In November, Belarusian authorities have continued to discuss the topic of modernization. However, at the moment there are no specific proposals in what it may be made. Moreover, the plans that have already been announced, mainly belong to the category of just small changes. Generally, the longer the authorities discuss the subject, the more clearly it seems that talk of modernization is an attempt to repair relations with the West without fundamental changes in internal policy. Actually it is the repetition of the liberalization of 2008-2010. Then, the authorities have succeeded to “sell” the presidential elections of 2010 to the West without major concessions in internal politics under the promise of real democratization of the political system before the parliamentary elections of 2012. It seems that in the absence of fresh ideas Minsk officials decided to use proven tactics, targeting the elections of 2015. In this regard it is naive to expect that the talk of modernization would entail a real change in the system of public administration, economics, and politics towards the opposition and civil society.
Sudden dismissal of KGB Chairman Vladimir Zaitsev spelled the death of the insinuations about Viktor Lukashenko as a receiver of his father and the real head of the law enforcement agencies. The absurdity of these assumptions had been evident for a long time, but such myths were supported by the media and independent political analysts. This is connected with the fact that the Belarusian authorities are a closed system. And there is no reliable information on the extent of influence of this or that official (group of officials).
One of the most significant events of the month was the adoption of a joint Memorandum of Belarusian political opposition, civil society and Parliament of the People’s Republic of Belarus “On measures to ensure the independence of Belarus”. The support of the document from a wide range of public and political organizations is a testament to the high moral authority of the Parliament of the People’s Republic of Belarus among the opposition. In this case we are talking about the moral weight of Parliament, which does not have the material resources to ensure the support from the Belarusian political and public figures.
The internal situation: the stability of state power.
The most important events of the month. In November the issue of modernization of the state system of Belarus was the main one. However, Belarusian authorities are only making general statements.
It seems that the authorities continue to discus the reasonability of transition to the regime of managed democracy with the use of pro-government “pocket” parties. This may be the reason for the order of President Lukashenka to the new Belarusian Ambassador in France Mr. Latushko to study the possibility of creation of a counterpart of French Socialist Party in Belarus. Earlier, Alexander Lukashenko expressed his support for the Communist Party of Belarus, and continued to block the formation of the party of officials and parts of “state” business on the ground of association “Belaya Rus”. Contrary to expectations and forecasts, which were based on the information behind the scenes, the transformation of “Belaya Rus” into a political party wasn’t announced during the organization meeting on November 3, 2012. It is obvious that this is connected with the absence of agreement of Mr. Lukashenko on the transformation of officials’ association into a political subject.
Not entirely clear is the need to study the experience of the Left Party in France, while Belarusian Communist Party (BCP) already exists. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, in spite of government support, at the moment BCP demonstrates really low capacity. The average age of Belarusian Communists if over 60 years. Supporters of the teachings of Marx and Lenin in our country are naturally dying out.
The development of the situation over the last month. As we predicted earlier, former Chairman of the State Border Committee of Belarus Major General Rachkovsky returned in the state apparatus: President Lukashenko appointed him to the post of first vice-president of the National Olympic Committee. It is likely that this post will be an intermediate before return of the general to law enforcement agencies.
End of the year is traditionally interesting because of Belarusian-Russian discussions concerning fuel and supply of oil to our country in the coming year. Moscow declared its readiness to meet the needs of Belarusian party for oil only in the amount of 18 million tons, while 23 million tons were requested. Such a position can be associated with the factor of personal animosity between the two leaders of formally allied countries. Petrochemicals are an important tool to ensure economic stability in Belarus. If the volume of oil supplies from Russia is reduced, Belarusian authorities will have to address the issues of the privatization of state property more specifically. Because of the foreign policy factor, the privatization is most likely to happen in favour of Russian investors. At this rate the adoption of the Memorandum “On measures to ensure the independence of Belarus” by a number of Belarusian opposition organizations representatives jointly with Parliament of the People’s Republic of Belarus on November 3, 2012. This document may seriously complicate the issue of attracting foreign capital into the country for Belarusian authorities. The memorandum contains a provision which recognizes every fact of sale of state property to be voidable and implies the possibility of its revision.
