Caliber.Az presents an interview with a retired colonel pilot of the Azerbaijani Air Force, independent military expert Agil Rustamzade, who mostly spoke about issues related to the war in Ukraine.
– More than 130 days have passed since the start of the war in Ukraine. How would you describe its current state? After all, Russia, slowly and at the cost of heavy losses, nevertheless managed to advance in the South and East of the country.
– The situation is ambiguous. There is no concept of a draw in military terminology, but I would characterize the end of the second stage of the war as a fighting draw. Neither side was able to win decisive victories – Russia advanced eastward, and the Ukrainian side successfully repulsed the offensive in the south and in the direction of Kharkiv.
– The quantities of weapons that Kyiv demands and those that the West actually sends to it differ greatly. We have not yet heard that the US or England is sending 1,000 howitzers to Ukraine, as requested by Zelensky. That is, the pace of accumulation of weapons does not allow us to talk about the imminent counter-offensive of Ukraine, is that so in your opinion?
– The leadership of Ukraine operates with outdated concepts of warfare, which require large amounts of equipment and weapons. Modern methods of warfare, which are used by the NATO countries, apply the concept of a qualitative advantage in weapons, and not a quantitative one. Using high-precision and long-range weapons, the Ukrainian side is able to inflict heavy damage on the attacking side, and then slowly begin to squeeze the enemy out of its territory.
– Assuming that Ukraine has enough long-range artillery and missiles, how far can it advance through its territory, freeing it? I know that you are not very fond of political issues, but to rephrase this question, will Ukraine be able to liberate Crimea and Donbas and not provoke Russia into such extreme steps as declaring martial law in the country and total mobilization or the use of tactical nuclear weapons?
– Even in the presence of high-precision and long-range weapons, Ukraine must move very carefully across its territory. Crimea and Donbas are a kind of “red lines”, after the attack which Russia can take desperate steps such as general mobilization or the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Therefore, before moving into the Donbas and Crimea, Ukraine must be sure that Russia will not take the above measures.
– In case of such a development of events, what is the likelihood that Russia will use the above actions – announce mobilization and using the advantage in manpower, even in the event of a shortage of ultra-precise long-range weapons, simply “throw corpses” on Ukraine and capture it entirely?
– When using high-precision long-range weapons, such “classic” methods of warfare become ineffective. For example, today, HIMARS, which has recently come into the possession of the Ukrainian army, are successfully destroying fuel and lubricants and ammunition depots, which practically makes the offensive of the Russian army impossible or at least greatly slows it down.
– In your numerous interviews, you have repeatedly emphasized the importance of high accuracy and range in modern weapons. As Hitler once said in a conversation with Mannerheim in 1942: “To date, we have destroyed 34,000 Russian tanks! If someone had told me before the start of the war that any country has 34,000 tanks, I would call him crazy!” That is, Russia has shown itself to be a country with the ability to mobilize resources in wartime. How powerful is Russia’s military industry and is it capable of setting up the production of such weapons in the shortest possible time?
– A very good question. It takes time and resources to develop such a production. Today Russia has neither one nor the other. All weapons today are multi-component and many elements, such as electronics, are imported. The import of high-tech components is severely limited by sanctions, and therefore the production of high-precision weapons is very difficult. As for the comparison of Russia’s capabilities in 1942 and today, during the Second World War, the US and Great Britain were allies of the USSR and helped everyone – from Lend-Lease and the opening of a second front. Let me give you such a simple example – for those same 34 thousand T34 tanks that Hitler spoke about, the towers were cast in the USA, since the USSR was not technically able to do this. So, the difference between then and now is huge.
– To what extent are drones able to replace combat aircraft today? As a former pilot, you know perfectly well that training a combat pilot is a long and expensive process. Therefore, the loss of every combat pilot is a heavy loss, first of all, because he is a highly professional person. Assembling a drone is faster and cheaper than training a pilot. Or am I wrong? Or do these two types of weapons perform completely different combat missions?
– A very good question. The Air Force is not only fighters but also, for example, reconnaissance aircraft such as AWACS. Yes, drones can conduct reconnaissance and even strike at positions, but their manoeuvrability and decision-making are limited precisely by the absence of a person at the site of hostilities. In the future, as artificial intelligence develops, of course, battles in the air and at sea will be robotized as much as possible. Well, the participation of combat robotic vehicles on the ground on the ground is a matter of a more distant future due to the difficult terrain and the relative ease of detecting targets.
– Last question. You are a frequent guest on many popular video channels of the CIS countries and especially Ukraine. Your professional assessment of the current situation on the battlefield attracts many listeners. However, there are Ukrainian resources that you have been ignoring lately. If not a secret, then what is the reason for such a “cooling”?
– There is no secret here. It’s just that these video channels have recently taken an aggressive anti-Turkish position and have begun to interpret my thoughts and words quite freely. For me, this is unacceptable, and I have suspended cooperation with them.