Washington asks Israel to clarify first sale of spy drones to Russia

A $10-12 million transaction for Moscow to purchase Israeli spy drones for the Russian army is in negotiation with Israel’s Aerospace Industries. The Russian Kommersant reported Tuesday, Dec. 16 that Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia’s armed forces, visited Israel in November for talks on the purchase of a first batch of the unmanned reconnaissance drones which Georgia used successfully in its conflict with Russia last August.
debkafile‘s military sources reported on Dec. 18 that the sale, if finally approved by the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, would be Israel’s first advanced hardware sale to Russia. It would also mark a reversal of Israeli policy, since the Russian army would almost certainly use the drones in another future round of hostilities with Georgia over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
A drone transaction with Moscow would give the Russian army a technological-intelligence edge over Caucasian and Caspian nations, like Georgia and Azerbaijan, and therefore place in doubt their future arms purchases from Israel.
Jerusalem consulted with Washington over the deal, as required under the US-Israel 2006 security pact covering Israeli weapons transfers to third countries. The advanced state of Israel-Russian negotiations indicates its approval by the outgoing Bush White House and incoming Obama administration in line with their efforts to improve relations with Moscow.

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