Despite the vulnerability of their position, the Belarusian authorities continue to show their firm position. Thus, Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich rejected demands of Kremlin (made in media) for compensation of losses of Russian budget caused by the exportation through Belarus solvents and thinners, made from Russian oil. It’s necessary to note, that the requirement is addressed to a wrong party: the profits from the export of petroleum products remained outside of Belarus. There is a reason to believe that the ultimate beneficiaries of the scheme were some Russian officials and only to a lesser extent – Belarusian party.
Against the background of difficult relations with Russia Belarusian authorities are making efforts to reduce dependence on the Kremlin. First of all, in the economic sphere, where vulnerability is greatest. So, in November the efforts to provide financial support to the Belarusian economy by attracting international lending institutions continued. On November 1-2, visit of the regional leaders of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to Belarus took place. The issues of privatization of state property and the bank’s participation in the financing of the municipal sector in Belarus were discussed during the visit. It should be noted that in May 2011, the bank refused from financial cooperation with Belarusian government for political reasons. On November 21, 2012 in Brussels the second round of expert dialogue between Belarus and EU on Economic and Financial Affairs was held. Judging by the silence of Belarusian official propaganda, the event wasn’t crowned with even minimal progress. The efforts to involve direct foreign investment to the country continued, but without any result. It’s interesting to admit, that Belarusian authorities have begun to express dissatisfaction with the fact that China’s investment activities in Belarus is limited to the provision of related loans. At the moment, only two projects are implemented with the use direct investment from China.
It seems, that senior Belarusian officials begin to understand an obvious fact: Belarus is of little interest for serious investors. It’s necessary to note that it is mainly the result of the political background of our country. The authorities have made great efforts to simplify the business and investment activities in Belarus. However, the political factor is determinative. Without normalization of relations with the West the arrival of large investors and spur economic development can’t be expected.
Belarusian government delegation took part in the 18th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 8th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Doha (Qatar). This event deserves attention because, since 2013, Belarus has an opportunity to join a carbon emissions trading. This may mean additional revenue for the country of about EUR 1 billion a year. However, given the fact that the main buyers of the emission quotas are developed democracies of the West, the demand for Belarusian quotas at an affordable price is quite doubtful.
On November 8, 2012, as part of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly, the representative of Belarus accused a number of EU countries, Canada and the United States of violating the human rights. Without going into the details of the reasonableness of Belarusian position, we note that this behavior looks like at least inappropriate, while the official Minsk shows interest in renewing cooperation with Brussels and Washington. This indicates a decline in the quality of governance: the actions of one power institution in the international arena contradict the position of another one.
Conclusions. Despite the monologues of Alexander Lukashenko on the need of political modernization, there is no reason to believe that he has a clear idea of its possible forms. This conclusion can be made from the analysis of that part of the interview with the Belarusian leader by “Reuters”, which focuses on the political situation in the country and the prospects of changes. Alexander Lukashenko confirmed the rejection of the reform of the electoral system in connection with the alleged rejection of the proportional system by the citizens of Belarus and the absence of capable political parties.
Against the background of the latter argument, the transformation of “Belaya Rus” into a political party would be quite logical thing. However, in our opinion, President Lukashenko will allow it only when absolutely necessary. Association “Belaya Rus” is the result of alliance of high-level officials and “state” business. However, neither the first group nor the second can be regarded as absolutely loyal to Belarusian leader. Allowing their political and organizational strengthening means undermining the existing system of one-man rule in Belarus. Furthermore, the experience of Russia shows that the formation of the party in power rather poses new challenges to the regime than solves existing ones. Especially, as the key challenges for the Belarusian government are corruption, deprofessionalization of state apparatus and debatable legitimacy at home and abroad. In an authoritarian political regime it is actually impossible to overcome these challenges. This requires a transition to even limited political competition, electoral democracy and transparency in the activities of government and state-owned companies. However, it is poses a threat of the loss of power to the current regime, that is not able to compete for popular support.
