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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Visits to Gulf on agenda for talks on arms, trade

A senior Russian Defense Ministry official has been in Kuwait, and the Russian Foreign Trade Minister will shortly visit Iran for negotiations on Russian arms sales.

The Moscow Times has learned that Andrei Kokoshin, newly appointed First Deputy Minister of Defense, visited Kuwait late last week. He follows by less than a month the Russian Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, who toured six of the Arab Gulf states.

Kuwaiti leaders have told the Russians they are prepared to provide a cash credit of $500 million, and invest up to another $500 million in a variety of development and commercial projects in Russia on confessional terms. Conversion of Russian military is one of the areas of investment which Kokoshin discussed.

The Russian officials are also promoting sales of air-defense aircraft, the MIG-29 and Su-27, C-300 anti-missile rockets, and T-72 and T-81 tanks.

The Russian arms will compete with proposals from the U. S. to provide F-18 Jets, 40 of which were originally ordered in 1988 to replace the Kuwait Air Force's obsolete A-4 and Mirage F-l aircraft. The U. S. is also hoping to sell Abrams M1A2 tanks. Military cooperation agreements which Kuwait has negotiated this year with the U. S. , England and France contemplate a variety of arms sale packages from those countries.

The Russian move to join the victors of Operation Desert Storm in the winning of arms sale contracts is not unexpected.

Last year, Russian officials say, their military exports fell about 80 percent from the 1989 level. This largely reflected the effect of the United Nations embargo on arms sales to former Soviet allies, Iraq and Libya.

Last year was also a bad for Russian arms exporters because the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe halted Russian military sales to Eastern Europe. Russian officials note that the U. S. arms exporters are now seeking to establish a foothold in this market.

Pyotr Aven, the Minister for Foreign Economic Relations and head of the government's arms export drive, told The Moscow Times that "compared to 1990-91 we are now at a more stable point".

Despite government projections of a decline of defense production this year by over 20 percent, and job cuts in the military-industrial complex of about one million, Aven predicted a modest recovery in arms sales by the end of the year.

The Russian campaign to achieve this has caused sharp reaction from Washington, where U. S. officials and the defense industry lobby have accused the Kremlin of violating postwar commitments to restrict arms supplies to the Middle East.

A delegation of U. S. , Japanese and European experts was in Moscow for talks last week.

The Russian position in those talks was that arms sales to the Middle East should be regulated by a United nations regime, and not be limited to decisions of the principal arms exporting countries.