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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Lands in Malaysia to Seal $900M Jet Deal

APForeign Minister Syed Hamid Albar greeting Putin in the Malaysian capital on Monday.
President Vladimir Putin was in Malaysia on Monday for the signing of a billion-dollar arms deal, reflecting a foray into Third World markets that is fueling Moscow's weapons exports boom.

Russian officials will be tying up a deal to sell 18 Sukhoi-30MKM fighter jets worth $900 million to Malaysia.

Helping to push up sales is Russia's policy of giving the buyer a relatively free hand on how to use its newly acquired firepower rather than placing too many strings on deals, as Western producers tend to do.

"A client of ours who bought fighter jets from the United States complained they were only good for parades," said a senior Russian arms export official, who asked not to be named.

"This is because the Americans only delivered the jets but keep the missiles at their base. To use them, the country has to file a formal application and only after approval from Washington can the rockets be released," he said.

Likewise, London is closely watching developments in Indonesia's breakaway Aceh province to make sure the army does not use British tanks and jets offensively.

With over two-thirds of Moscow's weapons going to China and India, both of which have slow-burning conflicts on their hands, placing tough restrictions on sales could endanger the business.

Last year, when India and Pakistan kept the world guessing on how serious they were about threats to exchange nuclear strikes, Russia went on a top-level diplomatic offensive to calm passions but never mentioned stopping arms sales to New Delhi. China, which has threatened to end Taiwan's de facto independence by force if everything else fails, has already taken delivery of a guided-missile destroyer from Moscow with three more being built at Russian shipyards.

Moscow's stance on arms exports seems to be paying off.

Rosoboronexport, the state-owned company responsible for up to 88 percent of all sales, was due to sell $3.8 billion worth of arms this year. But with $2.7 billion clocked up in the first six months that figure is likely to be exceeded by a big margin.

If exports continue at their current pace, Moscow may this year match or even beat its post-Soviet record of $4.8 billion registered in 2002.

Putin's personal endorsement of new deals, like the Sukhoi deal with Malaysia, is likely to boost the arms industry's profile.

Officials, clearly buoyed by the rosy figures, tend to play down concerns about political sensitivities of some of the current contracts.

"In countries like Malaysia they tell us: 'We are not going to wage a war on anyone. We buy the hardware out of national pride,'" the arms exports official said.