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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

(Krasnaya Zvezda, January 9. In full.)

The beginning of the year was marked by a big scandal in the diplomatic quarters of several states in which Cyprus, Russia, Great Britain, Turkey, Greece and some other countries have been involved. It was caused by an actually ordinary deal concluded by the Russian Rosvooruzheniye State Company and the Cyprus government on the delivery to the latter of a consignment of S-300PMU-1 air defence missile systems.

As soon as the contract was signed unusually sharp statements were made by the US Department of State and the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Referring to the danger of the violation of the military balance on the island, Ankara, according to the Turkish press, plans to strengthen there its military presence and even, possibly, to resort to a military operation for destroying the missiles after they are delivered to Cyprus.

Meanwhile, an official representative of the Cyprus government, Yanakis Kasulidis, has outlined a quite logical and juridically substantiated position of his country: "The government of the republic decides itself how to ensure our security." After all, anybody who knows something about armaments understands that air defence missile systems are 100% defence weapons. If Turkey does not intend to attack Cyprus, why does it worry so much in connection with the purchase of Russian AA systems by its neighbours?

Apparently, it is the "nationality" of the missiles that matters in this case. According to non-official but very reliable sources, the sale of three S-300PMU missile systems, developed by the Almaz firm under the guidance of Academician Boris Bunkin, can bring Russia several hundred million dollars. Consequently, our rivals in this sphere (the USA, Britain and France) will lose this money. In this serious situation when stakes are high all methods, not only honest, are used. But at present, there are no missiles in the world that can be compared, even slightly, with our S-300. That is why, the Western arms manufacturers and merchants have decided to resort to the assistance of politicians in their economic struggle.

Asked by us about the details of the deal and the sale, the Rosvooruzheniye State Company refused to make any comments. We know, however, that this is the second deal of this kind with Cyprus, the first one was connected with the sale of armoured military equipment: armoured infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-3) and T-80U.

According to the informed sources, the military attache of one of the Western powers was recalled from Cyprus after the signing of the first contract, because he failed to hamper the conclusion of the deal.

At the end of last December Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller and British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind tried to exert pressure on the governments of Russia and Cyprus. However, nothing came out of their attempt. Today, "heavy artillery" is used - the US Secretary of State. The pressure continues even after the conclusion of the deal, because it has to be approved by the Cyprus parliament. Therefore, they hope that a chance to frustrate it still exists: the Cypriots may not stand the press or Moscow may stop at the threshold of the new arms market for it. They still hope.

Of course the actions of the USA, Turkey and other Western countries - Russia's rivals - have caused a quite understandable and legitimate critical reaction in the governmental, public and political quarters in Russia itself. We should admit, however, that it is worthwhile to learn from our rivals the ability to defend their arms manufacturers and merchants.

So far, the Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman Gennady Tarasov commented very vaguely on the situation: the purchase by Cyprus of "some types of defence armaments cannot be regarded as a threat to anybody; there is no ground for it" because these arms do not change the alignment of forces in the region. He did not say a single word that within the framework of the internationally recognised rules of arms trade Russia has no less rights to active presence on arms markets than the USA, Britain or other arms manufacturers. The skill of arms designers and manufacturers and the enthusiasm of the Rosvooruzheniye Company are not enough in such situations, as the Cyprus knot" has shown.

Latin American Variant

After the Colombian government has recently announced its intention to purchase ten military transport helicopters Mi-17 from Russia, some Latin American mass media have started talking about the breakthrough of Russian arms into that region. Incidentally, the Rosvooruzheniye Company has received the right to sell military equipment as a result of the open tenders at which many well-known Western firms also presented their goods. However, Mi-17 has been recognised as the best. The sum of the concluded deal was not large, some 40 million dollars, but the very fact of this deal has resulted in the consequences that could apparently be expected.

The US government was obviously irritated by this event and tried to bring pressure to bear on Bogota to frustrate the deal. The US Undersecretary of State openly threatened Colombia that the purchase of Russian Mi-17 helicopters could negatively affect Washington's relations with Colombia.

Russia's reaction to such developments was unequivocal: at a briefing in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesman Mikhail Demurin qualified the actions of the USA as "having a character of obviously political and unfriendly attitude towards Russia." He described such actions as "an overt infringement on the generally recognised norms and principles of international trade and loyal rivalry."

That was actually the end of that event. However, Colombia promised the American side that the money which was left from the purchase of Russian helicopters would be used for buying US Black Hawk helicopters and the machines of other countries.

This event has shown that the Americans do not intend to let others penetrate the Latin American arms market which they regarded as their own domain. However, Washington closes its eyes to Latin American purchases in Europe, but it would not tolerate such relations with Russia, because Russia's proposals look very advantageous for the Latin American countries.

For many years the US producers have been abiding by Washington's embargo on the sale of hightech arms to Latin America. However, not long ago, US Secretary of Defence William Perry announced that his country was revising its policy in this sphere. Observers believe that one of the reasons of such a decision could be more intensive penetration of arms from Russia, the CIS countries and former socialist states. The contract concluded by Byelorussia and Peru for deliveries of MIG-29 aircraft has confirmed this point of view.

The USA understands of course that Latin America is gradually growing into one of the largest arms markets. Nobody doubts now that very soon three richest countries in the region - Brazil, Chile and Argentina - will start allocating considerable sums of money to purchasing arms. According to the US Secretary of Defence, between 1994 and 2000 the Latin American states will annually spend from 3.6 to 5.2 billion dollars on buying arms. The question is where they will purchase them.

In this situation much depends on arms merchants. The greatest advantage will receive that merchant of course who will propose the arms which the Latin American countries need most of all. In view of this, the Rosvooruzheniye Company plans to create joint arms ventures in that region. If the plan comes true, Russia will be able to win a certain part of the Latin American arms market.

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