Iraq's defeat in the Persian Gulf war is causing new concern among Soviet generals about how to respond to the advanced weaponry used by the U.S.-led military forces.
"What happened in Kuwait and Iraq necessitates a review of the attitude to army air defense and the country's entire air defense system," said Defense Minister Marshal Dmitri Yazov.The bulk of Iraq's weapons was made by the Soviets, but Yazov said deficiencies in Soviet arms were not to blame for Baghdad's defeat.
"As concerns the quality of Soviet military technology that happened to be in the Iraqi arsenal, it was the least of the causes," the Defense Ministry newspaper Red Star Friday quoted Yazov as saying, without elaborating.
The war showed the Soviet air defense system "has weak spots," said Yazov, and the military will hold a conference to discuss the advanced technologies used by the U.S.-coalition in the war.
He spoke during legislative hearings Thursday, and his remarks were reprinted by Red Star. He did not mention the destruction of Iraq's Soviet-made tanks or other weapons in the six-week war.
On Feb. 12, Red Star carried an article by a former Soviet military adviser to Iraq, Lt. Col. Vladimir V. Golovko, who said the allied forces in the gulf had extensive intelligence on Iraqi armaments.
He also said Iraq was holding some air defenses in reserve and had weaponry that was less up-to-date than U.S. warplanes.
Many of Iraq's most advanced warplanes were flown to neighboring Iran shortly after the war began, when it became clear they were no match for the allied fleet. Iran said it would impound the planes until the war ended.
Despite nearly six years of glasnost under President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Soviet newspapers have published few details concerning military sales to Iraq and other nations.
However, the reformist Moscow News said this week Soviet arms sales had helped keep Baghdad's forces fighting in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.
"And as for Soviet missile launchers and equipment supplied to countries, including those in the Middle East, they can unfortunately be employed for chemical and bacteriological warfare," analysts Andrei Kortunov and Alexei Izyumov wrote in an article on the Soviet military-industrial complex.
There has been little Soviet comment on Iraq's use of Soviet-made Scud missiles and launchers to attack civilian targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The analysts, quoting Western figures, reported the Soviet Union has a 28 percent share of the world arms export trade and that 32 percent of Soviet armaments go to the Third World.
They said the Kremlin does not always collect on the sales, however.
"For example, Algeria, Iraq, Libya and Syria repaid only $23 billion out of more than $45 billion in Soviet credits for military technology by Jan. 1, 1989," the analysts said.
Citing figures from the U.S. government Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Soviet analysts wrote that from 1982 to 1986, the Soviet Union sold arms worth $78.7 billion to developing countries.