Based on the tasks that should be solved by potential political modernization (increasing the efficiency of public administration while maintaining complete control over the situation in the country) we can assume that the only acceptable mechanism is the transition to a system of pro-government political parties and limited competition between them, while the key role kept personally by President Lukashenko. In this case, he will be able to rely on leftist forces that will balance the top bureaucracy and technocrats in the government. Thus, the re-entering of President Lukashenko the political scene in the role of protector of the people, a fighter against corruption and bureaucrats, is possible.
At the same time the authorities don’t show a willingness to normalize the political situation in the country. It seems that Belarusian authorities still have the illusion, that they will be able to get financial support of the West and international institutions, to ensure the flow of direct investment in Belarus and not to make any counter-concessions in the political sphere.
The internal situation: the opposition and the protest movement.
The most important events of the month. The most significant event of the month was the adoption of the Memorandum of Belarusian political leaders and civil society organizations and Parliament of Belarusian People’s Republic. The purpose of the Memorandum is to develop joint actions of the political opposition and the public in protecting the independence of Belarus. The memorandum also confirms the status of the Parliament of Belarusian People’s Republic as over-political body of Belarusian statehood and gives it the mandate of Belarus state sovereignty depositary. Certainly, the Parliament of Belarusian People’s Republic has no real influence on the situation in the country, but the fact of the broad support of the Memorandum of the political opposition, not depending on the relationship between organizations, confirms the absolute moral authority of the Parliament. In the situation of contested legitimacy of the main authorities in the country, a body with such a high level of trust is an important factor in internal politics.
The adoption of the memorandum will also identify the portion of opponents of the regime, whose ability to negotiate is low. The group of Mr. Sannikov (the civil campaign “European Belarus”) and the Left Party “Fair World” refused to sign the document on farfetched grounds. It should be noted that both organizations are small and can’t boast of prominent political activities in Belarus. In fact, the only real assets of both structures are online information pages: “Charter 97” and “Comrade”. The website of the campaign “European Belarus” was updated in July of this year.
It should be noted that the provision of non-recognition of any of the special rights and privileges of the Russian Federation in Belarus, which has been included in the Memorandum, actually cancels suspicions about the “Tell the truth” campaign’s getting funding from Moscow. And it puts Mr. Kalyakin and Mr. Sannikov, who refused to sign to the document, in a very ambiguous position. The latter is currently trying to create an alternative center of a new political emigration.
The development of the situation over the last month. On November 15, 2012 eight socio-political entities signed an agreement on cooperation in the mobilization campaign in one of the districts of Gomel. The main issue is to contribute to the rise of civic engagement among local residents to address local problems. The agreement itself includes the real plan of campaigners’ activities. The organizer of the initiative is Pyotr Kuznetsov.
At the moment Mr. Kuznetsov can be classified as one of the most successful Belarusian politicians and public managers. Largely thanks to him in Gomel it was possible to overcome the negative effects of internecine conflict among the leaders of the political opposition in Minsk. In general, it should be noted that in the province the activists have the clearest understanding of the need to coordinate the efforts of opponents of the regime. Often, opposition politicians at the national level spend more time abroad than in Belarusian regions, so they have no idea of the conditions in which political activists have to work in the field. As a result, the potential political opposition in the regions depends not so much on the systematic work of the central leaders of the opposition, but rather on the ability of local leaders.
