As recent events in Syria suggest, Russia has found an effective way of keeping aggressive Western powers at bay with state-of-the-art missile systems and electronic warfare methods – much of it reportedly developed by young scientists and on the cheap.
War is rarely a pleasant topic, and even less so when it is known that particular conflicts – most regrettably in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, for example – were triggered due to the shameless machinations of foreign players and mercenaries.
Now the world is being held captive audience to yet another predictable Western rerun starring the usual suspects – the US, UK and France. These NATO members, willfully ignoring bona-fide terrorist groups in Syria, are blaming the ‘Assad regime’ for a series of chemical attacks against civilians - without evidence and formal investigation. To quote Thomas Paine, speaking on a different matter from a much earlier age, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
These are also the times, we might add, that challenge men to find ways to address the threat. After all, how many more sovereign states must fall to the Western regime-change fanatics? How long before the regime change juggernaut arrives at Russia’s front door? With NATO forces moving inexorably towards Russia’s border, these are no idle questions. Thus it was with no small amount of enthusiasm and optimism that an April 13th assault on Syria by the US, UK and France was met with surprisingly successful resistance: According to the Russian military, Syrian government forces, using Soviet-era surface-to-air missile systems, including the S-200 and Buk, shot down 71 of 103 missiles launched by the Western powers.
The Pentagon has denied the claim.
Meanwhile, uncomfortable questions regarding the illicit attack on Syria remain unanswered: For example, why would these NATO powers target a site near Damascus, which they purportedly believed was housing chemical weapons, thereby possibly releasing even more of the deadly toxins into the air? Moreover, since UN weapons inspectors were scheduled to arrive in Syria the very next day to start their probe into the alleged chemical attack, what exactly did the US and its allies hope to gain from an attack at that particular moment? Perhaps the destruction of evidence? But I digress.
Although nobody wants to see a full-blown military showdown between Western and Russian forces, it cannot be denied that the military assets are already in place for such a scenario. In the hope of warding off another Western military misadventure, this time in Syria, Russia has employed a layered defense system composed of the Pantsir-S1 mobile point-defense systems and S-400 missile systems.
The Pantsir, armed with 30 mm cannons that fire 5,000 rounds per minute, is a highly effective weapon against low-flying aircraft, drones and missiles. Meanwhile, the S-400, which has a range of 250-400 kilometers, has been deployed to protect the Khmeimim Air Base and Tartus naval facility, and other parts of Syrian territory.
Russia has stated its ability to shoot down US Tomahawk missiles with the S-400 air defense system, which is complemented by ship-borne radar systems in the Mediterranean to locate and track any missiles fired at Syria at great range.
And then there are the fighter jets. Beginning in early 2016, the super-maneuverable Su-35S fighter started performing combat missions at the Khmeimim airbase. This is probably the very last aircraft that an opposing pilot wants to see in his rearview mirror.
“The maneuverability of the Su-35 makes it an unsurpassed dogfighter,” notes military analyst Sebastien Roblin in The National Interest. “An F-35 stealth fighter that gets in a short-range duel with a Flanker-E will be in big trouble…”
More bang for the buck
On March 1, during the annual Presidential Address, Vladimir Putin set out his vision for Russia’s future, with heavy emphasis placed on rejuvenating all aspects of Russia’s national infrastructure. However, as Libya learned in 2011, a viable, vibrant infrastructure means nothing without a sound military to defend it.
Putin began by reminding the audience that it was due to the United States walking away from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 that forced Russia to fast-track a number of defensive projects. One of these projects is the ‘Sarmat’ missile, which will “be equipped with a broad range of powerful nuclear warheads, including hypersonic, and the most modern means of evading missile defence.”
The Russian leader emphasized that the Sarmat “has practically no range restrictions.”
Putin then discussed another system, called ‘Kinzhal’ (Dagger) which also travels at a hypersonic speed, 10 times faster than the speed of sound, that “can also maneuver at all phases of its flight trajectory, which also allows it to overcome all existing and…prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads in a range of over 2,000 kilometers.”
Later, Putin revealed the shocking truth behind the research and development of these weapons systems, which have now at the very least balanced the strategic scales between Russia and the West.
"Like I said in my address to the Federal Assembly, we create second-to-none and state-of-the-art arms systems. One of those systems was created by a team of very young scientists. I asked them where they came from and how they could invent such things. They said that they united into a scientific group after graduation and developed the world's most powerful arms system in seven years," Putin said during a plenary meeting of the Russian Union of Rectors.
Perhaps even more amazing than the brief amount of time that was required for Russia to turn around its military situation, with the help of young scientists, is the fact that it is now able to concentrate its budget resources on infrastructure and the economy.
Putin is expected to allocate 10 trillion-ruble ($162 billion) on health care, education and infrastructure in keeping with his promise to continue promoting the wellbeing of the Russian middle class, which has seen a rapid growth since Putin came to power in 2000.