Following the signing of a long anticipated contract to acquire Russian Su-35 combat jets in early 2018, Indoensia has reportedly come under considerable pressure from the United States to terminate plans to acquire the aircraft.

Jakarta is one of many potential targets for U.S. economic sanctions under the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), through which the U.S. has sought to apply pressure to a number of Russian defence clients, both major long established ones such as India and China and emerging ones such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iraq, to cease acquisitions of Russian military hardware.

The U.S. Treasury can in this way ensure a greater market share for Western products and strangling the Russian defence sector, which since the USSR’s collapse has been heavily reliant on exports.

Despite American threats to impose economic penalties, Indonesian Defense Minister Riamizard Riachudu has confirmed that Jakarta has no intention of cancelling the deal with Russia to acquire the Su-35 fighter jets.

This confirmation came just weeks after the imposition of economic sanctions on China for acquiring the very same fighter jets – currently the most capable Russian platforms available for export. Despite depending heavily on Western arm since 1965, Indoensia began to rely on Russian combat jets since the 1990s – as not only was the cash strapped Soviet successor state willing to sell high end air superiority fighters of a quality which the U.S. was unwilling and Europe unable to match, but the Indoensian Air Force’s trust in the U.S. was considerably undermined following an arms embargo which had grounded its entire F-16 light fighter fleet – while simultaneously providing rival Australia with massive military support.

Already fielding the Su-27 and Su-30 air superiority fighters, which currently form the mainstay of the Indoensian Air Force, the Su-35 is highly interoperable with the older fighter models and will provide the country with the most capable air superiority fighters in Southeast Asia.

Minister Riachudu reportedly affirmed his country’s plans regarding the acquisition of high end Russian fighters during a meeting of defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore.

When asked about the possibility of suspending the agreements as a result of U.S. threats to apply sanctions, the Minister stated: “Never cancel. We are continuing the implementation of the contract.”

With India also apparently calling Washington’s bluff regarding sanctions over the acquisition of high end Russian hardware, the U.S. will be forced to choose between the alienation of neutral states – the result of which could be pushing them further away from the Western sphere of influence, and making exceptions to CAATSA which could effectively neuter its potency as a threat.

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