The debates on a potential alliance of Belarusian opposition and nomination of a single candidate for president in 2015 still continue. In general, none of the major political parties or movements officially rejected the idea of a single candidate. And an important role here plays the donor community, which, according to our information, hasn’t taken a special position on the format of opposition organizations in the next presidential election. Election campaigns in 2001 and 2006 demonstrated a high level of irrational spending of financial resources up to their direct appropriation. Thus, the success of the “single candidate” depends, among other factors, on the availability of financial resources for the initiative as well as on the fact, whether the alternative opposition candidates’ possibility to obtain financial support of their participation in the upcoming elections.
Currently, the main stumbling block is the procedure of nominating a single candidate and election platform (opposition’s agenda). Regarding the first point, there’s no clear mechanism yet. The role of platform can be played by modified “National Program” of Movement “For Freedom”. The document can be used after the inclusion of several populist provisions.
Furthermore, it’s necessary to form a joint inter-party mechanism for working directly with voters during the next 2-3 years. However, Belarusian politicians and public figures traditionally show low ability to negotiate. Even if an agreement were reached, often there were subjective difficulties interrupting their implementation.
In November, the BCD announced plans to revive the campaign “Parliament of People’s deputies”. The project brings together candidates and activists, and aims to increase citizens’ influence on the activities of local authorities. In fact, the campaign acts competing against the “Civil contract deputies” of “Tell the Truth!”
Last month, the political opposition drew attention to the topic of equality of women and the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities. It should be noted that these questions do not match the interests of Belarusian society. However, they coincide with the priorities of donors. In fact, we are talking about trying to get additional funding for the opposition on the pretext of resolving these problems. Working with ethnic minorities is a losing trend: many public figures (representing the authority and the opposition) are carefully hiding their non-Belarusian origin. Belarus has patriarchal society with strong xenophobic sentiments. The latter opens some possibilities to gain more support. Currently, however, only the campaign “Tell the truth!” has good experience with using xenophobia factor in the fight against the construction of Belarusian-Chinese industrial park. Anti-Chinese campaign was one of the most successful and resonant opposition campaigns of the year. Despite the fact that the project of industrial park started, the authorities were clearly defeated in the information field, and in the battle for public opinion.
Conclusions. Position of Mr. Sannikov and Mr. Kalyakin kills already illusive hopes to build a broad coalition of opposition groups to prepare for the presidential elections in 2015, which should be a preceded by the forthcoming elections to local councils.
Mr. Sannikov’s attempt to unite the part of the new political emigrants, regardless of the success of his plans, won’t have significant effect on the situation in Belarus in the absence of a functioning organization in the country. In fact, Mr. Sannikov creates a club of dissidents living abroad. However, in contrast to the Soviet-era dissident movement, there is no indication that among them there will be Belarusians having real moral and social authority. Besides that, the political position of Mr. Sannikov and his plans for the future are not clear.
As a result, we can expect a new series of mutual accusations in collaboration with Belarusian security services by opposition leaders.
Objectively, the most vulnerable are the leaders of opposition organizations in the field. On the one hand, because of the status they act openly as public figures. On the other one, they have limited access to media and financial resources, that are mainly concentrated in Minsk. Investments in the regional structures of the opposition are not appropriate. The only way to overcome this is to create a scheme of direct contact of local opposition politicians with donors.
The problem is that the majority of donors of Belarusian opposition have little understanding of the situation in the regions of Belarus. The leaders of the opposition organizations don’t tend to provide the possibilities for regional politicians to get to a new level, including by limiting their access to finance.
The most important events of the month. In November the government continued the policy of the external debt refinancing by increasing domestic debt, in the framework of which currency bonds at the amount of USD 110 million were floated. By the end of the month foreign debt decreased with an overall slight increase in domestic debt. Authorities are apparently planning the further increase of government bond market. In order to increase its attractiveness the ban on secondary circulation of such securities was lifted.
