Jakarta. The Ministry of Defense wants to purchase 11 Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets from Russia, even though the move may come with a risk of American sanctions.
In August 2017, President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Russia. Some of Russian financial assets were frozen by the US, access to loans was limited, and the country's exports and imports with the US were capped. The sanctions can extend to any country that purchases Russian products.
Indonesia wants to acquire 11 SU-35s for $1.14 billion to replace its old F-5 Tigers. It was agreed last year that Russia would accept Indonesian export products such as coffee, palm oil and tea in payment.
In February, the two countries signed a contract for the procurement, which included full combat specifications of the aircraft.
"If the contract comes into effect this August, then two units will arrive in 2019," the ministry's public communications head Totok Sugiharto said in Jakarta Thursday (09/08).
"We don't have any enemies. We're on good terms with America, as we're also buying their Hercules [planes]. We just happen to be on good terms with Russia and other countries as well. So, we're not making any enemies," he said.
Indonesia also plans to purchase five newest Hercules carrier planes to strengthen the military's weapons systems and replace the old models at its disposal.
"If we encounter no obstacles, those planes will likely arrive in two years' time. We have only just ordered them from the US," Totok added.
Last week, however, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto announced that plans to purchase the SU-35s could not be accomplished in the near future, due to the possible US sanctions.
"What are you going to do if we get hit by these sanctions? Try and think about the consequences," he said, adding that the purchase of weapons is not as simple as of ordinary goods. Multiple factors must be taken into account.
"Everything has to be in sync, got it?" Wiranto said.
Several Asian countries, including Indonesia, India, and Vietnam, are under threat of American sanctions for importing Russian-produced weapons systems.
The sanctions aim to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, involvement in the Syrian war, and interference in the 2016 US presidential election. They extend to all US allies that purchase Russian weapons and equipment.
Indonesia is negotiating with the US to have the sanctions lifted.