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. Outside View: Greeks buy Russian Weapons

The BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle displayed in Athens convinced everyone that it would boost the Greek army's firepower.
by Nikita Petrov
Moscow (UPI) Oct 16, 2008
On Oct. 11, Defendory 2008, the world's longest-running tri-service defense exhibition, involving about 500 companies from 40 countries, ended in Athens.

Russia's Almaz-Antey Air-Defense Concern, Kurgan Engineering Plant, Tula Instrument Design Bureau, the Omsk-based Popov Radio Plant Production Association, Sukhoi Corp., Mikoyan-Gurevich -- MiG -- Corp., Russian Helicopters and many other companies displayed their products in the arms show.

This year a Russian-made BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle stole the show in Athens.

As a rule, Russian defense companies offer mock-ups, models, prospectuses, video footage and pamphlets at various arms exhibitions. Instead of showing life-size, prototype military equipment, they like to display small firearms and small combat-support systems.

Their reluctance to show off heavy weapons is understandable, because it takes a lot of time and effort to deliver them to exhibition centers. Moreover, it is not always possible to show them in action because few exhibition centers have proving grounds.

On Oct. 7 Russian and foreign media said to the press day at Defendory 2008, that Greece, a member of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was planning to buy 420 BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicles from Russia. Other official sources also confirmed these reports.

The BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle displayed in Athens convinced everyone that it would boost the Greek army's firepower.

In the mid-1990s the German government sold 400 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles and 13 Osa surface-to-air missile -- SAM -- systems, formerly owned by East Germany, a Soviet ally and Warsaw Pact member during the Cold War, to Athens.

The Greek government asked the Electromechanical Plant Kupol, located in the Volga region city of Izhevsk, to upgrade the Osa surface-to-air missile, which was re-designated as the Osa-AKM. The Russians later sold another 16 Osa-AKMs to Athens.

Greek generals liked them so much, they also ordered several Russian-made Thor-M1 short-range surface-to-air missiles from the Kupol plant.

A subsequent tender for the sale of Russian long-range surface-to-air missiles to Greece involved the Raytheon Co., a major U.S. defense contractor and industrial corporation, which offered its Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile -- ABM -- interceptor system, and Russia's Almaz-Antey with its S-300-PMU-1 surface-to-air missile system.

The Greek government, which realized that the United States would not allow it to buy the world-famous Russian missile system, asked Cyprus, which had acquired Russian-made T-80 main battle tanks and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, to buy the S-300 surface-to-air anti-aircraft anti-missile system, and Athens even promised to finance the purchase.

However, Turkey protested the agreement, saying the S-300 system's radar would jam those of its military and civilian planes operating from the Mediterranean coast near Turkey's Antalya province. Turkey said it would prevent the sale of Russian surface-to-air missiles to Cyprus.

Part 2
In the 1990s, the Turkish government blocked Cyprus from buying Russia's S-300 anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system. At that time, Greece also wanted to buy the highly effective S-300 for its own air defenses.

Greece subsequently bought the S-300 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system delivery contract from Russia, while deciding not to purchase the U.S.-manufactured Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptor system. So the entire Greek air-defense system, which is part of the joint air defenses of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization, now comprises Russian-made weaponry.

The S-300 example shows that the Brussels-based NATO's reluctance to implement military-technical cooperation projects with Moscow, under the pretext that Russian weapons are incompatible with NATO standards, is absolutely unjustified.

The BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle has greater maneuverability and packs a more devastating punch because it features the new 660-hp UTD-32T supercharged engine and a state-of-the-art fire-control system that identifies enemy targets and effectively destroys them even when the vehicle is moving at high speed.

Rosoboronexport, Russia's largest state-owned arms exporter, which is promoting the BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle contract on the Greek market, is trying to persuade Athens to participate in the manufacture of the infantry fighting vehicle, taking up 10 percent, 15 percent or 20 percent of production, including the possibility of assembling the vehicle in Greece.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, director of the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service in Moscow, said this was an attractive joint project. "Russian and Greek experts are now working together on this difficult project. We are convinced that the project will have a future, now that both sides are negotiating BMP-3M production in Greece," Dmitriyev told RIA Novosti.

The French defense electronics firm Thales is ready to install its fire-control and thermal-imaging systems aboard BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicles. Other European companies have proposed the delivery of telecommunications systems and reactive armor for the BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicle project.

Russian companies are also ready to sell additional armor, the Shtora-1 system for defending against smart weapons and the Arena-E active-defense system. The Greek side will have options to choose from.

Military analysts said military-technical parameters were not the main source of resistance and that some NATO countries were using various other pretexts for ousting Russia from the international economic cooperation system.

However, some NATO member states prioritize military, financial and technical benefits, rather than time-serving political considerations. They are relying on Russia as a dependable and effective partner, while Moscow cherishes its reputation.

(Nikita Petrov is a Russian military commentator. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Venezuela buying Russian tanks, armored vehicles
Caracas (AFP) Oct 16, 2008
Venezuela is buying more Russian weapons, including armored personnel carriers and tanks, to replace aging ordnance and to improve the country's security and defense capabilities, a top military commander said Thursday.

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