Thursday, December 18, 2008

Russians play Santa to the Lebanese

The Times Online is reporting that the Russian government is set to supply the Lebanon with 10 MiG’s – for free no less:
Russia gave Lebanon ten MiG fighter jets yesterday in a deal to boost defence cooperation.

The MiG29 Fulcrum fighters would be provided free to Lebanon under an agreement on military-technical assistance, the head of Russia’s defence cooperation service said. Mikhail Dmitryev said that the jets would come from Russia’s existing stock.
He said that Moscow was also in talks to supply Beirut with heavy armour, adding that supplies of such weaponry were “now possible after the situation in this nation has stabilised”.

He said: “We view the Lebanese army as the main guarantor of this nation’s stability, therefore the armed forces of this country must be strengthened.” The deal followed a meeting in Moscow between Anatoly Serdyukov, the Defence Minister, and Elias Murrhis, his Lebanese counterpart. Mr Serdyukov said that Russia had received a detailed list of armaments sought by Lebanon.

When details of the deal emerged on Tuesday it was suggested that the aircraft would be sold at a discount. Mr Dmitryev confirmed yesterday however that they would be free, with delivery paid by the Russian Defence Ministry. He said: “Military-technical assistance, this means assistance in budgetary funds.”

It takes time and resources to train a fighter pilot, and time is not the Lebanese friend, so the question becomes just why such a generous gift to the Lebanese? Certainly, Russia is seeking to capture a bit of the international cache Russian influence use to exert in the neighborhood, but Lebanon is only a fringe player – abeit with interesting friends. Or perhaps the Russian game plan is more tied to acquiring leverage to be used against the Israeli government for those Israeli drones the Russians were mulling on purchasing.

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