Russia is poised to sign a contract with the Armenian military to provide Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles, reported Tass, a Kremlin-owned Russian website, on Thursday. The supply of weapons, and long-range missiles in particular, to its former Soviet allies underlines Russia’s continued influence in Eastern Europe and showcases its growing military reach on the ever-fractured continent.
"The contract has not been signed, talks are underway," a military source told Tass, while also mentioning that "all information on such contracts is secret."
Since annexing Crimea in April 2014 and becoming involved in eastern Ukraine a month later, Russia has managed to drive a wedge between East and West, drawing on allegiances from former Soviet Republics such as Moldova, Armenia and Belarus. But the defense sales also give Russia breathing space as EU-led sanctions imposed for its indiscretions in Europe continue to drag its recession-hit economy down. The falling price of oil earlier this year also has hurt Moscow’s spending power.
In addition to defense deals in Europe, Moscow is selling its hardware to customers such as India, Pakistan, China and Iran, much to the displeasure of the United States and Europe as both are currently negotiating with Iran over lifting financial sanctions there in exchange for Western-led inspections on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.
KBM, the company that builds the Iskander-M missile, said the systems will not be ready until 2016 at the earliest. In recent months, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan have shown interest in purchasing the missile too.