Russia and Iraq have signed a set of contracts that will see Russian fighter jets, helicopters and other military hardware exported to the transitioning country as part of a tighter military cooperation plan. The contracts are being finalized as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is on a visit to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev before later discussions with President Vladimir Putin.
Iraq is buying 30 Russian MI-28 attack helicopters, worth $2 billion, along with 42 Pantsir short-to-medium-range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon systems, worth $2.3 billion. The country also reportedly intends to purchase Russian MiG fighter jets as well as armored vehicles. These are the first significant military deals between the two countries since 2008.
Between 2008 and 2011, Russian military exports to Iraq amounted to just $246 million. The number one market for Russian military hardware is traditionally India, followed by Venezuela and Vietnam, according to forecasts for the period ending in 2015. Russia’s cooperation with Iraq previously included joint development of oil fields, including West Qurna, one of Iraq’s largest, but that contract was broken off on the eve of the NATO invasion of the country in 2003.