Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman is likely to meet President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum during which he will possibly discuss purchasing the Russian-made Iskander ballistic missile system.
The Russian Kommersant newspaper reported that Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the officials accompanying him are not the only delegates from Riyadh visiting Russia this week. Saudi military officials participated in the Army 2015 International Military Technical Forum that is taking place in Kubinka. Citing a source in the Saudi delegation, TASS wrote that the Saudi military wishes to discuss the purchase of the Russian Iskander-E tactical ballistic missile systems.
A representative from the Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-run arms exporter declined to comment. However, several well-informed sources confirmed that Saudi Arabia is indeed on the list of potential buyers interested in this system.
According to Kommersant, it is unlikely that a deal for supplying Riyadh with Iskander systems will be reached soon. Iskander manufacturer Konstruktorskoye Byoro Mashynostroyeniya has a backlog of orders from the Russian Defense Ministry. It will only have an opportunity to take foreign orders from 2016-2017.
Several similar visits by former Saudi officials under the deceased King Abdullah, including two trips by former intelligence chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, to strike a deal with Russia to buy billions of dollars of weapons systems in exchange for a shift in Moscow’s support for several regional countries, like Syria and Iran, failed in the past.