According to the results of the year, the failure of the plans of the authorities about GDP growth can be stated. And there is no reason to believe that in 2013 the situation will improve. Against this background, the authorities represented by Vice-Premier Anatoly Tozik actually announced their readiness to review the basis of social policy.
The top officials don’t leave attempts to obtain political status, this time with the use of amendments to the Electoral Code. In fact, the officials and the “court” business, united in “White Rus”, are trying to increase their influence in such a way.
Belarusian authorities are trying to restore dialogue with the West and the international financial institutions. However, with the lack of willingness to fulfill the conditions, necessary for the resume of cooperation, the efforts of the official Minsk are fruitless. It seems that Alexander Lukashenko sets the Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makey unrealistic tasks: to provide GDP growth and to restore relations with the West without any changes in the present Belarusian political order. However, the time for fulfilling both of the tasks has been wasted. Regime is getting weaker and its effectiveness is declining. The problem is that the opposition is also not getting stronger and is still not united. Instead of defining an adequate agenda and solving real issues in Belarus in order to care about society, part of the opposition is engaged in the struggle with fictional and imaginary problems.
In December, the trend of degradation of the defence potential of Belarus continued, which was evidenced by the withdrawal of Su-27 aircraft from service. And it’s not clear, how the Belarusian authorities are going to stop this process and whether they are going to do it at all. Current supply and announced plans for arms purchases are insufficient. In addition, even Russia, which is the closest ally, prefers to supply to Belarus export configuration of weapons.
The latest summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter referred to as CSTO) has not demonstrated any clear results. It has become apparent that Moscow is anxiously watching the development of the situation in Afghanistan. However, Russia hasn’t announced any specific plans about it. It can be noted, that our eastern neighbour is trying to create a buffer zone from the Central Asian states, controlled by Russia. At the moment it is the most rational solution. However, it is quite questionable, whether this buffer zone will be reliable in view of the situation in the region and the sustainability of existing political regimes there. In addition, it is unclear how far the local political elites are willing to follow Russian interests. As we mentioned in the Analytical report for December 2011, the community of the regimes having no common ideological values and questionable legitimacy can not be sustainable in the long term. Many years of authoritarianism teaches leaders to coordinate their actions only to personal interests, which interrupts the coordination and development of common solutions in the framework of the CIS integration associations.
The internal situation: the stability of state power.
The most important events of the month. The most important event in December was the announcement by Vice-Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik, who is of charge of social services. According to officials, the level of social protection in Belarus is sufficient and shouldn’t grow in the future. The main objective of the Government is the rationalization of existing social cost and increase of efficiency. In general, the position of Mr. Tozik is reasonable. However, it should be noted that the main slogan of Lukashenko government is to build a “state for people” (that is, a system that provides its citizens with a comprehensive benefits package). Although this is mainly just a slogan, a significant work is done in the social sphere. If the initiative of Vice-Premier is carried out, it will become the de facto dissolution of the social contract between the regime and the people.
In the situation of continuous decline in the quality of public administration, the degradation of human resources authorities in all areas, the probability of even an authoritarian political modernization is extremely small. Without reforming the current system of ownership and management of the economy, in the situation of officials being not controlled by the society and growing corruption, the collapse of the existing social project could turn Belarus into a Latin-American state of 70-80-ies of the 20th century. Development in such a scenario would lead to an increase in social stratification and transformation of the existing system of government into a completely repressive regime. In extreme form, this can lead to the establishment of system of “internal occupation” in the country, when the good position of senior and middle bureaucracy will be ensured through exploitation of the population. And the law enforcement agencies, responsible for the internal security of the regime, will have also privileged status.
The development of the situation over the last month. In December, there was another aggravation of relations between Mikhail Myasnikovich and Alexander Lukashenka. If the Prime Minister supports realistic economic policy, Alexander Lukashenko continues to set ambitious and almost impossible tasks. In addition, in 2012 a radical improvement in the economy didn’t happen. In fact, the whole year the government tried to keep the situation under control, avoiding systemic reforms (or being unable to conduct them).
