The Russian military has begun construction of a military airbase in Laos, learned GDC citing Soha news. Russia has agreed to supply armaments to Sudan and Laos as it seeks to bolster friendly relations with foreign countries.
According to a TASS report, the related contracts were signed at the Army-2020 event to enable the delivery of weapons and military hardware to the two countries.
Russian Defence Ministry was quoted by the news agency as saying: “International contract documents for the supply of Russian products designed for military use were signed with the Sudanese and Laotian sides in the follow-up of the talks.
Russia is actively expanding its military presence in various parts of the world, competing with the United States and China. The construction of an airbase in Laos by the Russian military, where, the Russian Aerospace Forces will also be based, as reported by the Soha news.
“The Russians came here to build a military airport on the other side of the Plain of Jars,” one of the officials said, referring to the archeological landscape in the Xieng Khouang Plateau that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
“They’re currently clearing the UXO and then they’re going to upgrade the existing airport, making it larger and more beautiful.” Another Xieng Khouang official, who is a provincial military officer, provided further details about the new airport to RFA.
“The Russian and Lao armed forces together are building this new airport that will be larger than the existing one and will be divided into two different zones,” he said. “One zone is for Lao and Russian military use and the other is for civilian use.”
Increased military cooperation
In 2018, Laos ordered four jet fighters and 10 Yak-130 tanks from Russia following a state visit to Moscow a year earlier by Laos’ then-Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, during which the two nations signed a military cooperation agreement. Four of the tanks were later delivered to the Lao Ministry of Defense by Russia’s Rosoboronexport Company and took part in a 2019 parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Lao People’s Armed Forces in the capital, Vientiane.
Russia sold $6.6 billion in arms to Southeast Asia between 2010 and 2017, making it the largest weapons supplier to the region, reported Reuters.
In April 2019, Russia’s TASS news agency reported that the Russian and Lao defense ministries had agreed on the areas of expanding military cooperation between their two countries on the sidelines of the Moscow International Conference on International Security, citing Lao Defense Minister Chansamone Chanyalath. The report did not provide details of the agreement.
In December 2018, Russia delivered a batch of T-72B tanks and BRDM-2M armored vehicles to Laos as part of a contract signed by both countries’ defense ministers earlier that year. The first shipment of Russian YAK 130 fighter jets arrived in Laos the following month.
This newly delivered Russian equipment was featured prominently in a military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Lao People’s Armed Forces in Vientiane on Jan. 20. No less symbolic was the fact that the Russian Defense Ministry had opened its first representative office in Laos just a few days earlier.
In June last year, Laos unveiled plans to build statues to honor two unnamed Soviet pilots who died while serving in the Southeast Asian country, angering citizens who said the $775,000 earmarked for the project could be better spent on recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The pilots were in Laos as part of Moscow’s military presence in the fellow communist country between 1975 and 1992 and are believed to have been involved in training pilots in Laos’ air force. An official from the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism told RFA at the time that the pilots were killed in a crash over Xieng Khouang province while on a practice mission.
According to a report on the Lao Defense Ministry website, Chansamone met with Russian Ambassador to Laos Vladimir Kalinin at the Russian Embassy in Vientiane on Dec. 29 and thanked him for Russia’s gift of a hangar to store tanks in Xieng Khouang province. Chansamone also expressed gratitude for joint military exercises held in the province in 2019, Russia’s assistance with UXO clearance, its work in upgrading the airport in Xieng Khouang, and for building an office of the Russian military representative in the province. The meeting took place a week after Russia’s military donated an air force training center to Laos.
While Russia still has a long way to go in Southeast Asia, its military cooperation with the region is already beginning to deliver political dividends, argued Mosyakov.
“Look at how Laos and Cambodia voted on [the recent UN resolution on] Crimea, at the extent to which the countries of Southeast Asia are increasingly aligning with the Russian position on even this issue,” he said. “All of this is happening because an atmosphere of trust and cooperation is emerging between Russia and Southeast Asia.”
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