Myanmar’s bilateral relations with Russia have reached a new level, said the government’s spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun.
“The two countries maintained good relations under the National League for Democracy government but relations with Russia are deeper now. Russia plays the central part in Myanmar’s air defense systems, followed by China. And the cooperation between the air forces is expanding,” said the spokesman.
Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun praised Russia for its advanced weapons technology. The government wants a world-class Russian air defense system, he added.
The Irrawaddy claims that the military delegation from Myanmar, led by General Maung Aye, chief of the general staff, was in Moscow to attend the International Military Technical Forum “Army 2021” and participate in the International Army Games. The general met Russian deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin on Monday.
The two sides discussed military and technical cooperation and ways to deepen military relations, according to the Russian media. The deputy minister called Myanmar a reliable ally and strategic regional partner.
Gen. Maung Aye, one of the military’s rising stars, will reportedly inspect Sukhoi Su-30 fighters which Russia is yet to deliver to Myanmar, Orlan-10 drones and the Pantsir-S1 air-defense missile-gun system. Myanmar ordered six Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets in a contract worth about US$204 million in 2020.
During his two-day visit to Naypyitaw in January, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu pledged to sell air defense weaponry to Myanmar. Some of the weapons have already reportedly arrived in Myanmar and training has begun for military personnel for the equipment.
Fomin visited Myanmar in March and the military leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing attended the international security conference in Moscow and visited several places, including secret arms factories, in Russia. Although there has been no face to face meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, there have been numerous exchange visits between their assistants from the two countries. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy Vice Senior General Soe Win have both visited Russia since the coup.
Other high-level military delegations from Myanmar have visited Russia. Gen. Maung Kyaw, the air force chief, also visited Moscow. The government is reportedly planning to send civilians for scholarships in Russia, besides its military trainees.
Political analyst Dr. Khin Zaw Win said Myanmar had moved back into the influence of Russia and China from western countries. Myanmar will become a pariah again, like under former military dictator Senior General Shwe, he said.
“The military leadership can only rely on China and Russia now. The goverment also gets help from India and Thailand as secondary sources. Russia has become the main country that helps the government. It recognizes the current government, continues to help and sell it weapons,” Dr. Khin Zaw Win said. Russia promises to continue cooperation with Myanmar’s military in the fields of defense and science and technology. The two sides vow to cement ties in various other fields.
“Russia will grab the market from China. The Russian navy wants access to the Indian Ocean. Russia has a big navy but struggles to reach it. China and the US already have forces in the ocean,” he added.
While the international community has been cautious in engaging the military government, Russia has been publicly cooperating with the junta. Analysts say Russia primarily wants a market for its weapons.