Top Myanmar General's Visit to Russia Will Strengthens Ties: Myanmar Military

By Htet Naing Zaw 23 June 2020

NAYPYITAW—Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said that military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s one-week visit to Russia will foster ties between the two countries’ armed forces.

The senior general left Naypyitaw on Monday to attend the 75th anniversary of Russian Victory Day, which commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 at the end of World War II.

“The commander-in-chief of defense forces was invited by the [Russian] Defense Ministry. It also arranged places for him to visit. This invitation reflects the development in military ties between Russia and Myanmar,” the military spokesman told The Irrawaddy.

Russia has invited international leaders to the event and around 10 presidents as well as a number of defense ministers and military chiefs will attend the event, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.

The delegation from the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, will undergo health screenings before and after the visit to Russia in line with COVID-19 rules and regulations.

U Thein Tun Oo, director of the Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank formed by ex-Myanmar military officers, said the Myanmar military chief is attending the events in Russia himself because the country is Myanmar’s main partner in military arena.

“The military chief also visited Russia in the past to promote diplomatic ties. He dropped by [Russia] on his return trip from visiting European countries during U Thein Sein’s administration. As Russia and Myanmar are allied militarily, the Myanmar military chief has visited Russia more than any other country,” said U Thein Tun Oo.

Including the current visit, the military chief has visited Russia six times since 2013, the most out of any country.

In 2019, Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing made a total of 11 trips to foreign countries including China, Russia, Japan, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Most of the countries he visited were in Asia.

The Tatmadaw also said that participants at the Moscow International Security Conference in Russia last April appreciated Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s contributions to discussions on military cooperation and the potential for regional security in the Indo-Pacific Region.

Russia originally planned to organize the celebration of the 75th  anniversary of Victory Day in May, but officials were forced to postpone due to COVID-19.

According to political analyst and ex-military officer Dr. Aung Myo, Russia considers Myanmar important to geopolitics because the country borders the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. He also said Russia invited Myanmar’s military chief partly because Myanmar is one of Moscow’s biggest customers for weapons and Russian leaders want to show that Myanmar is important to them.

“As Myanmar is shunned by the Western bloc from time to time, Russia has sought to become allies with the country. Myanmar also has space to use weapons developed by Russia as fighting is ongoing in Rakhine, so it is natural for the two countries to maintain friendly ties,” said Dr. Aung Myo.

During his visit to Myanmar in 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that Russia would sell six Su-30 fighters to Myanmar.

The Russian defense minister reached the deal with Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing after the two met in Myanmar in January 2018.

Neither the Russian Defense Ministry nor the Myanmar army has disclosed the price of the six fighter jets or when they will be delivered. The Su-30 is a twin-engine, two-seat maneuverable fighter jet developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation.

All the jets, fighters and helicopters in Myanmar’s air force were purchased from China or Russia.

Hundreds of Myanmar military personnel are studying at Russia’s military higher education institutions. Four of them tested positive for COVID-19 over the past months, one of whom has recovered and the rest of whom are responding well to treatment, according to the Myanmar military.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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