First Indonesia-Russia Joint Exercise Has Profound Implications
(Source: China Military Online; issued March 24, 2020)
RIA Novosti recently reported that Russia and Indonesia had agreed to hold a joint naval exercise, code-named Orruda-2020, this year, devoid of several specifics. The news has drawn extensive attention as it will be the first joint military exercise between the two militaries.

Russia and Indonesia are set to expand military cooperation.

Russia and Indonesia have had military cooperation for several decades, but mainly in the arms trade, with the latter buying fighter jets, armored vehicles, and other weapon systems from the former. Analysts said the joint exercise will help deepen bilateral relationship and military cooperation.

Some western media held that the first Russia-Indonesia naval exercise came as no surprise as Russia has been expanding security cooperation with Southeast Asian countries. Moscow has reached military cooperation agreements with countries in the region, including the Philippines and Vietnam.

Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) indicate that the Southeast Asia market accounts for nearly 20% of Russia’s weapon exports, making Russia the region’s major weapon supplier.

Russian military vessels visited the Philippines in 2017 and 2019, conducting joint drills on such subjects as tactical operations and radio communications with the Philippine Navy.

According to an analysis by Japan’s magazine The Diplomat, Indonesia has great influence in Southeast Asia. It’s Russia’s another significant attempt to intensify security cooperation with Southeast Asia by tightening its military ties with Indonesia through joint military exercises.

What’s behind the first joint naval exercise?

Some analysts believe that the motivation behind the joint military exercise is not that simple. As a matter of fact, Jakarta is hesitating about whether to continue honoring the contract and buying Su-35 fighters from Moscow. The two countries signed a Su-35contract worth USD1billion, which features the supply of 11 aircraft, at the beginning of 2018, but lately, there is news that Jakarta is planning to cancel the deal.

Bloomberg reported that Indonesia’s hesitation about continuing to implement the Su-35 contract is a result of US pressure. To force Jakarta to turn from Moscow to Washington for weapon import, the Trump administration threatened to sanction the country if it dared to say no.

Against such a background, Russia is backing Indonesia by holding the joint naval exercise to give it more confidence in buying Russian fighters, which is indeed the best choice for the Southeast Asian country to develop its air force.

In the 1990s, Indonesia bought Su-27, Su-30 and other models of the same series from Russia, the weapon systems on which are compatible with the current Su-35, thus saving a large sum of money in retraining pilots.

However, news reports released by foreign media indicate that Jakarta will have to buy from the US a batch of F-16V fighter jets, which are of lower performance and configurations and 1.5-times-higher price than Su-35 while continuing the arms deal with Russia to avoid America’s sanction.

Apparently, the Russia-Indonesia joint naval exercise is, to some extent, an extension of the gambling between the White House and Kremlin.

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