Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Are military assistance programs important for US–...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Are military assistance programs important for US–...: Are military assistance programs important for US–Indonesia ties? Following US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to Indonesia in...

Are military assistance programs important for US–Indonesia ties?


Are military assistance programs important for US–Indonesia ties?

Following US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to Indonesia in late January 2018, military assistance programs have emerged as the centrepiece of the US–Indonesia relationship, both in terms of ‘hardware’ (arms sales) and ‘software’ (education and training aid).

By late February, the Indonesian Air Force finally received two dozen used F-16 fighter jets from the United States, a delivery heralded as the largest transfer of defence articles in the history of the relationship. But a narrative is emerging concerning the extent to which arms sales are part of a regional power play between the United States, China and Russia to swing Indonesia’s foreign policy alignment.

Military education and training assistance have been touted as key to solidifying US–Indonesia ties as China’s hegemonic behaviour intensifies. Officials are now seeking to restore education and training of the controversial Indonesian Army Special Forces. A recent Council on Foreign Relations report suggested the United States should increase funding for the International Military and Education Training (IMET) programs for Indonesian soldiers to ‘solidify pro-US sentiment’ and promote professionalism within the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI).

But military assistance alone is a shaky foundation on which to prop US–Indonesia ties.

Indonesian policymakers acknowledge that US military assistance will always be subject to the ebbs and flows of domestic politics in Washington. The US military embargo in the 1990s and early 2000s continues to remind defence policymakers that US assistance comes and goes.

Such uncertainty has driven Indonesia to diversify its arms suppliers. Not only did Indonesia’s arms imports jump from US$36 million in 2005 to almost US$1.2 billion last year, but the number of country suppliers rose from 6 to 23. The pool of 32 countries supplying arms to Indonesia has remained constant since 1950 but each country’s market share fluctuates.

The United States has never been Indonesia’s top arms supplier. During the Cold War, the United States’ average market share was just behind that of the Soviet Union at 20 per cent. From 1992 to 2017, US market share dropped to 10 per cent behind Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Netherlands and South Korea.

At the same time, Indonesia’s existing arms and equipment are decaying. Between 1950 and 2016 Indonesia imported 39 types of weaponry and military platforms — aircraft, helicopters, radar systems and missiles, among others — 29 of which are now more than 30 years old. It is farfetched to suggest that Indonesia’s recent push to obtain 11 new Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets — a move that reportedly made Washington unhappy — somehow represents a foreign policy shift. Indonesia’s arms procurement prioritises replacing antiquated military technology across the board, rather than a foreign policy orientation alone.

These trends suggest that the United States is unlikely to be the dominant arms supplier providing Indonesia’s ‘Minimum Essential Forces’ requirements. Nor will it be consistent enough to erase the memory of the military embargo. Indonesia’s supplier diversity is not cost-effective. But having two dozen suppliers means that no single country can have leverage over Indonesia’s defence sector.

No other country (except for Australia in recent years) comes close to the United States in providing foreign education and training for Indonesian officers. Since the 1950s, thousands of Indonesian officers have gone through some form of US-based training or education. By 2015, the Indonesian Army had sent 186 officers to study in 21 different countries. Fifty of them were enrolled in 34 courses and programs across the United States.

But it seems that these programs have not had their desired organisational effect. The military’s doctrinal documents and education materials in recent decades barely align with US conceptions of war-fighting, professionalism or civil–military relations. Out of the 677 Indonesian Army generals who graduated from the academy from 1950 to 1990, less than 16 per cent were trained in one of the US programs.

This trajectory of minimal effect despite maximum effort is unsurprising. Both Indonesia and the United States value military education and training programs for their ability to boost bilateral ties, not for their operational or organisational results. Jakarta also believes that US training confers international legitimacy and fills the occasional training needs. Washington meanwhile believes that education and training programs provide access to and influence over key members of the military elite.

Absent in the relationship is a serious effort on behalf of both states to evaluate how these courses or programs can ‘remodel’ the TNI in the long run. Without systematic ways to measure the success of US training, any claim that IMET funding will ‘turn’ Indonesia towards the US or boost TNI professionalism seems misplaced.

