Lebanon is grateful for Russia’s MiG-29 fighter jets, which Russia promised to give to the Mideastern country as a gift. However, Lebanese officials wonder whether the country really needs them. Lebanon tries to find out if Russia could replace the fighters with something else.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, who is currently visiting Russia, said that Lebanon would have to evaluate its technical opportunities to understand where the jets could be deployed and decide if Lebanese pilots and specialists would be ready to service the Russian aircraft.
Moscow announced its intention to deliver ten fighter jets to Lebanon free of charge in December of 2008. It was said that the jets would arrive in the country in 2010. One Mig-29 costs approximately $30 million. The gift therefore totals $300 million.
The Lebanese president stated that the Russian initiative showed a very positive influence on the morale of the Lebanese army against the background of the informal embargo in the world to deliver military hardware to Lebanon.
“Special committees of the two countries are investigating the issues of the delivery of the planes and decide whether they are needed in Lebanon,” the Lebanese president said.
Russia and Lebanon also try to find out an opportunity to replace the MiG fighters with something else.
“Maybe, the Lebanese would master a different model of the Russian aircraft faster and easier,” Suleiman said.
He added that Lebanon considered other planes or helicopters as an alternative.
“We need combat helicopters indeed. Most likely, helicopters will be our choice,” Michel Suleiman said.
Speaking about the issues of the regulation of the conflict in the Middle East, Suleiman said that Lebanon was expecting Russia’s assistance at this point too.
The president of Lebanon also spoke about the disarmament of Hezbollah, a non-governmental armed organization.
“The members of Hezbollah are our citizens. The question of arms is quite solvable. They do not carry arms openly. Of course, the arms will be left in Lebanon, for the governmental army. However, it will happen only after there is no threat to the country,” he said.