Black Hawk helicopter
Black Hawk helicopterIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A Kuwaiti newspaper reported Wednesday that Russia was set to transfer billions of dollars worth of arms to Egypt before the end of the year. According to the report in the Al Rei newspaper, the Russian arms package is designed to specifically enable Egypt to at least achieve parity with the IDF.

Egyptian media on Wednesday quoted a top Russian arms official, Sergei Tshimisov as saying that Russia would be completing its transfer of an air defense system to Egypt within days. Among the items that are part of the deal are advanced helicopters and Russian-made MiG-21 fighter jets, Tshimisov said at an event in Dubai.

Other defensive systems will make their way to Cairo in the coming months, Russian sources said. Among them were surface to air missiles that could knock out targets up to an altitude of 15 kilometers.

When asked about how Russia expected Egypt – which is broke – to pay for the arms, Tshimisov said that Moscow was prepared to be “very flexible” in its payment conditions, as Moscow was very interested in solidifying its relationship with Cairo.

A Russian report Wednesday said that the overall deal was worth $4 billion, but that Egypt had been asked to pay just half that. Egyptian sources said that the money would most likely come from donations to Cairo from Gulf states.

Russia's "flexibility" may indicate that the Kremlin's objectives in securing the deal - an outcome of a recent visit to Cairo by its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - were not merely financial. 

The past few months have seen a resurgence in Russia's previously minor influence in the Middle East and northern Africa, as relations between the US and its traditional Arab allies have cooled considerably, over concerns about the Obama administration's perceived weakness over instability in Syria and Egypt, and its hasty pursuit of detente with Iran.