Taken together, US arms sales and training programs are not yet significant enough to influence Indonesia’s foreign policy trajectory, the TNI’s professional development or the country’s overall defence capability expansion. In other words, ‘security deliverables’ alone make for a poor foundation for US–Indonesia ties.

Both presidents Yudhoyono and Obama recognised this reality and instead crafted an expansive US–Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership in 2010 (which led to the Strategic Partnership in 2015). Policymakers would do well to focus on the Strategic Partnership to deal with the broader strategic challenges facing the region rather than haggling over more arms or training.

Evan A Laksmana is a senior researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Indonesia and a visiting fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research, Seattle, WA.

 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despi...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despi...: What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despite some continued advances, Jakarta remains woefully underequipped Last week, Indon...

What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despite some continued advances, Jakarta remains woefully underequipped


What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despite some continued advances, Jakarta remains woefully underequipped

Last week, Indonesia’s military chief Hadi Tjahjanto led a delegation to South Korea to review progress on cooperation between the two sides with respect to submarines. The development once again put the spotlight on Indonesia’s growing but still limited submarine capability as the Southeast Asian state considers future options for expanding its fleet.

As I have noted before, Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic state, once operated one of the more capable submarine forces in Asia with 12 Whiskey-class submarines purchases from the Soviet Union back in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, however, it is woefully underequipped, with just two German-built Type 209 submarines along with one of the three South Korean submarines it had ordered back in 2012 and received last year (with the other scheduled for delivery back to Indonesia soon and the third being constructed in Indonesia)

Even taking into account that full order, with the Type 209s expected to be decommissioned soon, Indonesia would still be well short of the 12 submarines Indonesian defense officials have said the country needs to police its waters. And while there have been attempts to address this significant gap with talk of the mulling of new submarine purchases from various sources, last year IHS Jane’s cited multiple unnamed Indonesian naval sources as confirming that Indonesia had cut its requirement from 12 submarines to just eight.

Last week, there was yet another update on Indonesia’s submarine fleet when Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto led a delegation to visit the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) shipyard in South Korea where submarine work had been ongoing. During the visit, Tjahjanto received a briefing on developments, including on arrangements between Indonesia and South Korea on technology transfer.

During his visit, details were also released regarding future steps on Indonesia’s South Korea-built submarines. In particular, local media outlets picked up on the fact that the second South Korean-built submarine would be coming home soon. The submarine, which will be in the service as KRI Ardadedali with pennant number 404 after commissioning, will begin its journey from South Korea back home to Indonesia on April 23.

Tjahjanto during his visit also made reference to the submarine cooperation as part of wider Indonesia-South Korea defense cooperation. As I have noted previously, both sides have been talking up gains on this front within broader ties, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to Indonesia last November did see the two countries elevate ties to a special strategic partnership with some defense-related items. Nonetheless, the reality is that even the pace of some of the existing collaboration has been quite slow to materialize, much like Indonesia’s efforts to develop its submarine capabilities. By Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indone...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indone...: As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indonesia Opens a Door Relations between Indonesia and Russia seem to be getting closer a...

As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indonesia Opens a Door


As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indonesia Opens a Door

Relations between Indonesia and Russia seem to be getting closer and closer as top officials agreed to speed up the drafting of a new strategic partnership agreement in Moscow last month.

Jakarta. Relations between Indonesia and Russia seem to be getting closer and closer as top officials agreed to speed up the drafting of a new strategic partnership agreement in Moscow last month.

"We agree that the necessary conditions have been created for elevating our relations to the level of strategic partnership. We have agreed to accelerate the drafting of a corresponding declaration," Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after meeting with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on March 13, according to a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The progress in bilateral relations materialized less than a year after Retno and Lavrov signed a Plan of Consultation for 2017-2019, which was aimed at intensifying dialogue between the two countries.