According to the results of November, a decline in the ruble money supply continues because of the tight monetary policy of the National Bank. In this regard, some representatives of the economic elites have attempted to lobby the forced reduction of interest rates on ruble market, as the current situation hinders investment programs and leads to leaching of working capital in the real economy. As a result, the National Bank managed to defend its stabilization policies aimed at reducing the devaluation and inflation expectations, as evidenced by the public statements of President Lukashenko about him supporting the current policy of the National Bank.
Against the background of the obvious failure of government privatization plans, the discussions of possible major privatization transactions in the coming year started. So, the IPO of “BelAZ” in 2013 and other major Belarusian companies in 2014-15 was announced. The negotiations with several potential investors on selling minority stake in JSC “Belaruskali” and on the possible privatization of “Mogivhimvolokno” were also announced. Such activity can only be a political move ahead of the December decision of the Council of the EurAsEC AF¸ but if the Government has serious plans to enter the IPO market, this fact can be assessed solely positive. The implementation of this measure will refinance part of the external debt without losing control over strategic companies (as the operation itself involves placing not control packets of shares) and to improve the quality of state management through using international methods.
The development of the situation over the last month. At the end of October there was a slight reduction in foreign exchange reserves of the National Bank, which was primarily due to payments under the tinning debt. While in November there was some improvement of conditions in terms of the development in the reserves, as the foreign exchange market once again faced the deficit of rubles and the National Bank was a net buyer of currency (according to the announced data in the amount of USD 150 million). Thus, no significant fluctuations in reserves should be expected.
In late November, Finance Ministry made a presentation of Belarusian Eurobonds in Hong Kong and Singapore. Estimated value of placing was previously claimed to be about USD 500-600 million with the desired coupon rate of about 7.5%. However, the coupons on previous placements (from 8.25% to 8.75%) and return on current Belarusian Eurobonds quotes (at 8.5-9.1%) is not consistent with these plans, and suggest that most likely coupon rate for new placements of Belarus will be at 8.75-9.25%. Practically, this means refinancing debt through more expensive resources, which will exacerbate the debt problem in the future.
November is the last month of the reference before the decision of the EurAsEC AF on allocation of the next tranche of the credit line for Belarus. At the moment it is clear that Belarus hasn’t fulfilled much of benchmarks of crisis matrix (which is actually recognized by Belarusian authorities, and experts of the Fund), including obligations on privatization of state property to USD 2,5 billion by the end of 2012, the limit increase in lending to the economy, the minimum level of compensation cost of housing and communal services, etc. Thus, we can agree with the Chairman of the National Bank Mrs. Ermakova, that the allocation of the next tranche is completely a political decision.
At the end of October in Belarus still the proficit execution of the budgets of all levels could be observed. However, a further deceleration of GDP growth (in January-October 2012 it was only 2.2%) and the decrease of this index below the calculated level obviously create pressure on the execution of the budget deficit for the full year. Perhaps this is why in November the Government adopted a rather arbitrary decisions to impose fee for exports of potash, which would accumulate additional budget revenues about USD 100 million. This decision will obviously have a negative influence in the light of plans to enter the IPO market, because it creates the risk of serious fluctuations of state companies’ profits because of administrative decisions of the authorities.
Conclusions. Thus, according to the results of November, we can conclude that the financial situation in the country remains relatively stable. Without the development of any force majeure (such as a sharp drop in sales in the major international markets and an unfriendly policy on the part of Russia) the authorities have good possibilities to service the foreign debt without major problems, while maintaining deterrence policies. However, the events of the autumn again showed how Belarus is dependent on the situation just on a few of the world commodity markets: petrochemical and potash. Fall in sales of fertilizers with actual termination of re-export of Russian naphtha led to a sharp deterioration in external trade (negative balance of foreign trade in September 2012 amounted to USD 358 million, and in October — more than USD 470 million). The attempts of the authorities to diversify the economy through modernization programs only destabilize the situation (which is clearly seen in the wood processing industry), as further worsen the balance of trade with no expected impact. In this regard, the Government’s ambitious program of industrial modernization without major structural reforms, including the reform of the management of state property, may be considered as one of the gravest threats to the country’s economy in the coming years.
