The Russian cavalry on the American tanks?

Conclusions drawn by American military experts, after watching a military parade in Moscow? Whether to stop Russian s-400 the American F-35? What is the weakness of Russian weapons, demonstrated by the Syrian war? Who scares the Kremlin? How will Washington respond to the violation of agreements on arms reduction?

These and other questions we are discussing with the us military experts: former Professor of the war College of the U.S. army, a member of the American foreign policy Council in Washington, by Steven Blank, a former Pentagon official, now a research fellow of the CNA Corporation’s Michael Kofman.

On Tuesday, during the parade on may 9 on the cobblestones of red square have followed the tanks, missiles, armored personnel carriers, or in the interpretation of the news service Russia Today, more than a hundred units of weapons that meet the latest technology. From infantry fighting vehicles “Typhoon”, “proven reliability in Syria,” and anti-aircraft missile systems “Buk”, “is able to repel a massive air attack” to air “Shells”, which are “the world’s only able to conduct aimed fire on the move”, and anti-aircraft systems s-400, which, on the assurances of the RT, itself equal in the world. Such a view on Russian military equipment is not shared by all. On the eve of the parade of American military journalist Harry Wetzel published an article in which he analyzes the actions of the Russian aircraft in Syria and comes to the conclusion that it combat capabilities are significantly inferior to modern Western aircraft. For example, a tiny percentage of Russian aircraft are equipped with electronic guidance systems used by Western military aircraft for over 20 years. That means that they are rather rough bombing, causing significant collateral damage in those localities that have been the object of attacks. Revealing attack cruise missile ships of the Caspian flotilla on facilities in Syria showed that Russia finally has the weapons that came to Western armies for more than twenty years ago. One of the most intriguing of the Western experts of Russian weapons — anti-aircraft missile systems s-400 while sitting there idle and do not give reason to appreciate their fighting qualities, but, according to Wetzel, there is evidence that the Israelis have found the key to neutralize the s-300, they carried out exercises using the s-300 in service with Cyprus.

In other words, something seen on parade in Moscow is the last word of military technology of the nineties, and something like, for example, the tank “Armata”, looks more like a Mirage, the result of the imagination of designers, high cost of which is simply unacceptable neither for Russia, nor for the other States.

That saw the rows of military vehicles in the parade by American experts? Stephen Blank saw primarily a political act:

— They have two audiences: internal and external. According to the organizers, both audiences should see at those parades confirmation that Russia is a strong military power, whose only weapon is the best in the world and so on. For Russians is the biggest proof of Putin’s success in restoring the country’s military might and respect in the world. But I don’t think these parades is able to mislead the Russian political and military elite about the real efficiency of what we saw on the parade, as we witnessed a considerable number of cases where a weapon does not work when the weapons or equipment was officially recognized as defective. For example, all launches using rocket “proton” was cancelled because all the missiles proved to be defective. Shipbuilding in Russia is in a terrible state. Certainly, there are several types of weapons, which in fact is modern and efficient, for example, anti-aircraft missile systems s-300, s-400. But, by and large, what we see at the parade, is a classic of Soviet and Russian lies.

— From your point of view, finds this demonstration of power or, as you say, bragging Kremlin expected effect in Western capitals?

— The West is not monolithic. There are different audiences. But Western military experience healthy respect for the Russian army. There is no doubt that she is now in better condition than a decade ago that it is much better equipped and has more modern weapons which is a danger for Russia’s neighbors and even for the West. It has powerful anti-aircraft systems, artillery, some missiles, for example, “Iskander”, anti-ship missiles, submarines, nuclear Arsenal. But, by and large, the Western army than the Russian in terms of quality and quantity of weapons. And everyone knows it. When we hear that Moscow plans to deploy Iskanders in Kaliningrad to counter a non-existent threat, I think, is very simple: mafia power, as it is called the Kremlin, some analysts resort to mafia methods of intimidation. But she forgets that these missiles can be destroyed with air strikes, command posts can be destroyed with the sea. Every weapon has its own weaknesses that will take advantage of the enemy.

Mr. Blank, the United States formally accused Russia of violating the Soviet-American Treaty eliminating intermediate-range and shorter-range. Practical response Washington has not yet given, but which means it’s virtually unprecedented charges?

