Kazakhstan Needs to Get Rid of The S-300 Anti-aircraft Missile System – General Telegusov

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Orda has spoken with General Mahmut Telegusov about how to minimize corruption in defense agencies and equip troops with modern weapons and military equipment.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has made Kazakhstani society think about the issue of their nation’s combat readiness. Geopolitical instability should serve as a reason why Kazakhstan may need to seek alternatives to the CSTO in the event hour “X". Self-reliance could be the solution.

To what extent is Kazakhstan equipped with modern types of weapons, military equipment and means of communication to repel potential external aggression? Kazakhstan has had no practical experience in conducting military operations and special military operations over the past 30 years. The only exception is conducting peacekeeping operations in Iraq, West Africa and Tajikistan. 

Knowing what foreign weapons should be purchased to strengthen the Kazakhstani army’s combat readiness piques one’s curiosity. Avoiding inefficient spending and the domestic military-industrial complex’s capacities along with domestic military science’s development are also noteworthy.  

An Orda correspondent discussed these issues with the chairman of the Republican public association "Council of Generals" Mahmut Telegusov.

An Integrated Approach

Retired Major General Mahmut Telegusov served for 37 years. He worked his way up from platoon commander to deputy commander of the Eastern Military District. After his retirement, he began to engage in public activities, putting all his efforts to identify corruption in the military. Thanks to his independent investigations, many criminal cases have been initiated against military leaders.

"I believe that now it is necessary to strengthen the defense capability of our country by switching to the 4th and 5th generation armament. I must say right away that you should not look to the arsenal of the Ukrainian and Russian military, as it by and large is the 3rd generation. It's just that Ukraine, with the help of the West, is fueled by more powerful, modern weapons, which has allowed them to successfully resist Russian troops for 1.5 years since the beginning of the military conflict,"

says Telegusov.
Mahmut Telegusov. Photo from the personal archive

According to the General, the Ministry of Defense of Kazakhstan needs to strengthen the air defense forces. To achieve this, Kazakhstan needs to get rid of the outdated model of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, which is still in service with our anti-aircraft units. Spare parts for it are purchased in Russia. Moscow could hypothetically refuse to supply the necessary components. NATO member countries’ systems such as the American “Patriot" or the American-German-Italian MEADS could be the S-300’s replacement. They have demonstrated great efficiency in recent military conflicts.

“I generally believe that the air defense should be separated from the Air Defense Forces and create a separate branch of the armed Forces. It could be strengthened by creating 3-4 fighter aviation regiments. It is also necessary to strengthen its front-line aviation by purchasing modern attack aircraft, interceptor fighters and radar detection aircraft. In addition, it is necessary to improve the automatic command and control system, purchase new engineering equipment and tanks of the latest generation.”

Our correspondent asked the general where the needed money to buy the tanks would come from. Indeed, the cheapest model of Russian production "T-14 Armata" costs about $4 million per unit. American M1 Abrams, German Leopard 2 As7 and the South Korean K2 Black Panthers are even more expensive. The budget of the Ministry of Defense is unlikely to be able to handle such expenses.

The general replied that part of the money returned to the treasury from the assets of fugitive oligarchs could facilitate increasing Kazakhstan’s defense capability. Purchasing weapons also requires a competent and balanced approach.

"When choosing military products, it is necessary to pay attention not only to the tactical and technical characteristics of a particular weapon, but also to the nature of diplomatic relations with the country producing military equipment. We will need to conclude long-term contracts when buying weapons, so we need an integrated approach here.”

The general believes that our military leaders need to improve electronic warfare methods, as all over the world the opposing sides are actively using reconnaissance UAVs, rocket and space complexes and combat aircraft of the latest generation. It is also necessary to improve Kazakhstan’s Navy through the purchase of new jet systems and long-range weapons. It would be worth increasing the production capacity of the Ural plant that builds ships for the coast guard of the Border Service of the National Security Committee.

Ship used by Coast Guard of the Border Service of the National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Photo Vox populi.kz

The general emphasizes that the new weapons should be identical and interchangeable. If the leadership of security agencies will thoughtlessly purchase weapons in different countries, then it will be more difficult to maintain them. And this would be a considerable waste of budget funds for the modernization of existing weapons, maintenance and repair. 

“Once we bought the BRT-4 in Ukraine, the BTR-80 and 82 in Russia, the Cobra armored personnel carrier in Türkiye, then the Americans gave our peacekeeping brigade Hummer army SUVs. The thing is that there were no problems with the maintenance of Russian and Ukrainian armored vehicles, as we have been cooperating for a long time. Our fuel was suitable, spare parts were easily obtained, repairs were often done themselves. But there were problems with the maintenance of American Humvees, as in case of their breakdown we had to get specialists from the USA. This cost the Kazakhstani Ministry of Defense’s budget a pretty penny and caused righteous indignation among retired officers and military experts. Was the sheepskin worth the dressing?!”

says Telegusov.

The purchase and delivery of the “Arlan” armored vehicles caused quite a stir. Open sources indicate that a South African company developed the model of an armored personnel carrier called "Marauder" in 2008. The Azerbaijani plant produces its components, while Kazakhstan has been engaged in its licensed assembly as of 2015. The resulting model of the armored car was proudly dubbed “Arlan". Some security officials criticize its capabilities, others, on the contrary, praise them. Rumor has it that one of the deputy defense ministers, who was recently dismissed, actively pushed for its widespread implementation. We asked General Telegusov what he thinks about Arlan. 

