expected to come into effect in the near future.
Russia’s readiness to cooperate with Malaysia in spheres other than the military-technical cooperation alone is a great achievement for our country. At their official meeting of May 19, Sergei Ivanov and Najib Tun Razak, defense ministers of Russia and Malaysia respectively, agreed to schedule and conduct joint combat training exercises. Ivanov reminded that a squadron of ships assigned to the Pacific Fleet of Russia is now in the Indian Ocean.
“I assume the Pacific Fleet of Russia will be visiting the Indian Ocean much more often than before and I’ll do my best to make that true,” he stressed. The minister noted that, in addition, joint naval exercises would be envisaged. This is also urgent because Russia had decided to pass the Cam Ranh naval base to Vietnam. From now on, the Russian vessels will be able to call and conduct maintenance procedures at seaports of Malaysia.
It should be noted that following India, Malaysia is the second country to hold joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean with Russia. This is a mainly Muslim country, and arranging resistance to the Islamic extremism is very essential for this state. Therefore, in addition to issues of military and military-technical cooperation, Ivanov and his Malaysian counterpart also discussed an opportunity of contacts between the antiterrorist center of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and ASEAN’s antiterrorist center.
Russia has been strengthening its positions in arms markets of South and South East Asia; nowadays it has solid relations not in relation to traditional partners such as China, India, and Vietnam only, but also Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Myanmar, etc. Moreover, Russia is strengthening its geopolitical influence here, which is also significant for its competition against the USA for recovery of the bi-polar model of the world.