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Russia: Ukraine-Pakistan Arms Deal Raises Ire

  • Simon Saradzhyan

Moscow, 23 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Russia remains determined to block a $650 million arms deal between Ukraine and Pakistan, which Moscow views as detrimental to its close friend India.

The deal, which Ukraine clinched last year without Russia's initial knowledge, is for more than 300 advanced T-80UD tanks. The catch for Kyiv is that Moscow can probably veto the lucrative contract because it supplies key parts for the tanks which Ukraine is sending to Pakistan.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow quotes a spokesman for Russia's chief arms trader Rosvooruzhenye as saying Russia has no intention of resuming its supplies, which were cut off once Moscow realised the destination of the tanks. Without these key components, which include unique 125-mm cannons, engines and heat visors, Kyiv faces a dilemma.

Ukraine's main arms dealer, Ukrspetsexport, has already shipped 40 of the tanks, assembled largely with parts obtained prior to the official announcement of the deal. But according to a Middle East media source well versed in arms matters all Kyiv can offer at present is second-hand parts or parts made in Poland for an earlier model of the T line, namely the less advanced T-72C. Another problem is that the contract between Pakistan and Ukraine also stipulates that original spare parts should be supplied to maintain and repair the tanks.

The same source reports that Pakistan's military is having serious problems servicing the tanks already supplied, as a result of the Russian ban.

Our correspondent reports that a senior official of the armour department at Ukraine's ministry of machinery, defence industry and conversion, refused to comment on whether the Ukranian tank manufacturers can make do without Russian-made parts. But the official appeared to indicate that by one means or another the gradual assembly of the remaining 280 tanks is continuing.

"We are doing our job," he said.

Russia's anger at the deal is based on concerns that it could fuel the tension on the Indian subcontinent, bearing in mind that India is Moscow's strategic partner -- and happens also to be the largest single buyer world-wide of Russian arms.

But beyond that there is also Russian exasperation at a phenomenon which has developed in the world arms market, namely the fact that Ukraine and other former Soviet republics have been selling surplus arms from the Soviet-made arsenals at dumping prices. Moscow would naturally not sell to Pakistan, but still this tendency undercuts the general sales possibilities for Russia, which is the world's second largest arms exporter after the United States.

Despite seeing the number of its defence industry enterprises shrink from 800 to 150, Ukraine has managed to win a series of relatively small contracts for arms in the past three years, some of which have involved weaponry inherited from the Soviet Union.