Military and Security Ties

Russia has taken advantage of instability throughout the Middle East and U.S. retrenchment to rebuild ties with governments and regimes across the region. These efforts include: arms sales, military training and cooperation, and technology transfers.

The Cases of Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia

Moscow has capitalized on vacuums created by U.S. policy mistakes in the Middle East and Washington’s retreat from global leadership. Russia has expanded military relationships with a variety of counterparts in the region.

Russia’s decisive military intervention in Syria, beginning in September 2015, has spurred a dramatic series of diplomatic openings with other Middle Eastern states.
Amid an increasingly chaotic situation in Libya, the Kremlin is building a partnership with strongman General Khalifa Haftar and cultivating ties with other competing groups.
A pro-Kremlin youth group demands, “NATO, stop destroying Libya!”
In January 2017, General Haftar visited the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov off the Libyan coast, a public show of Moscow’s support.
Moscow has reportedly sent special forces to Egypt near Libya’s border and provided various types of support to Haftar’s forces.
Libya’s General Haftar leaving the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
In Egypt, the Kremlin has courted President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and reportedly has reached a deal on access to Egyptian airspace and airfields.
A billboard in Cairo of Presidents Putin (left) and Sisi (right)
In October 2017, during King Salman’s historic visit to Moscow—the first by a sitting Saudi monarch to Russia—Riyadh agreed to purchase an S-400 air defense system and other weapons.
A Russian S-400 system
Saudi Arabia and Russia signed various documents on energy, trade, and defense cooperation. The two countries agreed on a $3 billion arms deal and several billion dollars in joint investment projects.

Russia’s military power is most visible in the Middle East, where it has established its ability to deploy an expeditionary force and serve as a party to conflict resolution efforts. As the world’s second largest arms exporter, Russia has aggressively pursued weapons sales around the world for financial gain and to project its political, economic, and military clout.

Arms sales around the world


Order 24 Mi-171Sh military transport helicopters

Status Deliveries completed (2015)



Order Equipment including Pechora-2M, S-300, and Buk-M2EK anti-aircraft complexes; Igla-S missile systems; BTR-80A armored personnel carriers, T-72 tanks; and Smerch and Grad rocket launchers

Status Deliveries completed (2017)



Order 14 Su-30 fighter jets

Status Deliveries started (2017)



Order 12 Mi-35M attack helicopters

Status Deliveries started (2017)



Order 4 S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems

Status Contract signed (2017)



Order Several hundred tanks, including a first batch of 73 T-90 tanks

Status Deliveries started (2017)



Order 64 T-90 tanks

Status Deliveries started (2017)



Order 11 Su-35 fighter jets

StatusContract signed (2018)


From 2012 to 2016, Russia delivered arms to fifty countries. Russia is the world’s second largest arms exporter with a 23 percent market share, behind just the United States (33 percent).

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