On March 23, 2014 Alexander Lukashenka made several statements regarding the current situation in the field of defence.
Belarusian leader clarified the supply of four battalions of S -300, promised to Belarus in April 2011. Allegedly, “… Russia said that it could not provide S-300 for free”. This is quite selective politics of Kremlin: Russia delivered larger quantity of S-300 free to Kazakhstan. Moreover, it was initially planned to provide additional weapons to Belarus for free. Minsk had only to pay for transportation, repair and upgrade of weapons.
Generally the Belarusian — Russian relations in the field of defence has been paid much attention to. It was stated that there is no need for the placement of 24 Russian aircraft, as it had been previously said by Russian Air Force Commander Viktor Bondarev. Although President Lukashenka personally is not against that, and even would be happy if it happens. In normal words this means that Minsk is not enthusiastic about the prospects for increasing Russian military presence in the country, but if Moscow would pressure them, they wouldn’t be able to do anything except showing that they are glad.
In this case, although the Russian fighters, which are already on duty in Belarus, are at the disposal of Belarusian commanders, Minsk would like to get Russian aircraft without Russian pilots. This is a vivid example of trust between the “allies”.
Answering the question of how long the Russian aircraft will be on the Belarusian territory, Alexander Lukashenka said that at least half of them may remain for a period before and after the World Hockey Championship. And the period of Russian fighters’ remaining in Belarus will depend on Belarus, i.e. personally on President Lukashenka. It seems that President Putin’s opinion on this subject is also not to be ignored: the Belarusian leader admitted the fact that the Russian military presence in Belarus is determined by his requests, but not by pressure of Moscow. It is possible to understand that just vice versa.
Alexander Lukashenka once again confirmed that the main targets in the military development of the country are special operations forces and air defence. This position is a long-term one and is connected with the inability to develop and maintain balanced Armed Forces, including capacity building of mechanized units. However, if the weakening of general purpose forces continues, it is not clear who will protect this air defence against terrestrial strikes of enemy forces in circumstances where Belarusian air force degrade and their number is really small. Belarusian authorities persistently ignore the experience of Poland, which at one time decided to “specialize” for special operations forces. As a result the Poles managed to create almost the ideal special operation forces. But then it turned out that they are not able to protect Poland. And now the neighboring state is actively expanding capabilities of ground forces.
The plans on the modernization of 10 Belarusian Su-27 and MiG-29 by the end of this year were also announced. According to Alexander Lukashenka, Belarusian authorities hope to continue to exploit the Soviet aviation heritage up to the 2025, maintaining combat readiness of the machines and equipment, which remained after the collapse of the USSR and that by sheer luck wasn’t sold.
Judging by the statements of President Lukashenka he have only slight understanding of the number of arms, at least the in the air forces: “ … today in Belarus, in my opinion, there are 160 airplanes and helicopters”, “… probably 60 are involved in the service”.
At the same time, according to Alexander Lukashenka, even the number of those involved ones may be too big. However, then it is not clear why he asks for more aircraft from Russia. According to Alexander Lukashenka, over a year ago he asked Russia to send to Belarus 10 aircraft. Although he had previously requested “… two dozen”, but without the Russian crews.
It is interesting to note that a number of other figures, stated by Alexander Lukashenka, are a little bit far from being real. For example, he said after the breakdown of the USSR the number of Armed Forces of Belarus were about 150,000 – 200,000 people. Meanwhile, the official and well-known figures are different: in 1992 Belarus got the disposal of almost quarter of a million troops, not including civilian personnel (more than 30 thousand people). Further, Alexander Lukashenka said that the number of Army “… today is less than 70,000, and will be 55,000.” Official data is the following: the Republic of Belarus Armed Forces today have the regular number of 59,500 people, including more than 46,000 soldiers and about 13,000 civilian personnel. Indeed, 59,000 if less than 70,000. It is not quite clear what Alexander Lukashenka meant when spoke on the prospects of Army reduction up to 55 thousand: what proportion of civilian personnel is in this number.
The fact, that the Commander has slight understanding of the number of troops and weapons he commands, is a clear indicator of the importance of defence issues for Belarusian authorities.
To summarize the statements of President Lukashenka, it is necessary to note that it seems that the Belarusian authorities still poorly understood the lessons of Ukraine: good hunter doesn’t tease a bear, but keeps the gun loaded. And the reduction of the Forces should be stopped: in Kiev they see the result of such reductions now. And they also carried out the reductions of the Army for optimization, professionalization and increase of the technological level.