— This means: we no longer can rely on the treaties with Russia to ensure security, the Russians want to have the ability to conduct operations involving nuclear weapons; that they again are trying to take Europe hostage, as it was during the cold war, and that they are also looking for a nuclear shield to hide behind from China, although this one does not speak aloud. Add to this, that henceforth no agreement with Russia will not be worth the paper on which he wrote, as the Russians quietly will.

— As the United States needs to respond to that, in your opinion?

— My advice — we can and should take different steps, because this behavior of Russia was delayed. First of all, it is necessary to increase the number of conventional forces in Europe, in order to effectively assist the Baltic States opposing the Kremlin. The second is to resume production of medium-range missiles that could potentially be deployed in Europe. The third is to expand the Arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, which we are markedly inferior. We should not forget that Moscow has violated virtually all of its agreements on arms control, with the exception of the last start Treaty. But the restrictions imposed by this agreement, may prevent the implementation of Russian plans to modernize nuclear Arsenal in the next year. Let’s see if Moscow loyal to this agreement. In any case, we must convince the Kremlin the idea that attempts to violate the sovereignty of NATO allies will not go unpunished, to prove that by demonstrating our capabilities and the will to resort to them.

— But still we must admit that while this will demonstrates the Kremlin, if you look at the Syrian conflict?

— What he managed to accomplish there? Assad’s forces are scattered. At last count, he has more than 18 thousand soldiers, ready to fight for him. Russian ground forces will not go to Syria. Russian Navy and air force can not hold in Syria if Assad can’t hold their hands. In other words, Russia, despite its considerable achievements in Syria, were at the point where it will fight for Assad and Tehran, not Moscow and Putin, says Stephen Blank.

— Michael Kaufman, what do you feel when watching this performance of military equipment? Russia Today writes: this is the best in the world, it’s unique, it is in the best samples. Match?

— On the one hand, they correctly say that in the parade the most modern equipment produced in Russia. But on the other hand, of course, like any country, they exaggerate or advertise their fighting ability, especially compared to technologies that have long existed in the world, in the armies of the Western military forces and even China. It is clear that in some things there is a large exaggeration, and in some they speak the truth that may be, there is no unique, say, they have the best options from all the peers that are now available.

Okay. Touch of pride. According to Russia Today, the parade in Moscow demonstrated the anti-aircraft missile systems s-400, which are, I quote, “the most advanced, which have no analogues in the world.” Sounds like a cause for genuine pride?

— You know it’s true that this is the most modern system of air defense systems, land. But on the other hand, the fact that it is the best, the best in Russia, this does not mean that it is effective against the West, and often people forget. Because you always have to ask two questions. First, it will work against very expensive and to some extent almost unique technology, which is available in large quantities from the United States? Against aircraft with low visibility, for example. Second question: how much stock or it exists in the Russian armed forces. We all understand that new platforms of armored infantry fighting vehicles “Armata” now only prototypes, they are tested for three years, ordered 80. From 2300 tanks that have the newest armed forces of Russia, one can understand that the most yet I hope that, maybe, 80 of them will be “Armata”, an insignificant number. The s-400 is, of course, a great system, but we must not exaggerate its capabilities, firstly, and, secondly, against whom it is used. This is just a great system, if you fight with countries that have fourth generation aircraft. The only problem is that, maybe, will have to fight with such countries as the United States, where the bombers of the fifth generation.

— It is known that during the Arab-Israeli wars, the Soviet air defense system used by the Arab countries, failed, because, as I understand it, they just failed to detect Israeli planes. The radars were either destroyed or they have been ineffective. Apparently, the s-400 is more effective?

— How they can be effective against the United States air force, a very big question. So I would so they are not advertised. The fact that it is the best, does not mean that it is effective and can protect Russia. The cycle of change, modernization of weapons, the cycle of technology that now, when the country ignores 10-15 years of low development, it may be behind in some key industries that are fundamentally changing the balance of power. To understand, just a historical difference, if we look at the XV-XVI century, the country could easily miss 50-60, 100 years of development of the armed forces, it is still okay to be on the battlefield with the army and have a good chance of winning. But that all changed somewhere in the late nineteenth century. Despite the fact that you have the best cavalry in the world, if she can’t overcome the armor and gun, it is still meaningless battle.

— The parallel is very curious. Do you think that modern Russian air defense systems are as effective against aircraft of the fifth generation, as cavalry against armored cars or tanks?


— Still Yes.

— The s-400 is the cavalry?

— Maybe we don’t know. If the radar cannot see the aircraft, which is designed to be invisible, then what is its combat capability in the end?

