Earlier this week, Russia’s defense minister paid a visit to Indonesia in the first such interaction of 2019. The trip spotlighted some of the ongoing activity within the military aspect of ties between the two sides and how they are looking to develop it further for the rest of the year and into the future more generally. Prashanth Parameswaran specially for The Diplomat.
As I have noted before in these pages, Russia and Indonesia have long had a defense relationship that they have looked to continue to develop over the years. While most of the attention tends to be focused around areas such as new arms purchases, there are also a range of others such as exchanges and dialogues, along with discussions about technology transfer and even joint development and production amid challenges that remain.
This week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Indonesia. Shoigu was on his first scheduled trip to the Southeast Asian state of 2019.
The visit consisted of a series of interactions between the two sides, including a meeting between Shoigu and Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu. The visit was framed generally as being an opportunity for both sides to help strengthen ties between the two defense ministries as part of their broader effort to enhance high-level political and military relations.
The meeting between the two defense ministers and their delegations touched on various existing aspects of defense collaboration as well as future areas too. According to Indonesia’s defense ministry, Ryacudu suggested that increased cooperation be sought in fields such as information exchange, joint training, and annual dialogues between the two sides, in addition to current collaboration in areas like procurement and counterterrorism. Shoigu, for his part, discussed some of Russia’s intended areas for future collaboration and also invited Indonesian participation in various upcoming for a in the country, including conferences and parades.
Beyond defense issues, the two sides also discussed the future direction of their overall relationship as well. Per TASS, Shoigu pointed out that the top priority for both sides was to implement agreements reached by the two leaders at their Sochi meeting in May 2016 and then at the East Asia Summit in November 2018, and he also made reference to broader developments, including the fact that Indonesia’s position as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2019-2020 period which offered an opportunity to collaborate on wider regional and global issues.
Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of specifics were publicly disclosed about the exact details of how the two sides aim to solidify their defense relations moving forward through 2019 and into 2020. Nonetheless, the relationship will continue to be important to monitor amid wider developments, including the 70th anniversary of the bilateral relationship in 2020 which both sides have already been highlighting this year as well.