The Prime Minister’s resignation may be preceded by a crisis or worsening of the economic, financial and social situation in the country. Or the high-profile corruption case. Moreover, in December Mr. Lukashenko continued to recover his reputation of fighter against corruption and defender of the people from the tyranny of officials appointed by him. On December 28, 2012 he accused the administration of Minsk of the bureaucracy, injustice and corruption (which is completely true). Then once again he demanded to overcome these effects, threatening otherwise to take “tough steps”. In this situation, Alexander Lukashenko is a “prisoner” of its own system of government. When the level of corruption is increasing, the fact of concentration of all power in his hands casts a shadow on him, regardless of personal involvement in corruption. Without reforming public administration principles, introducing a transparent and clear competition for positions in power, the fight against corruption in Belarus will useless.
On December 3, 2012 the information about possible innovations in the national election legislation, initiated by the CEC, was announced. The most important of them is to give the right to nominate candidates for the House of Representatives to the public-political organization, which consists of at least 1,000 people. In fact, it is about giving non-political associations the rights of political parties. The need for such a decision, in terms of maintaining the existing system of one-man rule of President Lukashenko, is not clear. Public organizations should not be involved in the struggle for power. There are political parties to do this. Most large officially registered organizations are pro-government and are in one or another way financed from the state budget. And creating the formal competition in the electoral districts, advancing several candidates, has never been a problem for the authorities: the nomination of pro-government candidates is purely formal issue.
If the proposed amendments to the Electoral Code are adopted, it can pose a threat to the registered opposition public organizations (independent labour unions, Movement “For Freedom” and others). Currently Belarusian associations can’t be eliminated according to the “financing political activities from abroad”: formally they are not engaged in such activities. However, giving them the features of political organization and will cause the change of legal framework for their activities. The control of foreign financial aid can be restricted. At the same time the aid itself can be interpreted broadly (not just the transfer of funds, but also, for example, providing temporary use of premises, training activities, etc.). The only unit to obviously benefit from the proposed amendments to the legislation is the union “White Rus”. In this way it gets a possibility to evade the de facto ban of Alexander Lukashenko on its transformation into a political party.
On December 12, 2012, during a meeting with Iranian Ambassador, Alexander Lukashenko expressed the interest of Belarus to develop cooperation with this country, and the similarity of positions on international issues. Unfortunately, the Belarusian authorities are inconsistent and lead haphazard foreign policy. And this practically kills the possibility of building a strategic partnership with Tehran. Participation in anti-Iranian military exercises (“Angry Falcon” in Qatar) doesn’t help to establish high-level relationship with Iran. Neither does a pro-Israel position on a number of sensitive issues. Official Minsk so far can not determine the foreign policy priorities in the Third World. This disorientation leads to an extremely low efficiency of interaction with this group of countries in all fields. The level of staff of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus doesn’t contribute to this as well (watch).
On December 19, 2012 Alexander Lukashenko took part in the summit of the CSTO. Visit of Belarusian leader was accompanied by information “leaks”. Thus, a state news agency on behalf of an unnamed representative of the Belarusian delegation stated that Belarus pragmatic goals of integration are, among the other, reaching the equal price of gas and saving them in oil, ensuring equal access to the services of natural monopolies in the electricity, transportation, gas, rail transport as the complete exclusion of seizures in bilateral trade in goods and services. It has been noted that the main problem of integration projects (Custom Union) is that each of the parties has its own view and understanding of the boundaries and objectives of the integration process without full disclosure of their positions to partners. Simply speaking there is no mutual trust between post-Soviet bloc members. Alexander Lukashenko used the CSTO summit to discuss with Vladimir Putin critical issues to maintain economic stability in Belarus — oil supply in 2013. Judging by the tone of Belarusian officials it can be states that the meeting of the two leaders hasn’t led to the desired results.
Belarusian-Russian oil bargaining continued throughout the month and oil deliveries to Belarus for the first quarter of 2013 on the basis of the needs, stated by Minsk, were agreed on at the end of December. However, the absence of the annual balance does not allow the Belarusian authorities to plan revenue.
