Ukrainian forces' ability to successfully destroy Russia's Kinzhal hypersonic missiles delivers a psychological blow and forces Russia to rethink its attack plans, Col. Mart Vendla, deputy commander of the EDF Headquarters, told ERR.
"Being able to down Kinzhal missiles first and foremost serves as proof of the fact that Ukraine can defend itself against hypersonic missiles," Col. Vendla said.
Ukraine said on Tuesday that it managed to shoot down six Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, which Russia has touted as unparalleled. The first Kinzhal downed by a U.S.-made Patriot air defense system was reported on May 6.
"As has been suggested, the main impact on Russia is psychological. The myth of an unstoppable wonder weapon has suffered a serious setback. They must also reevaluate their ability to destroy high-value targets with precision strikes as Ukraine has demonstrated their ability to stop it," the colonel explained.
Vendla also suggested that news of scientists in charge of the Kinzhal's development being repressed in Russia probably reflects a campaign to find scapegoats and comes as a sign of the Russian side's frustration.
But Vendla added that the mere fact Kinzhal missiles have been downed does little to affect Russia's ability to deliver nuclear strikes.
"It's effect in terms of nuclear deterrence is negligible in the big picture as there are many ways of delivering nuclear warheads of which hypersonic missiles are just one."
Indrek Kannik, head of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), was more optimistic when he suggested that Patriot systems' ability to shoot down Kinzhal missiles has delivered a serious blow to Russian nuclear deterrence.
Kannik said the fact impacts Russia's politically significant ability to hit targets in Kyiv. "Their last hope was supposed to rest on the Kinzhal, which Russia touted as a weapon beyond existing air defense systems. But practical experience how suggests otherwise," the ICDS director said.
He added that Patriot systems have now downed both Kinzhal and Iskander missiles, which are Russia's means of delivery for tactical nuclear weapons, and that he doubts Russia can keep developing and radically improve the Kinzhal missile in the near future.
Kannik also emphasized that while Russia has engaged in nuclear saber rattling following its invasion of Ukraine, Western intelligence has seen nothing to suggest relevant steps have been taken.
Col. Vendla also said that the downing of the Kinzhals shows that efforts to develop air defense in Europe are necessary and need to be continued.
"NATO members use the same or similar systems that have recently been proved highly effective against hypersonic missiles. NATO members' ability to defend themselves against such weapons has been confirmed. The need to develop multilayer air defense and its importance have been confirmed," Vendla emphasized, adding that the same goes for Estonia.
Editor: Marcus Turovski