At a sideline meeting during the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, Russia’s Defense Minister, Alexander Fomin, expressed Russia’s commitment to enhancing military and military-technical cooperation with Laos, setting the stage for enhanced collaboration in the defense arena.
“We are ready to continue close interaction, including in the format that we maintain for the sixth year. I mean humanitarian mine clearance,” he said, addressing Lao Minister of Defense, Chansamone Chanyalath.
According to TASS, the official Russian state media, both parties discussed in detail the various aspects of bilateral defense relationships and focused on further enhancing the capacity of military and military-technical ties.
Russia largely disappeared from the region following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, 30 years later, the nation is starting to re-assert itself in the region, with Laos being a natural military partner to Russia.
According to Asia Nikkei, in December 2018, Russia delivered a batch of T-72B tanks and BRDM-2M armored vehicles to Laos as part of a contract signed by both countries’ defense ministers earlier that year. The first shipment of Russian YAK 130 fighter jets arrived in Laos the following month. In 2020, Russia opened the first Ministry of Defense representative office in Vientiane Capital.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister also pointed out that specific attention was given to joint practices in humanitarian mine clearance during the sideline meeting, an initiative launched by Russia in 2018 to help clear unexploded ordinances from Bolikhamxay and Xieng Khouang Provinces.
This ongoing initiative by Russia was also praised by Laos’ Vice President, Pany Yathotou, during a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, from 10-13 September.
“We managed to clear more than 20,000 hectares of our territory from ammunition and return it to the people with Russia’s help. By clearing the land, we are accomplishing the most important task for us: the elimination of this danger.”
Apart from sideline meetings held by the leaders of ASEAN with the US, China, and Russia, the ADMM-Plus gave special attention to addressing the ongoing crisis between Israel and Hamas.
In a statement on the conflict, the defense ministers from ASEAN supported the start of peace negotiations aimed at achieving a “two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders.” The ministers also “expressed profound dismay at the reported attacks and loss of innocent civilian lives in the conflict, along with the destruction of civilian infrastructure.”