Some activity in the Belarusian-European relations could be admitted in December. The month began with information about the termination of the military cooperation between our country and Germany on the initiative of the latter. This step is more of a symbolic nature. The main issue is whether the Belarusian side has the possibility to buy engines used for the production of unmanned aerial vehicles. The contacts of Belarusian Foreign Ministry with the representatives of the EU were unusually active:
— December 7, 2012: meeting of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makey with the Ambassador of Finland;
— On the same day Mr. Makey met the Ambassador of Lithuania;
— December 14, 2012: consultations with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France were held;
— December 17, 2012: there was a telephone conversation between Mr. Makey and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic;
— On the same day Mr. Makey met a representative of the European External Action Service G. Wiegand;
— December 21, 2012: Mr. Makey met the Ambassador of Estonia;
— On the same day the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus met the Ambassador of the United Kingdom.
Speaking about the subject of the discussions, Belarusian Foreign Ministry just stated that the relations between Belarus and the EU and their prospects for the normalization and development were discussed. But an idea of the subject is given by the report of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs that during a phone conversation between Mr. Mackey and Mr. Schwarzenberg the poor state of human rights in Belarus and the fate of political prisoners was discussed. It is unlikely that in meetings with other European diplomats Belarusian party managed to avoid unpleasant for her subjects. On December 19, 2012 a fairly strong statement by U.S. Ambassador on the events of December 19, 2010 and the next steps the Belarusian authorities was issued. Thus, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the regime can resolve the challenges it faces with the help of lobbyists in the EU and without major changes in the country. Certain passiveness of the West on “Belarusian issue” is related to the peripheral status of our country and the aggravation of the situation in other regions of the world. However, the status of the global centers of influence claimed by the EU and the U.S., is forcing them to monitor and respond to the state of affairs with their fundamental values (human rights, political freedoms, etc.) in Belarus. Therefore, the collusion of Belarusian authorities with the West is now impossible.
In this situation, the only that Belarusian authorities can do is an appeal to obligations, previously accepted by the West in accordance to Belarus. On December 19, 2012 the U.S. and British Ambassadors were called to Belarusian Foreign Ministry. During the meeting it was noted that the United Kingdom and the United States by introducing unilateral restrictive measures against Belarus violate their international obligations (Budapest Memorandum of Great Britain and the United States in connection with the voluntary refusal of Belarus from a nuclear power). The position of Belarusian Foreign Ministry looks at least naive: in international politics opportunities, but not intentions and commitments, are important. Belarusian authorities have not found anything better than to threaten to “attract international attention to the fact of violation of Budapest Memorandum by the United Kingdom and the United States”. It’s difficult to imagine more vivid demonstration of helplessness.
Conclusions. Staying of Mr. Myasnikovich in position of Prime-Minister depends on a complex of factors. And the economy is not the main one. Contacts of Mr. Myasnikovich in Moscow can not cause irritation and suspicion on the part of Alexander Lukashenko. Taking into consideration the fact, that Mr. Myasnikovich’s appointment was done not without the pressure from the outside of Belarus. The internal situation can also have some influence on his future: the level of support of Lukashenka stays at a low level, and he may need to pass the responsibility for the situation in the country on someone.
Also, the presence of people, who are willing and ready to lead the government in the event of resignation Mr. Myasnikovich, in top bureaucracy is also an important factor. The staff reserve of President Lukashenko is small. Among the number of public officials, who can lead the Council of Ministers, it is necessary to mention Mr. Kobyakov, Mr. Tozik and Mr. Semashko. The influence of the Minister of Finance Mr. Kharkovets is increasing. The personality of Alexander Kalinin, who made a “career leap” from a director of a public services enterprises in Baranovichi in 2009 to Vice Prime Minister in 2010, is also quite interesting. However, he oversees secondary issues and does not have enough experience to lead the government, despite the obvious sympathy for him of President Lukashenka (nothing else can explain such a rapid career rise).
The election law changes, proposed by CEC, are a challenge to the ruling groups: the officials are seeking for political influence. The fact that this is done openly and clearly contrary to the position of President Lukashenko may indicate a weakening of his control in the sphere or the weakening of the positions of Belarusian leader in the foreseeable future.
The internal situation: the opposition and the protest movement.
The most important events of the month. In general, in December there weren’t any significant developments in the opposition media. The debates about the format in the presidential elections of 2015 continued. According to their preliminary results it can be said that there is no real desire to unite among the opposition. The very discussion of the possibility of nominating a single candidate is currently the main subject and has to attract additional media attention to the opposition leaders. In addition, the important role is played by the donors, who haven’t yet decided on a campaign strategy in 2015.