The document was signed as part of Lavrov’s visit to Jakarta in August, during which Indonesia and Russia agreed to strengthen cooperation in trade, exchange of information and counterterrorism efforts.

"At this moment, we are negotiating it [the draft] and we are hoping that Indonesia-Russia’s strategic partnership agreement can be signed when President Vladimir Putin visits Indonesia, hopefully later this year," Minister Retno said at the time, published in a video provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and seen by the Jakarta Globe.

When the two countries celebrated 65 years of diplomatic ties in 2015, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin touched on his country’s readiness to increase cooperation, as part of an effort to guarantee stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

At a bilateral meeting with Putin in May 2016 in Sochi, Russia, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo expressed Indonesia’s interest in expanding cooperation in trade, politics and culture.

"Our relations date back from the time of Indonesia’s first president, and I think we need to increase it further. I want our economic, political and cultural relations to continue developing," Jokowi said then, as quoted in a statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.

As Indonesia continues to play a more prominent role in Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Pacific region, its deepening ties and intensive engagement with Russia may prove to be noteworthy in the bilateral and global context.

Bilateral Relations

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the former Soviet Union shared close relations with Indonesia, during which former President Sukarno and Soviet leader Nikita Khurshchev visited each other’s capital city.

Relations between the USSR and Indonesia remained intact even under President Suharto's anti-communist regime, compared to the suspension of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and China from 1967 to 1990.

At the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Indonesia was one of more than 60 countries that boycotted the games in protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Indonesia-Russia relations have improved significantly in recent years, with high-level engagement among top officials.

According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Putin is likely to reciprocate Jokowi’s 2016 visit in the near future, possibly later this year.

Indonesia seeks to tap into the Russian market, which has a total population of over 144 million people.

Indonesia and Russia recorded a 19.7 percent increase in bilateral trade last year to $2.5 billion, with around 40 percent of Indonesian exports to Russia comprising of palm oil products.

With the support of Russia, Indonesia is also working on a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Members of the union comprise of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said more than 110,000 Russian tourists visited Indonesia in 2017, a 27 percent increase from the year before.

Russia provided 161 scholarships for Indonesian students in 2017, an increase from 100 scholarships in 2016. The Russian Embassy in Jakarta told the Globe that it is currently working to further increase the number of scholarships it sponsors here.

With the new strategic partnership agreement in sight, Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations expert from Padjajaran University, emphasized that both countries need to form working groups across different sectors of cooperation to garner the full potential at hand.

Defense Cooperation

One of the major highlights of bilateral relations between the two countries has been strong cooperation in the defense sector. Russia is a major arms supplier to Indonesia, and both countries recently signed a contract for Indonesia’s purchase of 11 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets through a barter deal.

Based on several media reports, the deal consisted of a trade of Indonesian commodities, including palm oil and coffee, for the Sukhoi jets.

According to Teuku, Russia’s willingness to engage in a barter deal with Indonesia illustrates a high level of trust.

He told the Globe that Indonesia and Russia must expand their defense cooperation to include regular exchanges of military personnel.

In early March, Chief Security Minister Wiranto hosted the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, in Jakarta for Indonesia's and Russia’s fourth bilateral consultation.

During the meeting, Wiranto and Patrushev agreed to continue close cooperation in counterterrorism efforts, including through their financial intelligence units to reduce risks of terrorism financing.

Contemporary Issues

Russia is amid a diplomatic rift with a number of Western countries over the poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter in the United Kingdom, which took place on March 4.

More than 20 countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK.

In spite of its free and active foreign policy, Indonesia does not seem inclined to follow the mass condemnation against Russia.

"Indonesia has chosen not to meddle [in the issue] to sustain its good relations [with Russia] … This showcases Indonesia’s maturity," Teuku said, noting that the British government has yet to provide hard evidence to support their accusations against Russia.

As high level engagement seems to indicate deepening ties between Indonesia and Russia, Teuku also said that both countries have always had mutual respect for each other.

"Russia sees Indonesia as a trustworthy partner, and we never question their credibility at the international stage," Teuku concluded.