Russia ready to help cash-strapped Indonesia with arms purchase

Updated On: Sep 30, 2005

Jakarta – Russia is ready to offer itself as an alternative source of arms supply to Indonesia, whose military has been hard hit by an arms embargo imposed by its traditional supplier, the United States.  

     Mr Pieter L D Wattimena, director-general of Indonesia's Ministry of Defence, said both Indonesia and Russia had agreed  on a "simple mechanism" for arms deals in the future, including Indonesia's plan to buy 12 more Sukhoi jet fighters, as well as an aircraft carrier and missiles. 
     "Russia has offered us a counter-trade mechanism and the payments are negotiable as Russia has also agreed to open bank accounts to channel export credits to Indonesia,"  Mr Wattimena, who led a delegation to Moscow last week, told reporters on Sept 27. 
     The Indonesian House of Representatives has approved a budget allocation of around US$2.1 billion for defence in fiscal  2005, accounting for 6 per cent of the overall budget. 
     Mr Wattimena said the two countries are seeking closer defence cooperation through a transfer of know-how and technology, and the accreditation of Indonesian military products under Russian licence. 
     The Defence Ministry is seeking Russian involvement in state shipbuilder PT PAL, aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia and the Army Industrial Affairs Centre (Pindad). 
     Indonesia has been desperately seeking new arms suppliers to help it modernise its weaponry after the United States imposed an embargo 13 years ago following the violent suppression of a demonstration in the then East Timor.   
     Washington eased the embargo after the Dec 26 tsunami. However, a full restoration of military ties is not expected to take place so soon. Some eastern European countries, as well as Indonesian's Southeast Asian neighbours, have proposed cooperation in developing Indonesia’s defence industries, but the lack of money has prevented the plans from being realised.

* Russia eases RI way to more guns (The Jakarta Post, Sept 28)