Experts said that Russia could become the most important partner of the French defense industry outside Europe, and that both countries could jointly develop new weapons.
A Russian defense ministry official told respected business daily Vedomosti that Francois Lureau, director general of the French Defense Procurement Agency, had visited Moscow for the first time and held talks with General Yury Baluyevsky, head of the Russian General Staff, and defense industry representatives.
The French defense industry stands to gain about $1 billion from cooperation with Russia. French avionics systems account for 15% of the price of the Sukhoi Su-30 MKM Flanker fighters, worth $950 million, bought by Malaysia and for 10% of the $1.5-billion price tag of the Su-30 MKAs to be delivered to Algeria.
A source close to the talks said that the Russian military and Lureau had agreed to install the French systems on Su-30 MKA fighters designated for Algeria under a bilateral arms deal that was signed in early March.
A defense ministry official said France also wanted to jointly develop unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), while Russia was patterning its state defense order after the French weapons procurement system. In March, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is also Russia's defense minister, announced plans to establish a state weapons procurement agency by early 2007 and said its functions would resemble those of the French Defense Procurement Agency.
Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis, Strategy and Technology, said Moscow considered Paris its main partner in the sphere of high-tech machine engineering. "France understands that Russia is Europe's natural strategic reserve, if the EU wants to remain a global market player," Makiyenko said.
Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Moscow office of the Center for Defense Information, said French-Russian military and technical cooperation was facilitated by competition against the United States on foreign markets. "Both countries may even develop new weapons," he said.