- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in support of Syrian ally Bashar Assad has not only earned Moscow new clout and prestige in the region.

The profits may soon be of a more tangible kind as well.

Military analysts and government officials say the strong performance of Russia’s planes and weaponry in the five-month air campaign could soon pay dividends in the form of new arms deals with foreign buyers. The Russian business publication Kommersant Dengi reported this week that the new contracts could easily exceed the 33 billion ruble price tag — $464 million — that Mr. Putin put on the Syrian operation earlier this month.

The report noted that after eight years of fitful talks, Algeria in December quickly agreed to the purchase of 12 Su-32 bombers at an estimated total price of up to $600 million. Algeria is eyeing the purchase of up to a dozen more bombers and has begun talks on a contract to buy at least 10 Su-35S Russian fighter jets. All told, the deals could amount to $2 billion in new sales from Algeria alone.

Egypt has just signed a contract to buy 46 Ka-52 Alligator helicopters, which have been used extensively in the Syrian fighting. Dengi Kommersant also reported that Indonesia and Vietnam are discussing billion-dollar deals to buy Su-35 fighter jets.

Russia’s tank industry got the equivalent of a free marketing plug when video surfaced of a Russian-built T-90 tank surviving a direct hit from a U.S.-built TOW anti-tank missile system in the Syria fighting. Iran, Iraq and a number of Persian Gulf states are said to be considering orders for the tank. India and Saudi Arabia are reportedly interested in the S-400 air defense system, given its effectiveness in Syria.

“On the one hand, we have demonstrated [in Syria] the capabilities of our military hardware, attracting the attention of potential customers,” one unnamed Russian arms sales specialist told the Russian business magazine. “On the other, more than half of all our pilots have received practical combat experience.”

But Konstantin Makienko, a military specialist at a Moscow defense think tank, cautioned that while there has been increased interest in Russian arms from foreign clients, “so far it has not been reflected in firm contracts.”

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