Russia boosts military cooperation with Israel

By on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Moscow: The defence ministers of Russia and Israel on Monday signed an agreement on military cooperation, hailing the unity between Moscow and the Jewish state.

“We have signed a long-term agreement on military cooperation,” said Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov after the meeting with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak, quoted by Russian news agencies.

“We have discussed issues concerning military-technical cooperation, and military cooperation,” he said, without offering details.

The deal came after disputes over Russian arms contracts in the Middle East. Barak said the meeting with Russia’s defence authorities was “the first in a long time” and invited Serdyukov to Israel.

“We are ready to continue sharing experience with the Russian military on fighting terrorism and ensuring security, including by using air drones,” Barak said.

In its first military purchase from Israel, Russia signed a contract this spring for 12 drones. Some 50 servicemen are already learning to use them, Serdyukov said.

Russia is “studying seriously and attentively” experience and practices of Israel’s military as it modernizes its army, he said.

“Our views on many challenges of today are close or identical, he said. “Primarily this concerns issues of terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

The show of unity came after strains between Russia and Israel over Russian arms sales to the Jewish state’s major regional foes, Syria and Iran.

Russian officials said earlier this year that Moscow was selling Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsir short-range air defence systems and armoured vehicles, provoking anxiety in Israel.

The Israeli press has also reported that Barak’s two-day visit is part of an ongoing dialogue to prevent Russia from selling P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria, which Israel fears will be transferred to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israel is also concerned about Russia’s deal with Iran to supply S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems, a contract signed several years ago which would significantly improve Iranian air defences.

However, Russia has yet to deliver the weapons amid heavy pressure not only from Israel but also the United States.

Barak noted “improving relations” between Russia and Israel, and thanked Russia for its fight against fascism during World War II.

“We know the truth: the state of Israel would not exist if the Red Army had not defeated fascist Germany,” he said.

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