Russian military and diplomatic contacts have been increasing throughout Asia and the Middle East for the past several months — namely with India, China and Iran — which has caused increasing concern among U.S. intelligence and military analysts.
Since 1998, Russia — in a bid to regain some of its former superpower status — began to expand contacts with old allies and rivals alike, both as a means of heading off future Western and NATO influence and as a means of bringing in much-needed hard currency through resumption of weapons sales.
In the past few years, for example, Russia has signed a number of “strategic partnership” agreements with China, India and Iran that include the sale and transfer of advanced Russian weapons systems, exchanges of military-technical assistance and training.
In mid-December, Moscow was set to transfer the first 10 Su-30MKK fighter aircraft to China, purchased by Beijing last year, with an additional 40 aircraft set for delivery over the next two to three years. Also, the forthcoming delivery of 28 advanced Su-27 fighters will bring China’s overall aircraft purchases from Russia to 118, the American Foreign Policy Council said.
“In addition, an aircraft factory in Shenyang, China — under license with Russia — will manufacture an additional 200 Su-27 jet fighters during the next 15 years,” said the group.
Russia is also selling weapons to India in a bid to become once again the primary defense contractor for New Delhi, as Moscow was during most of the Cold War.
Besides selling advanced infantry air-defense weapons to India, both nations yesterday inked a $600 million deal to have Moscow sell New Delhi 310 advanced T-90 main battle tanks and other weapons systems.
Russian officials agreed to provide 124 of the new tanks within a month, while the remainder of the fleet will be assembled from Russian parts at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi, near the southern Indian port city of Madras.
The tank deal follows a $3 billion transaction in December that allows India to produce 140 Su-30MKI fighters, under license, over the next 17 years.
“The Su-30 MKI is remarkable in that it is a sleek, supersonic, twin-engine fighter that incorporates swiveling exhaust nozzles, giving the jet a new degree of maneuverability unseen in similar classes of fighters,” one report said.
Russia is also spearheading an effort to exert influence in the Middle East, using diplomatic initiatives and military-technical assistance as a carrot.
In January, Russian and Iranian officials signed a new military and technical agreement that could be worth about $7 billion annually to Moscow.
“We’ve just opened a new chapter in our relations, marked by the reopening of military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran,” Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said at the conclusion of a three-day visit to Tehran in late December. “It was agreed that a new phase of military and technical cooperation would begin between the two sides.”
“It’s not sufficient for Russia simply to call this type of equipment ‘defensive,'” State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said after the deal became public. “Some of the equipment reportedly being discussed would pose a serious threat.”
And next month, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will travel to Moscow to “discuss the resumption of military cooperation,” Russia’s Interfax news agency said yesterday.
Russian weapons exporter Viktor Komardin, deputy director of Rosoboronexport — a Russian weapons-sales company — said that Sergeyev had discussed solid arms sales proposals with Iranian officials during his December trip to Tehran.
He added that some of those contracts could be signed by mid-year.
New systems being offered for sale by Moscow include S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, of the kind WorldNetDaily reported were being sold by Russia to China.
Also, Russia is planning to sell Iran Mi-17 helicopter gunships and upgraded Su-25 fighter aircraft.
Yesterday, the Washington Times confirmed earlier U.S. intelligence reports that Moscow had moved an undisclosed number of tactical nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad, a base located in the Baltics, despite earlier pledges to keep the Baltics “nuclear-free.”
And, the Times said Russia strategic and conventional air, sea and land forces were currently engaged in what U.S. officials describe as the largest war game exercises “we’ve seen in a long time.”
As WND reported in June, 2000, some U.S. officials believe Russia’s actions are akin to “shooting itself in the foot.” But Russian researcher Dr. Alexander V. Nemets disagrees.
“Both Russia and China have become anti-Western powers, and are expanding their ties to so-called rogue regimes, such as Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Libya,” he said.
Meanwhile, “U.S. is wasting its time trying to engage the Russian government in Moscow,” Nemets added. “Instead, you should be looking to the regions outside Moscow, and engaging regional leaders.”
Russia expert J. R. Nyquist, writing in his Feb. 8 WorldNetDaily column, says he believes Russia’s moves are intentionally designed to hem in the West and the U.S. in particular.
“The Middle East is ready to explode into a regional war that could result in a devastating oil embargo against the West,” Nyquist said. “Certainly, this could cost the West a great deal. But should we believe that Russia has proliferated weapons to Iran, Iraq and Syria merely to get debt relief from Western banks?
“If this disinformation message is accepted, further hostile moves by Russia and its allies will be misunderstood,” he wrote. “Should war break out in the Middle East, should North Korea attack the South or China blockade Taiwan, the West must awake to the realization that this is an all-out assault — and not mere mischief.
“Western leaders have been slow to realize their danger for many months,” Nyquist said. “In truth, Russia and its allies have been preparing for a future confrontation.”