Sunday, May 11, 2014

What to Make of Russia's Courting of Chile's Military

Leave it to Chile to warm up to Russia at a time when the West is cooling on Moscow. In the middle of the Ukraine crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov visited Chile, where his Chilean counterpart said the two countries plan to strengthen military ties. There's never been much of a military alliance between the two countries. Chile buys most of its weapons from western countries and has integrated itself well with NATO forces. Meanwhile, Russia's efforts to sell arms to Chile keep getting frustrated. In 2009, Chile's Air Force agreed to acquire five Mi-17 transport helicopters from Rosoboronexport, what would have been the first Chilean purchase of Russian equipment. But U.S. officials pressured Chile to back away from the $80 million purchase and to go with the U.S.-made (and much more expensive) Sikorsky Black Hawk instead. Eventually, Chile yielded and Peru ended up buying the five helicopters, though it never went forward with the Black Hawks. The crash of an Mi-17 during a demonstration flight at the 2002 Fidae air show didn't help Russia's marketing, either. But now, Chile is listening to Russia again. At this year's Fidae, talks restarted on a helicopter deal. The Army seems settled on Eurocopter's Cougar, but FACh is looking to add airlift capabilities. Despite the 2002 crash, FACh was satisfied with the Mi-17, which now looms as Russia's best chance to break into the Chilean market.

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