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Russia looks to boost military ties with key Indo-Pacific customers

Russia has outlined commitments to step up military-technical co-operation with Myanmar and Vietnam, two of its closest partners in the Indo-Pacific.

The pledges are intended to support Russian military exports and related technology engagements. They are also positioned to address headwinds including the Covid-19 pandemic and US sanctions on Russian military customers.

Russia's bid to deepen defence ties with Myanmar was announced as part of recent meetings in Moscow, between Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin and Chief of Staff of the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) Maung Maung Aye.

“We intend to further strengthen and develop relations between [Russia and Myanmar], including in the military and military-technical spheres,” Fomin told Russia's Tass news agency.

Fomin added that the Tatmadaw's visit to Moscow represented an “excellent opportunity to get acquainted with a large range of Russian-made weapons”.

Russia's last major sales to Myanmar – announced in January 2021 – had radar systems, Pantsir-S1 self-propelled short-range air defence systems, and Orlan-10E multirole unmanned aerial systems.

Dmitry Shugayev, head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Co-operation, indicated in August that these contracts were on track despite the military coup in Myanmar in February. In this coup, the Tatmadaw seized control of the country from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

In late August Tatmadaw spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun said that since the coup, Myanmar's defence relations with Russia had reached a new high.

“The two countries maintained good relations under the NLD government but relations with Russia are deeper now,” the spokesperson told The Irrawaddy newspaper.

“Russia plays the central part in Myanmar's air defence systems, followed by China. And co-operation between the air forces is expanding,” he said.

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