It should be noted that the problem of need for a single candidate is largely artificial. And it is actually a cover of a weak work of opposition directly with the public, the absence of a comprehensive system of recruitment and promotion. Without the influx of new activists and increased brand awareness of political opposition the presence or absence of a single candidate plays little role. The elections of 2010 showed immaturity of opposition organizations. Then only three of all the alternative candidates were able to collect 100 000 signatures. The rest were registered by the authorities just because of political expedience.
The founding congress of Centre Party of Mr. Levkovich, announced before, didn’t happen on December 23, 2012. What initially seemed to be an adventure ended like an anecdote. Mr. Levkovich, who proclaimed himself a “mammoth of Belarusian politics”, just repeated the logical mammoths’ fate: extinction (in this case — a political one).
The development of the situation over the last month. In the absence of consolidation on matters of principle opposition organizations, often conflicting, are showing rare unanimity on issues of little interest in Belarusian society. On December 4, 2012 a Memorandum on the implementation of the National Gender platform was signed. This fact is a simulation of activity and shows little connection of the number of politicians with the agenda. The background of this is their critical dependence on external sources of financing. It’s necessary to note, that the issues of sexual equality, completely not interesting for the whole Belarusian society, are crucial for a number of European political elites (especially Scandinavian). And, therefore, for the donor agencies. Isolation from the Belarusian reality, the inability (or unwillingness) to provide objective information on the situation in the country and adjust the position of the donors, often force them to operate in artificially imposed limits, which determines the weakness of most opposition politicians.
BCD has attempted to obtain official status for their regional organizations, registering them as public non-political organizations. The probability that the authorities allow this is small. In this case, the legal side of the issue does not matter. The decision on registration of BCD bodies is purely political. Following the campaign of the boycotting elections to the House of Representatives, it is doubtful that the authorities would allow BCD to legitimize its activities in any form.
Some of the really important events in December include the initiative of democratic public in Gomel to create a mechanism for effective cooperation between non-governmental organizations of the region. On December 18, 2012 more than a dozen regional organizations agreed on the formation of a common information platform for a more active promotion of relevant information about their own activities. The local news feeds, which will act as a channel for providing the information about the organizations involved in the agreement, were found as well.
It’s also necessary to admit, that one of the major problems of civil society in Belarus, along with the small number of activists, is their alienation from each other, unwillingness to work together, or at least provide information support to each other. Gomel initiative is almost the only example where coordination of NGOs is conducted systematically over a long period of time and in stages.
In other regions there are sporadic attempts to unite, as a rule, before the election campaigns. In between elections sometimes joint events of several opposition structures in the region are held. However, as our review of organizational websites shows, often the fact of participation in the event of other opposition organization is not mentioned and hidden in the words like “… and other local pro-democracy activists” or “… and the public”.
On December 28, 2012 the second constituent assembly on creation of the NGO “European perspective” was held. Earlier in November, the proponents have tried to get official status, but then the judicial authorities denied the registration. It is unlikely that the authorities have changed their mind this time. Moreover, “European perspective” is one really functioning organizations of civil society, its activities focus on the development of self-organization and activity of the local communities in defending local interests. Organization has achieved significant success and has been able to nominate two members during the latest election of the House of Representatives. One of them was well known and popular in his district. However, the authorities decided to prevent their participation in the election campaign. Given the background, it is unlikely that this time the authorities will officially register their active and effective opponent.
Conclusions. There is no reason to believe that the Belarusian opposition will come to a broad consensus on a single candidate in the presidential elections of 2015. In this situation the position of external donors is really crucial.
Against this background, the fact of consolidation of civil society organizations in Gomel region is important. Limitations in available resources encourage local leaders to come together and search for acceptable cooperation schemes. Another interesting fact is that regional organizations are not just trying to survive, but also to show a certain ambition, speaking of the need to form a regional agenda. A vulnerable point here is the fact that the consolidation has become possible mainly due to the efforts of a single leader – Mr. Kuznetsov.
