Procurement: Russia Battles China Over Bangladesh

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February 1, 2013: Russia has agreed to provide a billion dollars in loans to Bangladesh so the poor South Asian nation can buy Russian weapons. In the last decade Russia has again been offering credit to potential customers for Russian military gear. In the decade after the end of the Cold War in 1991, Russia was broke and sold weapons on a cash basis. No more generous terms as in the Cold War past. During the Cold War Russia expected a lot of arms loans (especially to African and Middle Eastern nations that lacked oil) would not be repaid. No matter, having these nations buy Russian arms enhanced Russian pride and prestige as well as propelling Russia into the top five weapons exporting nations.

Bangladesh is making a major effort to modernize its armed forces and needs all the help it can get. China has supplied a lot of low cost weapons. This includes patrol boats and jet fighters (MiG-21s, in the form of the Chinese F-7 clone). The U.S. has donated 16 Defender-class patrol boats. The Defenders carry a crew of four, are armed with two machine-guns, and can carry six passengers (or prisoners). They are excellent for patrolling the many river delta waterways on the Bangladeshi coast. The newly created Bangladesh Special Operations Force has adopted the Defender as their primary seaborne transport. Bangladesh has also bought two Castle class patrol boats from Britain, for $2 million each. These 75 meter (246 foot), 1,400 ton ships are armed with a 30mm autocannon and four machine guns. Bangladesh needs all these patrol vessels to deal with smugglers. Neighboring Myanmar is the source of opium smuggling, some of which is often carried out by Islamic radical groups, to provide cash for terrorist operations.

Bangladesh has also bought 44 MBT-2000 tanks, plus three recovery vehicles, from China. These are an upgrade and addition to hundreds of older Chinese copies of Russian T-54 and T-55s. China has long supplied Moslem Bangladesh with weapons, partly to annoy India. Bangladesh and India often have strained relations, usually over illegal migrants from Bangladesh crossing the poorly guarded border and establishing communities in remote border areas. Bangladesh is a very poor nation and without the cheap credit, and weapons, from China, they would have a much less capable armed forces. Now Russia is offering cheap credit and slightly better weapons.

 

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