"I believe that Arlan armored vehicles can be used in special forces, for example, in the National Guard of the Ministry of Internal Affairs because they are maneuverable. But they cannot be used in active ground forces because they are not suitable as military equipment. You can't use “Arlans” against enemy tanks! We must oppose either equal or superior forces of the opponents fighting units, that is, tanks against tanks!”

Tanks that are in service with the land forces of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Photo bangkokbook.ru

High corruption risks in tenders for the supply of necessary equipment, weapons and military equipment to the troops are great are no secret. The high-profile corruption cases in law enforcement agencies, which Orda’s editorial board has written about, suffice as evidence. We asked General Telegusov how it is possible to minimize such corruption risks. 

“I am convinced that even at the stage of forming the budget of the Ministry of Defense it is necessary to involve independent experts. They should give a conclusion on what, where and in what volumes should be purchased from weapons based on the ratio of “price and quality". There should not be such a thing that an acting general likes some foreign novelty and he starts lobbying for its purchase. There have already been many cases when the entourage of the old president or the prime Minister acting at that time exerted pressure on the civilian head of the military department. He was literally forced to buy this or that weapon or even fuel from a large oil products manufacturing company. Recall that we had four civilian defense ministers – these were Daniyal Akhmetov, Adilbek Dzhaksybekov, Serik Akhmetov and Imangali Tasmagambetov. They were often pressured from all sides, punching the necessary contracts, with all the ensuing consequences.”

According to the general, independent military experts should also be in Kazakhstan’s Accounts Committee. They should look into what the security forces have bought and how much budget funds they have not utilized. Otherwise, “appetites” will continue to grow. Military leaders will certainly ask for increased funding for their departments under the guise of strengthening the fight against various destructive forces. Independent military experts can also identify serious violations when spending government money. There has already been a precedent.

“In 2008, the chairman of the Accounts Committee Omarkhan Oksikbayev invited me with 9 auditors to check the targeted use of budget funds of the Ministry of Defense. During the inspections of the ground forces, Air Defense Forces and intelligence agencies, we revealed a lot of violations at that time. It turned out that some cunning responsible persons bought either obsolete weapons samples or new ones abroad, but at inflated prices. As a result of their criminal actions, the budget suffered material damage of 50 billion tenge. According to our recommendation, a comprehensive inspection was carried out in the troops, 12 criminal cases were subsequently initiated against officers suspected of embezzlement of entrusted property and other corruption crimes,”

says Telegusov.

The general says that after this, the Accounts Committee no longer practised bringing in civil society to check the targeted use of the military budget.

Meanwhile, almost all of the high-ranking officials evaded criminal responsibility. Their subordinates, however, went to prison. They carried out the officials’ illegal verbal orders and put their signatures on various documents.  

As Telegusov says, some officials enriched themselves at someone else's expense and avoided punishment, while simultaneously managing to build successful careers, receive awards, high positions, military ranks, etc.

"I think that if we resume the practice of involving military experts in the work of the Accounts Committee, we would learn a lot of interesting things from the security forces’ kitchen. In general, I believe that civil monitoring of the activities of state agencies is necessary, at least in the issue of the targeted use of budget funds."

Civilian monitoring of the targeted spending of budgetary funds by law enforcement agencies is necessary. Photo Kapitak.kz

The General also proposes to create a military-technical commission under the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The members of this commission should determine what type of weapons and military equipment should be purchased for the Ministry of Defense, the Border Service of the KNB, the National Guard of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Presidential Guard Regiment, and the Foreign Intelligence Service “Syrbar". Each power structure has its own purpose and its own specifics of service. It is thereby necessary to take into account all the respective nuances.

“It is not enough to buy modern, high-precision and reliable weapons, it is also necessary to prepare the material and technical base for its further maintenance. Our troops need to rebuild their rear bases, as they were intended for servicing old-generation weapons. In addition, it is necessary to simultaneously increase the production capacity of the Kazakhstani military-industrial complex because today's capacity leaves much to be desired. It is possible to establish, for example, joint production of unmanned aerial vehicles, and not to constantly buy Turkish drones, although they are considered among the best in the world. We need to listen to the opinion of our military scientists and introduce their advanced developments and technologies. This is the only way we can keep up with the times and be ready for hour 'X'.”

We also asked general the topical question of whether or not corruption in the military can be eradicated. 

“It is unlikely, because systemic corruption reigns in our country.  It has existed for 30 years because the former leadership of the country elevated it almost to the rank of a national idea, ideology. This problem has remained, and I do not see a powerful opposition to it in the face of civil society. We do not have public monitoring of tenders, targeted spending of budget funds for the purchase of necessary materials and monitoring the activities of various departments. Therefore, it will not be possible to get rid of corruption in an instant.”

Answering our final question, our interlocutor also shared what he thinks about the military mutiny that broke out in Russia on June 23-24, 2023 and whether or not something similar could happen in Kazakhstan. 

“I think that a precedent like what happened a month ago in Russia will not happen in our country. The national security agencies are working to ensure that we do not have our own private military companies. Then there will be no Prigozhin-style mutiny. The authorized bodies should be more vigilant in monitoring the activities of private security companies so that they work strictly according to the letter of the law and do not exceed their powers. In general, I believe that there is hype around the PMCs, as none of them will be able to resist either the security agencies of the state or the garrison defense councils,”

says Telegusov.

Orignal Author: Zhanar Kusanova

DISCLAIMER: This is a translated piece. The text has been modified, the content is the same. Please refer to the original piece in Russian for accuracy. An article with responses to the general's statements will be published in the near future.

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