Russia mulls buying batch of Israeli drones

If signed, deal would mark unprecedented delivery of Israeli military technology to Russian military.

Searcher UAV unmanned IAF 248 88 (photo credit: Yaakov Katz [file])
Searcher UAV unmanned IAF 248 88
(photo credit: Yaakov Katz [file])
Russia is negotiating with Israel to buy a batch of spy drones, the head of the Russian armed forces said Tuesday, in what would be its first ever purchase of military hardware from the Jewish state. Israel sparked concern in Moscow after it previously sold drones to Georgia that were used successfully before and during its August war with Russia. Russia's weapons industries have failed to supply the military with drones, developing only experimental models that experts have described as outdated. Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said that Russia would like to buy an unspecified number of drones from Israel, the Interfax news agency reported. "We are working on this issue. We are talking about a test batch of Israeli drone planes," it quoted Makarov as saying. If finalized, the deal would mark an unprecedented delivery of Israeli military technology to the Russian military. During the Cold War years, Moscow supplied weapons worth billions of dollars to the Arab nations which fought Israel, and barred Jews from leaving the Soviet Union. Israel Aerospace Industries' spokesman Doron Suslik would not comment on Tuesday's report. But Israeli defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of Russia-Israel ties, confirmed the Russians had asked to buy the drones and said that Israel is considering the request. Defense Ministry envoy, Amos Gilad, will head to Russia Wednesday to try to persuade Russia not to sell advanced air defense missiles to Iran, the defense officials said. Gilad will also discuss the drone sale in his talks with Russian officials, they said. Russia's relations with Israel have improved steadily since the Soviet collapse, but some tensions remain. Israel has been concerned that Russia could sell its enemies, Iran and Syria, advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems. That would make any potential strike at Iran's first nuclear power plant - which Russia is helping to build - more difficult.