— And you can imagine what happened during the sensational impact Tomahawks on Syrian military air base Shirt? I remember the press release of the Pentagon which stated that the objects of the strike was well as radar and other air defenses. That is, the system of air defense was powerless against cruise missiles or they did not answer, according to some Russian sources, so as not to come into direct conflict with the United States?

— First, Russian air defense systems were supplied to protect only the Russian troops, not Syrian. Secondly, they only reside in two places, there system s-400 and s-300 systems, they are these sites absolutely do not cover large parts of Syria. Thirdly, it is clear that their use would not, but even if I wanted to, of me I couldn’t because of two reasons. First, to shoot down a cruise missile can, if the air defense system stands on a base, which is the goal. Russian “Pantsir” great, can shoot down cruise missiles, but it is on the basis Hamim. The second thing we need to understand that cruise missiles be launched a special way, they are not send directly, they maneuver, turn left, right and so on. It is clear that in America, too, are not fools, we never would have sent these missiles in such a way so that Russian air defense had the opportunity to get them. A volley of missiles was very massive. I’m sure that even if there was the Russian system of defence, it still wouldn’t be able to cope with a volley of 60 missiles.

— Michael, the Kremlin, and it is clear, uses a Syrian campaign to instill the idea of, if not superiority, then the advantages of Russian weapons. Take missile strikes on targets in Syria, suffered from the ships of the Caspian flotilla. But there is another point of view on this matter. American military journalist Gary Wetzel doing the opposite conclusion, analyzing Russia’s military actions in Syria. “Intervention in Syria showed that Russia is behind the West,” he writes and leads among the facts Russia’s inability to create their own system of precision-guided aircraft missiles and bombs. How this assessment is your objective?

— First, it showed that the Russian air force, which we know is already far behind the capabilities of the air force of the United States is slowly catching up and now look more efficient than NATO in the 90-ies. People forget that during the five-day war in Georgia in 2008, Russia lost six planes, and most of them from his fire. We observe the actions of upgraded Soviet air force, where not only no aircraft fell from the sky for half the year, and if you look at how many airstrikes they have caused no disaster…

The fact that Russian planes don’t fall from the sky, what they did about ten years ago, of course, important. But have you compared the current capabilities of the Russian aviation with those that had American planes in the 90-ies?

— You have to understand that in 90-ies, for example, the first campaign, where he could monitor the use of high-precision weapons is a “desert Storm” in 1991. People don’t know what “desert Storm” is the first high-precision weapons our air force, we used less than 1 percent throughout the campaign. A good start of use of precision weapons — it is Afghanistan and the war in Iraq in 2003. Russia has recently been in this state, the armed forces, especially the air force, it’s still a feat that they somehow escaped from the 80-ies somewhere in the 90s. it is Clear that Russia lags behind the us the minimum age to 15.

— But, nevertheless, it is a fact that Russia has no modern guidance systems. Or they are modern for the third world?

They advanced to Russia. Just the level of technology of high-precision weapons from Russia, the most primitive. They are only in Syria begins operation of high-precision weapons. As far as we can see, there are two main fundamental problems. Russian precision weapons, these new bombs that they use, they are not very accurate. By the way, they realize this and make the right conclusions, maybe they don’t really talk about it, but understand and see the results — precision weapons were not precision. Problem number two — guidance systems is still not long to wait. The explanation is simple: high all-new, the first conflict where they are used, they are in mass production, but they are expensive, they have a few copies, especially of such a test was not. It is clear that they are first generation.

— In this story there is another important aspect. Indeed, in this case, those who accuse Moscow of attacks on civilians in Syria, in fact there are serious grounds for such accusations? If Russia uses a tiny number of guided bombs and missiles that, say, bombing Aleppo, it certainly covered a lot of houses?

— Right. If used where there are civilians, then it is understandable, especially when you use weapons of a broader destruction, it is large high-explosive bombs and cluster bombs that they use over there. Mostly they use anti-tank, but still some they use cluster bombs against the people.

— Aside from the battlefield in Syria, we hear a lot about the superiority of the Russian tank “Armata”. It can be assumed that these tanks are better than what had been modern twenty years ago? After all, a modern tank should be able and far-seeing, able to coordinate fire, which requires modern technology. That is, there is reason to think that he will give the latest American designs?