In general, the Belarusian non-governmental organizations still can’t get rid of personalism, depending on the availability of the existence of a strong leader. The exception is, perhaps, only the BPF and the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. The change of leader did not lead to the cessation of their activities.
Thus, along with the low discipline, as we said earlier, we should note the lack of ideology among Belarusian democratic activists: they are united by a certain leader rather than by a particular ideological platform. The paradox of the situation is that the corresponding indoctrination is an absolute must for both the authorities (in relation to the range and population), and the opposition (in relation to activists and supporters). And both parties mostly failed ideological work. An exception may be only the BPF, where activists are united by more or less coherent set of ideas, not by the person of the party leader.
The most important events of the month. After the first in the history of Belarus repayment of sovereign bonds placed abroad, quotes of Belarusian eurobonds showed significant growth, and by the end of the year set the absolute maximum on world markets (reached 103.5-104% of face value). As a result, at the first auction in 2013 the yield on seven-year bonds Belarus-2018 fell below 8%, and in five year Belarus-2015 — to the level of 7%. Thus, in the beginning of the year there is extremely favourable situation for new offerings of sovereign bonds in Asian and European markets, announced by the Government. At the moment, the cost of debt is almost equal to their value on the domestic market of Belarus, despite the fact that the former is much more in-depth on the potential volume.
The development of the situation over the last month. In December, the authorities expanded the practice of placing foreign currency debt securities in the domestic market. Along with another bond issue for the legal entities in the amount of USD 60 million (in total already at USD 278 million since October 2012) the first placement for individuals (for a total of USD 50 million under the rate of 7% per annum) were implemented.
Despite this at the end of December exchange reserves showed some decline. This is primarily due to significant payments on public debt: the next repayment of IMF loan USD 84,3 million was carried out, and the debut issue of government bonds placed in Russia, in the amount of RUR 7 billion was paid. Also fall in gold prices had negative impact on the situation in reserves.
The public debt of the Republic of Belarus on December 1, 2012 amounted to Br 122.8 trillion, having increased by 5.5% compared with the beginning of the year. Domestic public debt has increased by Br 1,3 trillion from the beginning of 2012 (including in November this year at 320 billion Br), and on December 1, 2012 amounted to Br 19,1 trillion with the established limit of Br 34 trillion. External public debt amounted to USD 12,1 billion on December 1, 2012 with the prescribed limit of USD 14,3 billion, having increased to USD 289,9 million from the beginning of the year (the increase in November was USD 14,3 million).
The decision by the Council of the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund for Belarus next loan tranche in the amount of USD 440 million was surprisingly easy. In spite of significant violations by the Belarusian Government of agreed plan of anti-crisis measures, including the privatization program, the Council has not publicly made any complaints and the tranche is to be transferred in January 2013.
The development of relations with the IMF is less productive, though it has been expected. According to the results of post-program monitoring, the chief of the IMF mission stated that to maintain macroeconomic stability the authorities should tighten monetary policy and abandon plans for the accelerated growth of GDP in 2013. And negotiations on the new program can be started only after the agreement on the highest levels of administration economic policy measures aimed at the implementation of deep structural reforms. Actual response to this was a statement by President Lukashenko that the privatization process as a basis for structural reform is not in the national interest of the country and Belarus refuses to implement program with such conditions. He sees the main source of growth of economic efficiency in upgrading (actually retooling) of existing industrial state-owned enterprises.
In December, the “swing” in the money market once again repeated. If at the beginning of the month higher rates on deposit and credit markets have led to an increase in the ruble money supply and the emergence of excess bank liquidity (for example, on December 11, excess liquidity in the banking system amounted to Br 1,4 trillion.), by the end of the following month seasonal increase in devaluation expectations and a sharp increase in demand for the currency caused the growth in deficit liquidity (to above Br 4 trillion). Rates in the interbank market rose again to a level close to 40% per annum, and the National Bank was forced to start gently liquidity support operations in an attempt to stabilize the market at 35% (the rate of lending collateral loans). Another rise of regular rates on the ruble market extends the period of expensive loans to the real economy, and in fact is the result of turmoil in 2011. However, the self-liquidating power of such oscillations, as well as implementing the inflation plans for 2012 (it can be about 22% for the whole year) can be considered to be the real plans of the authorities to reduce the refinancing rate by the end of 2013 to the level of 20-22% per annum.
