A major boost to the air force
Russia is planning to supply its latest MiG fighter planes to Syria in what would be a major boost to the country’s air force.
More than 10 MiG-29M2 planes will be delivered to Syria in keeping with a contract, said the Mikoyan Aircraft Company’s Director General Sergei Korotkov.
“A Syrian delegation is currently in Moscow discussing details of the contract. I think they will be shipped to Syria,” the MiG’s CEO told reporters on Friday. The delivery will mark a dramatic expansion in Russian efforts to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia has not supplied new combat aircraft to Syria since the outbreak of the conflict two years ago. A 2007 contract for 24 MiG-29s has been frozen. Russia has also held up the supply of Yak-130 trainer jets and 20 Mi-25 helicopter gunships.
Moscow said it had given Syria only “defensive” weapons, mainly short-range air defence systems and anti-ship missiles, to protect itself against foreign intervention. However, Russia is still holding back on the shipment of S-300 long-range air defence systems contracted by Syria three years ago.
An unnamed Russian arms exporter told the Interfax news agency that S-300 shipments would not start till autumn, but would ultimately depend on the situation in the region and the West’s policy on a peaceful settlement.
The MiG-29M2 will enhance the Syrian capability against possible attacks by Israel or NATO. MiG-29M2 is the land version of the MiG-29K India has acquired for its Vikramaditya aircraft carrier. It is at least twice as powerful as the MiG-29s Syria has in its armoury. Moscow warned the lifting of a European arms embargo on the rebels earlier this week could prompt it to abandon its restraints on weapons supplies to Damascus.
“Every decision has two sides. If one side is lifting restrictions, the other side can feel itself free from the commitments assumed earlier,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday.
AFP reports from Washington:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised questions on Friday about Russia’s commitment to peace in Syria, warning that its delivery of S-300 air defence missiles to Damascus would be “not helpful.”
Mr. Kerry’s comments at a news conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle came ahead of a preparatory meeting in Geneva next week on a U.S.-Russian bid for a peace conference on Syria.
“In Geneva, we will test who is serious. Are Russians serious about pushing for that? I believe they are. President [Vladimir] Putin said they are, [Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov has said it,” Mr. Kerry said.