A leading military expert has caused a furor by saying that Moscow is incapable of defending itself against a serious air attack.
Missiles that used to be key to Moscow’s defense, the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles, are so outdated that they will not be able to protect the Russian capital, declared the co-chairman of Russia’s Expert Air and Space Defense Council, Igor Ashurbeili.
The S-300 missiles are now being removed from production and will be replaced with new S-500 missiles. The substitution, however, will not be completed until 2050, which, Ashurbeili claimed, could leave Moscow without any way to defend itself in case of war.
The claim caused wide outrage among Russia’s military and officials, who say Ashurbeili’s remark in itself poses a danger to Moscow, revealing classified information and thus threatening the capital’s safety.
No one, however, said that the information released is incorrect. Other military specialists say that the facts were widely available long before the fuss and do not expose anything new or threatening.
This is not the first time such information on Russia’s defense has made headlines. In May 2010, a former chief of Russia’s air force, Anatoly Kornukov, claimed that Russia is lagging 25-30 years behind the US in terms of air and space defense and would not be able to repel a potential threat.
The root of the problem, Kornukov said, is in the meltdown of the defense industries in Russia, which have lost qualified personnel and key technologies, leaving the industrial plants in “pitiful condition.”
In Soviet times, the expert added, it was widely known that Russian air defense systems were capable of shooting down 98 percent of intruding enemy planes. Now the figure has shrunk to 20 percent. Therefore, if North Korea or Iran launched an attack on Russia with short-range missiles, Russia would not be capable of shooting them down.
Another former top official in the country’s military, Anatoly Sitnov, who used to be in charge of military equipment for the Defense Ministry, said that Russia’s army has lost 300 key technologies in air and space defense – for example, aircraft plants as well as factories for missile defense systems.
Political analyst Viktor Mizin from the Moscow University of International Relations told RT that there is no reason to be concerned with the state of Russia’s military forces.
“I don’t see any reasons for this kind of panic,” he said. “We are not in a state of Cold War. Of course, the concept of protecting the country differs from that of the Soviet Union. Now we are protecting the major industrial centers, and the S-400 are doing their job well.”