Leonid Bershidsky is (butt) hurt, badly. So, after Vladimir Putin's air and anti missile defense trolling yesterday--you can see (in Russian) Rouhani's and Erdogan's priceless reactions here:
So, Bershidsky, whose biography you can read here, for some reason (wink, wink) takes it too personally and lets it rip in his piece at Bloomberg (another "fine" specimen of US "fair and balanced" propaganda outlet). Here is what bothers Mr. Bershidsky:
President Vladimir Putin’s offer to sell Russian air defense systems to Saudi Arabia is about more than mere trolling, even though it caused laughter from Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Putin was trying to persuade the entire Middle East that working with him is more effective than cooperating with the U.S. One could regard it as a kind of mafia-style protection offer: The new, more aggressive gangster on the block is making a bid because the current king of the streets has grown lazy and risk-averse.
One can almost feel Bershidsky's pain but the problem with this statement is not the fact that there is only one gangster in this story, and that is not Russia, but in the fact that Bershidsky, who hails from an army of brilliant (ahem) "influencers" with degrees in anything but applicable serious professional skills crucial for military and geopolitical analysis, has, as expected, misrepresented risk-aversion for the exercise of sound operational judgement. The United States hasn't "grown lazy and risk-averse"--and Breshidsky wouldn't know it even if explained--it was made such by Real Revolution in Military Affairs whose arrival through new technological means, operational concepts and new force structure, simply removed most (not all) "advantages", often grossly exaggerated, the United States thought it enjoyed for the last 30 years or so. Actually, one of the major reasons this had happened was the category of public with MBAs, stock trading, marketing, finances, banking and journalism backgrounds who could understand some financial bottom lines, for which they tirelessly worked, but had and continue (as Bershidsky so vividly demonstrates) to have huge difficulties with grasping technological, tactical, operational and strategic realities of our modern world.
Then, Bershidsky makes this bizarre assertion (one would expect it from an amateur):
In reality, it’s the S-400 that Russia has been trying hard to sell to Saudi Arabia, so far without success. It has also offered the missiles to Qatar. Neither the S-300 nor the S-400 has seen any real combat use. Theoretically, and as seen in exercises, these are powerful weapons. But not even Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, who has had a few opportunities to use the S-300s he received from Russia last year, has done so.
First, Bashar Assad doesn't have full control of S-300 in Syria, at least not yet and it is Russia which defines S-300s use within her military and diplomatic agenda in Syria, not Syrians. It is an obvious fact, which was confirmed couple of days ago:
According to the report, Moscow has prevented three Israeli air strikes on three Syrian outposts recently, and even threatened that any jets attempting such a thing would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. The source cited in the report claims a similar situation has happened twice – and that during August, Moscow stopped an air strike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where a S-300 missile battery is placed.
Unlike Israelis or US Military-Industrial-Media Complex Russians, when the deal is a very serious real kinetic military affair between Russia and nations which matter globally (US), or regionally (Israel), seldom runs around praising oneself and own capabilities, since this may adversely affect, usually behind the scene, diplomatic effort. It is one thing to show off salvos of 3M14 burning jihadists in their compounds in Syria, or reveal weapons, such as in Putin's speech on March 1, 2018, to cool the heads of some homicidal lunatics in D.C., totally another--describing everyday contingencies between all players in the region. In fact, Russia officially was very low key on that and that is understandable.
There is, however, a risible line in Bershidsky's "assertion" about S-300 and S-400 not seeing "any combat use". I would love to use Sergei Lavrov's meme here but I have to restrain myself, because at this stage it wouldn't help the situation. Evidently, Leonid Bershidsky who never spent a day in any serious military position, thinks that "combat use" is when things only "shoot". Well, there is one problem, well, actually two, with this assertion because from the get go he misses:
1. Both S-300 and S-400 systems were delivered to Syria with one thought in mind--to precisely prevent this "combat use" by means of deploying capability which drastically reduces tactical and operational options for all bogeys (Israel, ahem) to make them much more cooperative in a political, as opposed to combat, field. It worked, brilliantly in a strategic sense--with IAF being effectively pushed out of Syria's airspace, while reducing the number of its sorties drastically still. This is not to mention the fact that other systems, such as S1 and Tor M2s, not to mention a very well organized work of Battle Management Centers and Early Warning and Electronic Warfare systems, performing admirably by shooting down all, but one, jihadists' drones and missiles. That is real combat performance and a very impressive one. I will abstain from describing Trump's "very smart missiles" 70% of which (including, rumor has it, JASSM) had been taken down by Syrian Air Defense.
2. Now, most important--COMBAT record of the Soviet/Russian Air Defense systems. Discarding a fear of being called a Russian chauvinist, nationalist or accused of gloating (been there, done that), specifically for Bershidsky--combat record of Soviet/Russian AD systems is without equals in history. No one comes even close to a number of combat episodes Soviet/Russian systems took part in and came out victorious against bogeys. Not least among them is Israeli Air Force. I will quote from my latest:
While estimates vary wildly, approximately 1,737 U.S. aircraft (not counting helicopters) have been lost to hostile actions between 1961 and 1973 in South East Asia, largely over Vietnam.1 The majority of these losses were due to AAA (Anti-Air Artillery) and SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles). During almost 24 months of the Rolling Thunder operation the U.S. lost 881 aircraft; in 1967 alone, the United States lost 62 aircraft to SAMs while losing 205 to AAA. In 1973, during the 19-days long Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Air Force lost over 100 aircraft, most of them to SAMs. This is just a highly abbreviated list of Surface-to-Air missiles engaging all kinds of aerial threats from high value attack and fighter jet aircraft, to bombers, to cruise missiles since the early 1960s. The feature which unifies all entries in this list is the fact that all these surface-to-air missiles and the targeting and launch systems for them were and are Soviet/Russian made. Putting it in simpler, more straightforward language—Soviet/Russian Air Defense systems, when used by skilled operators, have an unrivaled combat history. No other nation has a comparable record of the use of such systems in combat and thus of gaining such a combat experience.
For Bershidsky--all data was taken specifically from Western sources to avoid being accused of pro-Russian bias. Numbers do not lie, when confirmed. Those have been confirmed (unlike modern-day economic fuzzy data) and even at the lower end of estimates (not to mention a factor of often NON-Soviet/Russian manning of systems--in stochastic combat models multipliers less than 1 are introduced for degraded capability) make a dramatic impression.
So, in this case, one has to start thinking what this record means for new systems? It means an enormous array of data which is behind honing, design concepts, algorithms, sensors, targeting systems that is, which allow for steady improvements in capability. In the end, this was a major reason Turks "exchanged" F-35 for S-400. I am sure they were made privy to mathematical expectations and probabilities of success for various air attack scenarios against Turkey. They, obviously, loved what they heard and saw and now Turkish officers (the second team) are in Russia training for S-400. So, unless the whole Saudi (ARAMCO) oil facility attack is a false flag by Saudis themselves or by a triumvirate of purveyors of liberty and democracy in the Middle East, aka KSA, Israel and USA, there is pretty much only one thing Saudis can do about defending oil facilities against drone and missile attacks--get systems which work. I know, that makes Leonid Bershidsky's life miserable--after all, he dedicated his journo carrier to writing on things most of which he cannot grasp or doing a hack job for someone else's interests. But in general, I am getting really tired when majors in marketing or broadcasting pretend to be "experts" in fields which are beyond their grasp. No wonder the West is in steep decline.