According to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Finance of Belarus, the execution of the national budget in 2012, in spite of the plan, had the deficit. True size of the deficit was insignificant and amounted to Br 0.5 trillion, or about 0.1% of GDP. Moreover, the total budget of the central government (state budget and budget SPF) on the preliminary data generated a surplus of Br 0.2 trillion. A slight deviation from the plans for budget execution is connected with the continued decline in GDP growth in Belarus: so, in January-November 2012, it was only 2%, after 2.2% in January-October 2012.
Conclusions. At the end of December the preserving financial stability in the country and even some improvement in short-term prospects can be stated. So, once again, it was obvious that at this stage of development of joint integration projects, Russia is not ready to put pressure on Belarus on privatization programs and agrees to provide support to Belarusian economy. The conditions for the placement of sovereign bonds in international markets have improved. But in terms of the medium-term development, the situation is clearly deteriorating. In the stabilization policy of the Government, Belarusian economy shows slow growth, which in the beginning of 2013 can turn into a recession. The government has not developed a real strategy to provide conditions for the acceleration of economic growth in the coming years (the modernization of the industry may even have the opposite effect). In this case, the future of the Government against the background of failure of the annual target of GDP growth is unclear. If the resignation of the Government takes place, the new one may be requested to “correct the mistakes” of the predecessors and to provide GDP growth at 8.5% in 2013. It is possible to provide such GDP growth only with the use of share acceleration of domestic demand.
At the same time, the economic authorities have continued to flirt with the IMF, stating the importance and priority of the cooperation with the Fund, as well as significantly expanding the role of the Development Bank in the economy as the main source of credit of state programs, which since 2008 has been one of the main recommendations of the IMF. Thus, it is obvious that the authorities really put up with the inability to get a new loan from the IMF in the short term, but are trying to improve relations with the Fund in the event of urgent needs in the medium term.
National Security and Defence.
The most important events of the month. The most important (and expected) event of the month was the summit of the CSTO, which took place on December 19, 2012. The Heads of the Member States on the Collective Security Council made a decision on the development of the military component of up to 2020, established a system of collective response to emergencies and measures to counter threats from Afghanistan, and appointed chief of staff of CSTO permanently. Totally 18 documents were signed, but only a joint statement with extremely blurred content was published.
In general, summit presented no surprises. As it was previously known, Moscow tried to rally its very unreliable allies, and to control, to the possible extent, their armed forces. However, the prospects for the implementation of these plans are vague. It’s interesting, that a lot of attention at the meeting was devoted to the situation in Afghanistan. CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha presented a forecast of the climate in this country until 2015. The most profound conclusion of the forecast, according to the press release, was that the situation in Afghanistan … can’t be clearly predicted.
We can now confidently predict the sharp deterioration of the situation after the withdrawal of ISAF troops. Analysis of the situation shows that the main threats, coming from Afghanistan, are exported religious extremism, drug trafficking and the spread of dangerous infectious diseases (such as polio).
The development of the situation over the last month. On December 1, 2012 heavy Su-27 fighters were decommissioned from the national Air Force. Aircraft reached the end of service life. An attempt to replace them with newer Su-30, previously servicing with the Indian Air Force, has failed. Currently, the only unit of fighter aircraft in Belarusian Air Force is a fighter MiG-29. In the situation of small defence budget the suppliers of new aircraft for Belarus can only be Russia (MiG-35) and China (FC-1 fighters and Chengdu J-10).
In continuation of the aviation theme it should be noted, that on December 18, 2012, in the framework of the Agreement between Russia and Belarus on the development of military-technical cooperation from December 12, 2009 in Minsk, a contract between JSC “Corporation “Irkut” and the Ministry of Defence of Belarus for delivery of four combat training aircraft Yak-130 in 2015 was signed. Total cost of the aircraft, based on the catalog price, shouldn’t exceed USD 70 million. The aircraft is designed for basic and advanced training of pilots of tactical aircraft. With minimal modifications it is able to serve as a low-altitude fighter-bomber and attack aircraft. Overall, this is a good event, but the minimum size of the supply suggests that the aircraft had been received from Russia in the framework of military-technical assistance. At the moment Belarusian Air Force has 10 training aircraft L-39 “Albatros”. Obviously, only 4 aircraft will not be able to cover the entire need for machines of this class. Naturally, if before 2015 Belarusian Air Force will maintain at least its current number.
