Syria's imports of weapons increased nearly sixfold between 2007 and 2011 compared to the previous five-year period, a new study found.
The bulk of Syria's military weapons came from Russia, according to the report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Russia's arms sales to Syria have come under fire by U.S. officials. The Pentagon has been pressured by a group of senators to end a multimillion dollar U.S. military contract with Russia for helicopter parts for use by the Afghanistan air force.
"Syria’s imports of major weapons increased by 580 per cent between 2002–2006 and 2007–11. Russia supplied 78 per cent of Syrian imports in 2007–11, followed by Belarus (17 per cent) and Iran (5 per cent). Russia’s arms supplies included an estimated 36 Pantsir-S1 and 2 Buk-M2E SAM systems and 2 Bastion-P coastal defence missile systems. Russia has opposed a proposal for a UN arms embargo on Syria and plans further deliveries, including 24 MiG-29M2 combat aircraft and 36 Yak-130 trainer/combat aircraft."
The Pantsir is a short-range air defense system that can intercept missiles at less than a dozen miles range, and the Buk-M2E SAM is a surface-to-air missile system with long range, high altitude capability, though not capable of intercepting a missile, like the American Patriot system, explained weapons expert John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. In an email to Security Clearance, Pike said the Bastion-P coastal missile defense system is "a big supersonic anti-shipping cruise missile, overkill for the Israeli navy, but just fine for a U.S. carrier."
The MiG-29M2 has a murky track record. Algeria purchased some but "sent them back because of poor quality control," Pike said.
Russia, which is second only to the United States in arms sales, sent 10% of their total weapons to customers in the Middle East, according to SIPRI's report.