Israel’s sale of UAVs to Russia in doubt after Syria deal

By
September 24, 2010 01:58

Moscow says it’s selling cruise missiles to Syria; Israel concerned arms will be transferred to Hizbullah, threaten future Israeli navy operations.

2 minute read.



S-300 MISSILES on their launcher trucks.

S-300 MISSILES on launcher trucks 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel is reconsidering a Russian request to buy advanced unmanned aerial vehicles in line with a military cooperation agreement the two countries signed earlier this month.

Israel and Russia signed a military cooperation agreement – the first between the countries – on September 6 in Moscow during a visit by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Under the agreement, Israel is to sell Russia 36 UAVs for $100 million and is also in talks about the establishment of a joint venture to manufacture Israeli drones in Russia in a deal that could be worth $300m.

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That deal is now in doubt after Russia announced last week that it will carry out a contract it had signed with Syria to supply it with advanced P800 sea-to-surface cruise missiles. Israel is concerned that the missiles, which are of the most advanced of its kind in the world, will be transferred to Hizbullah and threaten future Israeli navy operations along the Lebanese coast.

Israel had expected Russia to cancel the deal following Barak’s visit to Moscow, which was considered successful by the Defense Ministry, as well as the signing of the military cooperation agreement.

“Russia’s decision to go through with the deal puts future cooperation in doubt,” one senior defense official said.

At the same time, Israel is satisfied with Russia’s decision not to deliver S-300 surface- to-air missile defense systems to Iran, which it had pledged to do in a contract signed in 2007.

On Wednesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree prohibiting the delivery of the advanced air defense missile system to Iran. The ban also prohibited exports of tanks, aircraft and sea vessels to the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi’s said Russia was at risk of humiliating itself for caving to international pressure by banning the sales of the sophisticated systems that could boost Iran’s ability to defend itself against airstrikes.

“We think Russia should show it has an independent stance in choosing its relations with other countries as well as on international issues,” he said in an interview with Iranian state TV.

Moscow signed a 2007 contract to sell the systems.

Israel and the United States have objected to the deal, and no such missiles have yet been delivered. The S-300 is capable of shooting down aircraft and missiles at ranges of over 144 kilometers and at altitudes of about 27,432 meters.

Vahidi played down the importance of the deal, saying it was “not vital” because Iran will build a similar system in the future.

He said, “God willing we will have production of long range anti-aircraft missiles on our agenda.”

AP contributed to this report.


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