Saudis likely to buy tactical missile systems from Russia

MOSCOW – Experts note a certain rapprochement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia after Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that his kingdom was discussing to buy Russian-made Iskander tactical missile systems, foreign media reported.

After a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, the Saudi minister said that the kingdom would set to intensify relations with Russia in all fields including security and the military. He said that intensive contacts were taking place between the military delegations and specialists from both the sides and a wide range of armaments from Russia were being discussed.

In the event of a success, the deal could become a precedent, as it would be the first delivery of Russian arms to Saudi Arabia. So far, the US has maintained its position as the top arms exporter to the kingdom. The missile systems are capable of hitting both small-size and large-area targets at a distance of up to 500km, to destroy missiles and multiple launch rocket systems, long-range artillery guns, aircraft and helicopters at aerodromes, command posts and communications centers.

The missile system includes a launcher, a loader-transporter, a routine maintenance vehicle, a command post vehicle, an information post, an ammunition equipment set and training aids. Head of Russian Institute of Religion and Politics Alexander Ignatenko said that the Persian Gulf states became increasingly worried about their own security after recent agreement between Iran and world’s six powers on its nuclear programme.

He said that Saudi Arabia often uses such arms deals as something of a bonus. “When they want to improve relations with some country, they might suggest acquiring its armaments, which, [although] I don’t rule it out, they don’t need that much [at the moment],” he said.

“Saudi Arabia at the moment has its own DF-21 solid-fuel, medium-range ballistic missiles, which they purchased from China,” said Theodore Karasik, another Middle East analyst who doubts that Riyadh would actually buy any Iskanders in the nearest future.

In 2008, reports emerged that Saudi Arabia had offered to give the Russian Federation major arms contracts if the Kremlin reduced its cooperation with Iran. Similar reports emerged in 2013 that Saudi Arabia had secretly offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad regime in Syria.

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