Myanmar Army Deploys Air Defense Radar In Naypyidaw As “Sinophobia” Rises In Myanmar

Fearing a Houthi-styled drone attacked by Karen rebels, Tatmadaw has deployed Air defense radars in the Naypyidaw area. An air defense radar is a radar used in conjunction with air defense missiles in the Naypyidaw area. A senior Myanmar Armed Forces officer said, Russian-made air defense radar can detect fighters and unmanned aerial vehicles entering from foreign airspace. The radar has a detection range of 50 miles. The radar must be used in conjunction with air defense missiles. The radar detects and tracks targets and then directs the missile to the target.

The Tatmadaw deploys Pantsir-S1 (NATO reporting name SA-22 Greyhound) in the Naypyidaw area, is a short-to-medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system that first entered service in 2021 with the Tatmadaw.

China dominates Myanmar’s foreign policy

Almost as soon as the tanks rolled into Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, in February, rumours began circulating on social media about how China would respond. It is a sign of its influence: China is probably the only country that could coax Myanmar’s generals to the negotiating table. The speculation was laid to rest only in June, when the Chinese embassy referred to Min Aung Hlaing, the Burmese commander-in-chief, as Myanmar’s “leader”. The next day, China convened a meeting of foreign ministers from ASEAN, a club of South-East Asian nations, and included the military government’s representative. With their putsch, the generals are trying to wind the clock back to 2010, when they still ran the show. China appears to be adjusting its calendar.

China’s leadership and Myanmar’s top brass possess similar authoritarian instincts, but it was not inevitable that they would arrive at an understanding. The “Sinophobic” army has long been suspicious of China, says Yun Sun of the Stimson Centre, a think-tank in Washington. During the decades of military rule, when Western sanctions choked the Burmese economy, the regime survived because of Chinese trade and investment. But the junta was wary of depending too heavily on its northern neighbour.

Intended to improve its relationship with the West, China expected a large export opportunity from Myanmar Army operated business. Many decades of international sanctions hurt Myanmar’s economy and Chinese businesses in Myanmar.

While the US-led West and its key Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea condemn the coup and imposed sanctions on the junta, other key powers are more ambivalent. In the UN Security Council, China, India and Russia have made efforts to shield the perpetrators from harsher censure and potential UN sanctions.

Russia dominates Myanmar’s defense markets

Moscow’s close ties with Myanmar date back to the 1950s. Given that the Southeast Asian country has been governed by the military for most of its modern history, Russia has developed a working relationship with its uniformed rulers. Incumbent strongman General Min Aung Hlaing has visited Russia on numerous occasions, most recently in June 2020, to attend the Victory Day parade in Moscow, and is known as a champion of Myanmar–Russia ties.

Under Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar–Russia military cooperation has received a boost. After China, Russia is the country’s second largest supplier of arms, being the source of at least 16 per cent of weaponry procured by Myanmar from 2014–2019. Myanmar’s military is now awaiting the delivery of six Su-30 fighter jets ordered in 2019, and in January 2021 the two sides signed contracts for a Russian air defence system and a suite of surveillance drones.

Thousands of Myanmar’s military officers have also received training in Russia’s military academies. Tellingly, the Myanmar commander-in-chief maintains an official account on Russia’s VK social network while being banned from Facebook and Twitter. It is not coincidental that the Kremlin’s main interlocutor with Myanmar is defence minister Sergey Shoigu, who happened to visit the country just several days before the 1 February coup.

Moscow’s support for a military dictatorship could damage its international reputation, but with what has already transpired between Putin and the West, the Kremlin could hardly care less about its reputational fallout from Myanmar.

Moscow and Beijing are likely discussing the situation in Myanmar, but their strategies differ. Russia is driven by the desire to keep lucrative military contracts and possibly gain a foothold in the Indian Ocean. By contrast, Beijing is guided by more long-term strategic interests dictated by Myanmar’s immediate proximity to China’s Yunnan province.

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