U.S. and EU Suspend Military Ties With Indonesia

Reacting to the mass violence engulfing East Timor, an island-nation invaded in 1975 and subsequently annexed by Indonesia, the United States and the 15-nation European Union (EU) suspended all military ties with Indonesia in early September. Violence broke out following an August 30 vote by East Timor to reject a proposed autonomy plan from Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, who had pledged that a no-vote would give East Timor independence. The Indonesian military ignored, and in some cases participated in, post-election violence carried out by pro-Indonesia militia and gangs.

In response, President Clinton suspended all military ties (both arms sales and military training programs) with Indonesia on September 9. Sandy Berger, the president's national security adviser, explained two days later that what had not already been delivered of about $40 million in outstanding U.S. government-to-government sales through the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and some $400 million in commercial arms sales would be put on hold. A Defense Department official subsequently said the suspension would halt $7 million in undelivered FMS items. The Council of the European Union, the EU's decision-making body, followed suit on September 16 by announcing an embargo on all arms, munitions and military equipment to Jakarta until at least January 17, 2000. Bilateral military cooperation was also suspended.

Indonesia, racked by economic recession, had slowed recent arms purchases, even postponing a 1997 buy of 12 Su-30K fighter aircraft and eight Mi-17 helicopters from Russia. In its latest UN Register of Conventional Arms report, Indonesia did claim receiving 39 armored combat vehicles from Britain in 1998.

On September 12, President Habibie bowed to international pressure and invited an international peacekeeping force to East Timor. The mission, led by Australia, arrived on September 20.