After the Junta seized power in Myanmar in February 2021 most of the
international community, in particular the western powers have been
criticising the transition of the country to military rule after decade-long
democracy. However, some countries have vowed support for the Junta
most notable of which is Russia, and it seems that the strong ties between
Russia and Myanmar have only aggravated after Russia’s invasion of
Ukraine as both sides are grappling hard to escape international isolation.
The cooperation between Russia and Myanmar has been on display in
various sectors ranging from economic to military affairs.
The ever-deepening ties between Russia and Junta are perhaps most
visible by the defence support provided to the Junta. Russia has been the
top international arms supplier to the regime ever since it came to the
power and the brutal and unapologetic use of these arms against civilians
and pro-democracy protestors has caused an international uproar.
Russia’s supply of arms was reaffirmed by the United Nations Myanmar
expert who said in Feb this year that there was clear evidence that the
Junta was using Russian and Chinese weapons to attack civilians.
However, the Chinese arms supply is diminishing as the Junta is less
focused to get Chinese weapons due to their low quality and possible
supply to the rebel groups as well. The Junta has also seen its arms supply
decrease from countries like India, Pakistan, Belarus, Israel, and South
Korea after the toppling of the elected government which has further
increased the demand for Russian arms.
The Junta has been receiving fighter jets, surface and air missiles along with combat helicopters from Rostec, a top Russian state-owned defence Conglomerate. A major subsidiary of Rostec, Rosoboronexport has supplied the Junta with several shipments of weaponry after the demise of the democratic government. The head of Rosoboronexport has explicitly announced that the organization is in “close cooperation” with the Myanmar Military. The sophisticated air-combat system supplied by Russia is perhaps most valued by the Junta which is evidenced by a large number of air strikes launched against the protesters in Myanmar. According to the UN statement, issued in March this year the number of people displaced in Myanmar due to air attacks by the military was about 440,000. Analysts suggest that the increased arms supply to Myanmar by Russia is likely to continue even though there are some international sanctions and arms embargos put in place by the global community.
The economic ties between Russia and Myanmar are expected to deepen,
especially amidst a global energy crisis. The Russian oil market has been
hit-hard after the Ukraine invasion as Europe which is the largest importer
of Russian oil is set to decrease the import of Russian oil later this year.
So, Russia is desperately looking for other destinations for its oil export.
Moreover, the Junta is in dire need of avenues to solve its energy problem.
After the Feb 2021 coup, the oil prices in Myanmar have increased by
350% with the prices reaching $1 per litre. Many petrol stations in
Myanmar have been shut down last month due to fuel shortages, which is
only adding to the chagrin of the civilians against the coup. Considering,
this situation coup leader Min Aung Hlaing discussed the energy issue on
his latest trip to Moscow according to the Military spokesperson who
added that "We have received permission to import petrol from Russia."
The spokesperson also said that Russian oil was preferred due to its high
quality and low cost, along with that he also mentioned the possibility of
joint oil exploration in Myanmar with the assistance of China and Russia.
The Russian-Myanmar bilateral relationship seems to be growing in trust
and cooperation over the past year and a half due to the coup in Myanmar
and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both of these events have tarnished the
image of the two states internationally, consequently, the Junta and
Russia face the mammoth challenge of not only dealing with the
frustration caused by these actions at home but augmenting these efforts
across borders. The fear of global isolation is what is propelling the two
regimes together who think the only viable option for them is to support
each other’s action if they don’t want to get drowned in these soaring
waves of international pressure.
Edited and Reviewed by Tanish Bagga.
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