In December, the media reported that a Russian Air Force base can be placed in Belarus. The reason is supposedly some kind of intensification of NATO in the Baltic countries. There is no reason to consider this information seriously for several reasons. Firstly, rumours of creating a Russian Air Force base in the country have been appearing from time to time there over the last 15 years. Secondly, there is no strategic need for the Russian side in the presence of a military base in Belarus in peacetime. And in wartime, the Russian Air Force will be able to use Belarusian infrastructure based on existing international agreements. Thirdly, the relocation of Russian aircraft to Belarus could exacerbate the situation in the region, which is not in the interests of Russia. Fourthly, there is no reason to believe that the Russian government is inclined to confrontation with the West. The statements and actions of the Kremlin, which might be construed as anti-Western, are directed solely to the internal information field and can not cause damage to the interests of the U.S. or the EU. Moreover, the statements, made during the CSTO summit in Moscow on December 19, 2012 can be interpreted more as a suggestion of cooperation of the CSTO to NATO.
The prospects for reform of the Interior Ministry are still unclear. The Minister Igor Shunevich just uses some cosmetic measures. For example, on December 4, 2012 the establishment, under the reform of the agency, of the Headquarters of the ideology, was announced. The main task of the new body would be the indoctrination of the MIA officers. It’s doubtful that the idea will be a success, only because of the high turnover of staff in most units and the constant reduction of professional and moral level of the new officers. In addition, in the absence of a coherent state ideology it is not entirely clear why this body is necessary at all. It is safe to say that the main challenge of the Headquarters of the ideology will be suppression of dissent among the officers. It is necessary to note that on December 19, 2012, President Lukashenko, introducing the new head of the staff of the KGB Vladimir Vakulchik, devoted a significant portion of his speech to the need to provide the loyalty of special services staff to the regime (“the State”).
On December 4-7, 2012 Minsk hosted the third meeting of the Belarusian-Kazakh Sub-Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation. Belarusian party seeks to expand its presence in the Kazakhstan market of armaments and defence services, especially related to the modernization of Soviet military equipment. Kazakhstan is primarily interested in a joint production with the transfer of technology for the production of weapons and military equipment.
On December 6, 2012 Alexander Lukashenko approved a draft agreement between Belarus and China “On the status of military units of the People’s Republic, temporarily staying in the Republic of Belarus, and military formations of the Republic of Belarus, temporarily staying in the Republic of China, for joint exercises”. Defence Minister Yuri Zhadobin is authorized to negotiate and sign an agreement. The agreement is a civilized form of the organization of bilateral cooperation in the defence field. It will consolidate the legal status of military personnel and assets allocated to participate in joint exercises. For example, the issue of ownership of the weapons that are in foreign troops will be solved, since by law the sole owner of Belarusian military weapons can be only the Republic of Belarus.
On December 17, 2012 a meeting of scientific and technical advice on the implementation of “soldier combat system” was held. The technical design of the complex, some concerns and areas for further work were discussed. It is planned that this year it will be field-tested in the conditions close to the fighting during the Belarusian-Russian exercises “West-2013” and the exercises of the CSTO “Interaction-2013”, which will be held in Belarus.
It should be noted that along with the program to develop a multi-national unmanned aircraft system, the project “soldier combat system” has received increased attention. One of the conditions of the project is the fact that every part of it is the finished product and can be used independently. Given the traditional competitiveness of Belarusian products in the terms of cost, the project may have significant prospects in the markets of the Third World. The potential customers may be Venezuela, Ecuador, Sudan, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan.
On December 19, 2012 at the CSTO summit, Alexander Lukashenko stated the necessity of cooperation with the international organizations, including NATO. He also noted that tension is increasing and “the degradation of conventional arms control in Europe plays significant role, which will lead to a new armament race”.
