Iraq will buy more than $4.2 billion worth of weapons from Russia under contracts signed in recent months, according to and article by Bloomberg.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin today after speaking with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev yesterday.
“Iraq is sending a clear signal to the U.S. that it can conduct an independent policy, ” said Alexei Malashenko, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “The message is: ‘We can sign contracts with Russia if we like.’”
The purchases from Russia does not indicate a reduction in Iraq’s “very broad and very deep” military support relationship with the U.S., said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
Nuland told reporters at a briefing in Washington that the U.S. is engaged in $12.3 billion worth of military deals with Iraq, “so I don’t think one needs to be concerned about that relationship being anything but the strongest.”
Iraq was a major purchaser of Soviet weaponry under Saddam until the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq occurred. The Russians lost $8 billion worth of contracts in 2003, according to the article.
In the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, these new contracts could lead to the presence of Russian military advisers and engineers in Iraq just as in the Soviet era, said Malashenko.