Russia says it has completed the handover of air defense systems to Kazakhstan, part of the project of creating a joint air defense system across the former Soviet Union. But Kazakhstan's Ministry of Defense is complaining that the systems aren't actually yet delivered and are not in working condition.
The gift of five Russian S-300 air defense systems to Kazakhstan was announced two years ago (and then was said to be on slate for completion by the end of 2014). This was to be the first step of the Central Asian portion of a joint air defense system Russia is trying to create with its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. (Armenia and Belarus are in their own discussions with Russia to build up the system in their regions.)
At December's meeting of the CSTO in Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that the S-300 transfer to Kazakhstan was complete.
"We have completed the project to transfer without charge the S-300 air defense systems to Kazakhstan, taking into consideration the fact that this is a weighty, if not main, contribution to the integrated air defense system, which, one may say, has become a reality, and now its hardware component has been built up to the expected strength," Shoigu said.
But that's not quite the situation, senior Kazakhstani defense officials say. "The S-300 complexes won't enter service tomorrow. Two complexes are underdoing technical service in Kazakhstan, and three will undergo technical service in Russia," the head of Kazakhstan's air defense forces, General-Major Nurlan Ormanbetov, told the Kazakh service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The report noted that the website of Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry has not mentioned anything about the S-300s. "The defense ministry has a reason to stay quiet. Since August they've been trumpeting this free-of-charge handover of five S-300 air defense systems from Russia," an anonymous MoD source told RFE/RL. "In September just two complexes were delivered and those, as they say, were secondhand, which will be refurbished in Kazakhstan. And now they agreed that Russia will refurbish the other three complexes and only then give them to Kazakhstan."
Moscow exaggerating the import of its defense cooperation with allies is nothing new; lately it has been repeatedly claiming (with no evidence) that its CSTO allies fully back Russia in its spat with Turkey. And in December a retired senior Russian military officer said that the joint air defense system with Armenia, which has been under discussion for years, was in response to the conflict with Turkey.