The Middle East countries buy arms worth of $9 billion from various suppliers
Russian President Vladimir Putin has forbidden the sale of Russian-made Iskander surface-to-surface missiles with a given range of 300 km. President Putin made his decision public after holding talks with Israeli President Moshe Katsav. Mr. Putin also said that Russia was not a leader in arms sales to the Middle East. The Middle East countries buy arms worth of $9 billion from various suppliers. The United States is the biggest arms dealer selling $6.8 billion worth of arms to the region. According to Mr. Putin, Russian arms sales to the Middle East fetch Russia less than $500 thousand.
USA warned Russia against selling the Iskander missiles to Syria. Earlier this year U.S. Department of State said that America might impose sanctions on Russia if the latter should sell arms to a country that was deemed a sponsor of the international terrorism.
Meanwhile, Israel is more concerned about Russia's plans to supply the Strelets anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. The Russian Ministry of Defense says that the Israeli military received full information regarding tactical and technical specifications of those missiles. “First and foremost, the missiles are a close-range air defense system with a given range up to 5 km,” said a source in the Russian Ministry of Defense last week while commenting on the sale of missiles to Syria. The source also said that a team of specialists from the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff had been dispatched to Israel a few months ago. The team provided all the tactical and technical specifications of the missiles to the Israeli military. The Russian specialists made it quite clear that by no means the missiles could be used as MANPAD (man-portable air defense system).
Russia earlier this year repeatedly confirmed its plans to sell the Strelets air defense systems to Syria while stressing the fact that the missiles could not be used for launching an attack against Israel. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that a future contract for the sale of Russian-made Strelets missiles to Syria would contain a special clause enabling the Russian side to carry out surprise inspections of the deployment sites.
“The Strelets missiles have nothing to do with shoulder-held air defense systems,” said Mr. Ivanov.