National Security and Defence.
The most important events of the month. The key event in November was the dismissal of the head of the State Security Committee (KGB) Vadim Zaitsev and appointment of Mr. Vakulchik to this post. We’ve already dedicated two articles to this topic: “On the dismissal of Zaitsev” and “What will the new chairman bring to KGB”.
At the same time the trend of reformatting the Collective Security Treaty (hereinafter CSTO) started on Russia’s initiative. Under the pretext of optimizing, Russia proposes arms reduction of the CSTO countries (for example, the Air Force in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), the functions of which will be handed over to Russia. It is assumed, that CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force, Collective Rapid Deployment Force and the peacekeeping force will be subject to a single command. At the same time it is proposed to provide the post of CSTO Joint Staff Chief to Russian representatives. At the moment the chiefs of staff of all CSTO members-states take turns on the position. The armed forces of the CSTO members-states are to develop according to a single plan (developed in Moscow), and will receive a single management system, training and logistical support. The Organization will also get its own combat aircraft.
The development of the situation over the last month. During November, the ways to reform the interior ministry were discussed: President Lukashenka also expressed his opinion. However, nothing concrete was proposed on this issue. We discussed the situation in detail in the article “On the reform of the Ministry of Interior”. It should be noted that the main curator of police reform will be the Security Council.
On November 13, 2012 Alexander Lukashenko met with Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. Zhadobin. During the conversation with the Minister the Belarusian leader expressed doubts about the need to maintain weapons that “can not be used in modern war”. The question is surprising: in whole the arming of Belarusian Army isn’t worse then the arsenals of the neighboring countries, except Poland. However, the number of modern weapons is really small. In the situation of the reluctance of Belarusian leadership to fund the defense up to the mark, the maintenance and upgrading of existing weapons systems is the only way to maintain national defense. Statement of Mr. Lukashenka can be seen as an indirect sign of the failure of negotiations with Russia on the transfer of 18 heavy fighters Su-30, previously serving in India, to Belarus.
From 4th to 22nd of November multinational military exercise “Angry Falcon-2012”, in which the issues of international assistance to crisis management, the effects of accidents and incidents involving weapons of mass destruction, and response to terrorist acts were worked out, were held in Qatar. About 70 people from Belarus were there. Three important points should be admitted here:
— Political one, aimed at strengthening relations with Qatar, the closest U.S. ally in the region, having not very friendly relations with Iran and Russia;
— Image one, aimed at demonstrating the high possibilities of Belarus in the defense area;
— Commercial one: Belarusian contingent used special equipment and weapons of domestic production very actively (and with high productivity). In this case the possibilities of equipment for the radiation, chemical and biological defense, intelligence systems, communication and control, as well as anti-tank missile complexes “Caracal” and “Hornet” were demonstrated.
On November 11, 2012 in the evening, in front of the KGB of the Vitebsk region an IED exploded. Until now, the guilty person is not established. It’s necessary to note, that this is the third fact of usage (attempt to use) of an IED in the settlements of Belarus this year. Previously, there was an explosion in Gomel on April 19, 2012. Another bombing attempt took place in Zhlobin on May 24, 2012. In this situation there is no reason to talk about a terrorist act. Judging by the primitive explosive device used, it is just an act of hooliganism.
On November 26, 2012 a joint Belarusian-Chinese anti-terrorist exercise “Swift Eagle-2012”, which finished on 07.12.2012, began in China. The event is dedicated to working out issues of joint anti-terrorism operations in the border region. It should be noted that, during the training session several stages were scheduled. Among other things, Belarusian troops learned to use Chinese small arms. A strategy of usage of joint military forces of the two countries was trained, as well as the organization of alternate control of units trained by Belarusian and Chinese commanders.