This is a strange statement. Establishing dialogue involves the interest of all participants. Apparently, NATO is realistic while accessing the potential of the CSTO and its possibilities. And NATO can consider the CSTO neither rival nor an effective ally at least because of different geographical priorities. NATO is increasingly focusing on the Middle East and the Sahel, to a lesser extent Asia-Pacific region. The influence of both the CSTO and each participant in these regions is extremely small. Moreover, the CSTO is ignored not only by NATO but also by the closest partner of the official Minsk — Beijing, which prefers to communicate through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and on a bilateral basis.
Among other measures, during the summit the intention of the CSTO to create its own aircraft was announced. Obviously, the most likely area of its operation may be the region of the Pamir and Tien Shan. Based on the announced threats (fighting extremism and drug trafficking) the best aircraft units for the CSTO Air Force seem to be medium and tactical transport aircraft and multi-purpose Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters, which should play the main role. It is advisable to simplify the logistics using just a single modification of machines Mi-8AMTSh.
At the end of the month 120th air defence missile brigade of the Air Force and Air Defence of Belarus got the second battery of Russian anti-aircraft missile system (hereinafter referred to as SAM) of short range “Tor-M2E” of four military vehicles at the wheel MZKT-6922. The first battery of the system was delivered a year ago. In this case, the armoury of SAMs is still a question, in particular the introduction of the latest Russian algorithms electronic warfare: letter “E” stands for “export” and implies a lower level features of the complex. Directly to the needs of the Russian air defence the system “Tor-M2U” will be supplied.
Conclusions. On the basis of publicly available information on the nature of the agreements reached at the summit of CSTO on December 19, 2012 it should be noted that any action will not be successful if the security situation in the two “weak links” of the Organization — Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan does not improve. In terms of total corruption and clan structure the suppression of drug trafficking in these countries is problematic. Obviously, to do this it would be necessary to introduce elements of external control and management of the local anti-drug services, subordinate directly to the CSTO (and financed by it). However, this will not be welcomed by the Tajik and Kyrgyz elite, for the part of which the drug trade is a significant source of income. Regarding the spread of extremism it is essential to admit the new tactics of Islamists. Having significant financial resources, they simply buy religious positions, getting an opportunity to carry out their work under the guise of legal activity.
Returning to the statement of President Lukashenka regarding the armament race in Europe, it is not entirely clear what he meant. EU countries are rapidly degrading in terms of military. The only exceptions are Poland, Romania and Estonia. Since 1975, only one NATO country increased its number of national armed forces — Luxembourg (from 550 to 900 people). Libyan campaign has demonstrated a complete inability of European members of NATO to conduct even a local conflict without U.S. support. The share of the European members of the Alliance in the total military expenditures declined from 50% to 30%. Rather, the regional threat is not an imaginary armament race in Europe, rather than the rapid degradation of the military potential of the EU, which will soon be barely sufficient to protect the borders, without even thinking of the military intervention abroad. Another proof of this is the failure to address the issue in northern Mali. Europe does not want to fight, which is normal, and can’t fight. But the latter is dangerous. Balance is really broken. In general, it should be noted that the potential for both military and political blocs (NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization) and their internal state cast doubt on the readiness, and most importantly — the ability to mutual opposition and confrontation.
Passivity of Interior Minister Major General Igor Shunevich in the reform may be explained by the unwillingness to take responsibility for the reform and its consequences. And it is a testament to the lack of a clear and unambiguous position of President Lukashenko on the reform. In this regard, there is a need to create some simulations of essential steps. In our opinion, that is exactly how should be considered the creation of the Headquarters of ideology of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Creation of ideological agency is politically correct: the ideological work is personal weaknesses of President Lukashenko. The consequences of the creation of the new agency will be safe for the Minister, but won’t have any real effect.
Despite claims of allied relations, Russia is not inclined to assist Belarus in rearmament. Russia supplies arms in small numbers and, just like in the situation with SAM “Tor”, provides models with limited functionality. This is a consequence of the lack of trust between the formally allied states. Belarus is interested in breaking the monopoly of Russia in the sphere of military-technical cooperation. Given the hostile relations with the West, China is the only real alternative. Note that the start of China’s arms deliveries to Belarus does not guarantee the growth in potential of the defence: the size of the national defence budget does not allow to buy large quantities and a wide range of weapons, even with the favourable conditions provided by Beijing.