Correspondents from Bloomberg reported that under pressure from Washington, Indonesia will likely refuse to buy Russian and Chinese weapons. A U.S. State Department spokesman informed Bloomberg that the United States had asked all its allies and partners to abandon new contracts to buy Russian military equipment to avoid sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). This law was signed by U.S. President Donald Trump in the summer of 2017 and has been used to justify Washington’s economic aggression against many states, especially Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Unsurprising the targeted states are officially considered by the White House to be a rival. The goal of American policy is to deny Russia the revenue it needs to continue its “malign influence,” according to Bloomberg.
Through economic sanctions, Washington tries to influence the domestic and foreign policies of these countries. Interpreting this legislation more broadly, the U.S. could impose sanctions against any country that defies Washington’s demands by cooperating with Russia and China, especially in with military technology. However, behind the endless rhetoric about the necessity of American security, there is still an endless goal to remove competitors from the lucrative arms market. It is also clear that in recent times, Trump has sent his diplomats to Southeast Asian countries to persuade them to not buy Russian or Chinese weapons, and rather, of course, American ones.
Indonesia has been a customer of Russian weapons since Achmed Sukarno was the head of the country in the early years of the Cold War. The current administration of Joko Widodo plans to buy 11 Russian Su-35 aircraft, but Washington has made it clear that if that happens, they will impose sanctions against Jakarta. The Indonesian side suspended these plans. It comes as even earlier they refused to negotiate with China over the contract to buy patrol boats because of pressure from the U.S.
What motivates the U.S. to behave so aggressively in the arms market is because Russia has always been a major supplier of weapons to Southeast Asian countries and the Eurasian country’s weapons are not only proving to be far cheaper, but also much more reliable compared to their American-made counterparts. Between 2010 and 2017, Moscow sold $6.6 billion of weapons to the region, while the U.S. only sold $4.5 billion in sales during the same period. The major buyer of Russian military equipment is unsurprisingly Vietnam, a long-time ally since the Cold War period, and accounted for 78% of total Russian arms exports in the region. Russian arms exports have many advantages compared to the U.S. When looking at how Russian weapons are far cheaper and more reliable than their U.S. counterparts, the S-400 air defense missile system comes to mind as it is half the price of the American Patriot system that failed to defend Saudi ARAMCO oil sites and U.S. troops in Iraq from Iranian missile attacks. In addition, the Russian side is also open to comprises, for example, to provide weapons in exchange for Indonesian palm oil rather than just dollars as Washington demands.
The Russian arms sales deal is not accompanied by political and ideological conditions. Washington has a very rigorous check that people who buy their equipment must comply with, such as Western human rights standards or serving U.S. hegemony. If we look at Turkey, we can see all the difficulties facing the country because its defiance against Washington to buy the S-400 system. Or back in Southeast Asia, in 2016, Washington refused to supply rifles to the Philippine government because they brutally fought against drug trafficking and did not follow U.S. demands. It must be remembered that in the early 1960’s, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Indonesia when the government decided to annex the resource rich West Papua. Russian sales derive from commercial rules, not paying attention to political factors and ideology. Whether Indonesia will break its long relations with the U.S. and capitulate to its demands remains to be seen, but it is likely as Russia will not react in the same irrational manner as Trump would.
By Paul Antonopoulos