Conclusions. Russia’s activity on making amorphous structure CSTO more structured should be linked to the two groups of factors: external and internal ones. The external factors include the prospect of further destabilization of the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ISAF troops and its impact on the internal and external security of Russia. The most likely scenario for the development of the situation is the return of Taliban to Kabul. Afghanistan risks finally to become a source of instability and religious extremism. This poses a threat not only to the secular regimes in Central Asia, but also to the Islamic regions of Russia. In the latter there are more and more signs of the situation going out of control. In addition, the Russian government hasn’t fully achieved desired results from the ongoing military reform. Staff shortage in the Russian Armed Forces is almost 30%. In this situation, the Kremlin’s initiative to reform the CSTO should be regarded as a plan for the transformation of the armed forces of CSTO member-states into a de facto branch of the Russian army. At the same time Russia is ready to take major financial and logistical burden of reforming the structure of the CSTO. However, mainly they are just paying lip service to this. It is not clear how such a large-scale reform are planned to be implemented according to the scheduled costs of Russia’s international obligations in the sphere of military-technical cooperation of less than USD 600 million over three years.
Thus offering CSTO reform, Moscow has several objectives:
— Creating de facto branches of the Russian army with the help of taxpayers of the CSTO member-states (the funds, announced by Russia are absolutely insufficient), thus closing the gap in completing its own forces;
— In case of destabilization in Central Asia using the tried and tested American (used in Vietnam) formula “Vietnamese killing Vietnamese”. In this case, Belarusian soldiers can also play the role of “Vietnamese”;
— Keeping the dependence of the CSTO on Russian arms and equipment. It can be expected that in the future the CSTO countries will be invited to provide Russia the control of even their own military-industrial complexes.
It is doubtful that these plans will be implemented. It is necessary to give an example of Moscow’s inability to control the Kyrgyz defense industry enterprises. There is still no chairman to rule the united air defense system of Russia and Belarus. And Kazakhstan is actively developing its own military production and diversifies its import weapons. Moscow hasn’t made any propositions to Belarus and Kazakhstan, that would interest them. Speaking about plans to provide a large military-technical support to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, it should be noted that Moscow will have to do it anyway, because these countries are de facto buffer between Afghanistan and Russia. The collapse of the secular regimes in them will mean spread of instability on the very territory of Russia as well.
The only rational proposal among the reform measures of the CSTO is the creation a joint air group. Not of combat aircraft, but of military transport aircraft as well as radar detection and tracking systems. The need in such equipment for the majority of the CSTO may become relevant only in the event of a military threat. Meanwhile, the purchase and maintenance of it is difficult for the states due to limited financial resources.
Another IED explosion in Vitebsk contradicts official propaganda clichés about Belarus as a country with a high level of security. And while nothing can be said about some ideological motivation of the crime, disturbing is the fact, that at the moment the explosion in Gomel is still remains unsolved. There is also a reason to doubt the success of the investigation of Vitebsk explosion. Of course, the disclosure of intentional crimes involves many difficulties. However, it is essential to admit, that the explosion in Gomel took place in a store equipped with a video surveillance system. In Vitebsk IED exploded near the office of security service. Impunity is the main danger of such crimes.
“Swift Eagle” is becoming a traditional and scheduled event for China and Belarus. It’s necessary to admit, that earlier Belarus hold annual bilateral military exercises only with Russia. It is quite possible that the acquaintance of Belarusian military with Chinese weapons can precede the delivery of these weapons to Belarus. In this context, the statement of President Lukashenko (made during a meeting with Defence Minister Yuri Zhadobin) about irrationality regarding the acquisition of second-hand weapons, becomes clear. Taking into consideration the size of Belarusian military budget the only source of new weapons for the national army can be only China. China offers its partners not only very attractive prices for decent number of weapons systems, but also financial support for their purchase (soft loans, grants, free small trial shipments of weapons).