Russia gave Lebanon ten MiG fighter jets yesterday in a deal to boost defense cooperation.
The MiG29 Fulcrum fighters would be provided free to Lebanon under an agreement on military-technical assistance, the head of Russia’s defence cooperation service said. Mikhail Dmitryev said that the jets would come from Russia’s existing stock.
He said that Moscow was also in talks to supply Beirut with heavy armour, adding that supplies of such weaponry were “now possible after the situation in this nation has stabilized."
The MiG29s, one of Russia’s best fighter jets, will provide considerable additional firepower for the Lebanese air force, which currently has only five outdated Hawker Hunter jets and 16 helicopters.
The gift is certain to strengthen Russian influence in the Middle East as Moscow seeks to restore a position that was lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia is already a major weapons supplier to neighbouring Syria, which is keen to acquire the latest MiG29s and was reported to be seeking the latest Sam S300 air defence missiles earlier this year.
Russia announced plans in September to sell antiaircraft systems to Iran despite American objections. It is already building a nuclear power plant for Iran that the West suspects is part of Tehran’s plans to acquire an atomic bomb.