— No, just our samples are very far behind. Because we do not fight tanks, we are at war, the air force and Navy. We compare two completely different army. There is one army that is always fighting across the ocean, and Russia is always a great power of Eurasia, the key part of the army is the army and the air force of Russia always lagged behind, and the same Navy. We compare an army that requires good tanks, with the army, which especially if your tank is not at war.

— What is the “Armata” in fact gives the right to pride of the Russian military-industrial complex?

— Absolutely. Only, there is a small caveat: they created a tank that they can’t budget. The big problem with technology is money.

— Russian tank more expensive than the us tanks, it turns out — is not serious?

— It is. Yes, that’s the point that he’s so modern that it will not buy.

— At the time a lot has been said about another Russian challenge to the US — plane T-50, equivalent to the us F-35 that cost US in some unimaginable amount. However, I read that the Indians involved in its development, is not very happy with Russian technology?

— This plane has two problems. It is still the aircraft of the 4++ generation. The main problem that the new motor it is not, it is the engine of su-35. Russia works for a long time. But the engine for the plane is the most difficult thing from the point of view of the engineering project. The engine is not the sort of thing that’s easy to invent and assemble. The form is a fifth-generation aircraft, it is difficult to understand how the material that was used in its creation, a good mask. But the main problem, we know the engine of the fifth generation no.

In this case, what is still clearly a good, clear and modern Russia at the level of, say, the American West and the last samples?

In the army everything. And not just at our level, but probably better, especially when we are discussing guns. There are a lot of modern systems of anti-tank and so on, all is well in Russia with tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry combat vehicles well. The missile systems, there are many missile systems, land-based missiles or anti-ship, which is absolutely gorgeous.

— Michael, after this description of the soul there is a feeling of anxiety about the Eastern European NATO allies if the Russian army is doing so good.

— The right to put the question: all well and good, but are we going to win?

— If you believe Russian propaganda, they say that they are fine and they will win.

— I was in Moscow, I watched the speech by Valery Gerasimov, the chief of General staff. On his pictures on his slides so scary was the ability of the United States to spread Russian “Tomahawk”, where thousands of pieces compared to the tens of that from Russia. Our great Navy system and air defense, and missile defense can shoot down. Our ability to use long-range precision weapons, which we have included in thousands of years not just a serious problem, and they are very worried. Second, our ability to apply and strikes, and strikes the Navy and all eventually explode and tear this whole technique, which they showed on the parade, is really. Therefore, when we compare their armed forces with ours, it is clear that they have some combat capability, which is similar and better than ours. On the other hand, this does not mean that they can still survive and we can’t tear to shreds all this great army, which he showed at the parade.

— And you, the professional, studying Russian army for many years, there is an explanation for these fears of the Russian generals, unless of course they do not store their own games? It is quite clear that the West does not threaten Russia. What generals hyping fears? They even talked about the use of nuclear weapons.

— Why everything is cool?

— Excuse me, the West is not spinning. Western European countries are cutting defense budgets.

— Yes, they reduce. But military all the same argument that the huge threat, it is necessary to increase the cost of weapons, we do not have, we all win. If you read what I write military in defense of England, you can do to faint. Russia is now the militarism that began with the First world war that existed in Europe, outdoor clean classic militarism. The combat capability of the armed forces is a key pillar of foreign policy and domestic policy. And on the other hand they spent more or less successful military reforms and modernization. There are many internal bureaucratic arguments, since the army is the hammer, and it should always find nails, or damn it. When a country chooses the path of militarism and develops a national idea at that, then see where it goes.

— Just do not understand what leads will certainly lead to something bad.

— Will be a good parade, will be the purchase of equipment. Still does not change the fundamental problem that much of the more modern ideas that they showed to implement fail until they have no money, and everyone understands that in Russia.

— Michael, no money, but islanders are moving in the Kaliningrad oblast, according to us intelligence, I think, two battalions of medium-range missiles prohibited by the Soviet-American Treaty, deployed in the European part of Russia. If the entire house, figuratively speaking, hung the guns, then not increase any danger that any of them shoot?

For me the key problem that they create for themselves, those geopolitical problems, which they fear. They are modernizing missiles. The rockets now stand in Kaliningrad, only in Kaliningrad is “Point”, old, ancient, which is outdated, they will now be changed to “Iskander”. The fact is that for some reason they themselves are creating this situation. Because every decision has a reaction. It is clear that the European reaction is to continue to fear Russia, do not trust her to make decisions that will vigorously develop the military activity of NATO and so on.