Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ten fighters fighting

Just in time for Christmas, Russia announced a present for the government of Lebanon: ten MiG-29 fighter jets.

Russia is providing the ten aircraft to Lebanon free of charge - the first time since the days of the Soviet Union that Russia has given military equipment to another country - along with some training for the crews to operate them (the MiG-29 is roughly the equivalent of the American F-15 and is in service with more than two dozen air forces around the world). There is some hope on the part of the Russians though that the gift will prompt Lebanon to "buy Russian" in future arms purchases.

Officials from the Russian military say that they are taking the move to provide stability to Lebanon, which they feel is an important country in the region. Right now the Lebanese Air Force is in such sorry shape that it had to take several 1950's-vintage jets out of storage just to put something besides helicopters in the air. Russian military analysts also touted the gift as an example of Russia's superpower status since "only a superpower can afford this".

The Lebanon gift is another example of Russia's increasing presence in the Mid East. The Russian Navy is currently renovating a port in Syria for their fleet to use and has talked with Yemen about using a port in their country as well. Russia is also negotiating with Iran to sell that country an advanced anti-aircraft missile system.
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