National security and defence of Belarus (June 2022)

Советская атомная авиабомба PH-28

The most important events of the month. On June 25, 2022, a regular meeting between Aliaksandr Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin took place. Lukashenka once again accused Poland and Lithuania of pursuing a confrontational policy towards the official Minsk, equating Vilnius’s refusal to transit certain goods to Kaliningrad with a declaration of war.

He also accused NATO of training the use of nuclear weapons in Belarus and asked Putin to resolve the issue of the possibility of “… a mirror response to these things” and modify Belarusian combat aircraft to use Russian nuclear weapons. According to Lukashenka, he has already asked Putin about that. At the same time, the issue of moving nuclear weapons to Belarus is not yet on the agenda.

Putin, in turn, suggested that Russian enterprises “re-equip” the Su-25 attack aircraft of the Belarusian Air Force for use as carriers of nuclear weapons. He also said that over the next few months, Russia will transfer operational-tactical missile systems “Iskander-M” to Belarus.

We have devoted a special article to these statements.

Later, Lukashenka, meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, announced the need for a mirror response to the practice of NATO joint nuclear missions (nuclear sharing).

One has only to add that the transfer (but not sale) to Belarus of the “Iskander” in the same version in which they are supplied to the Russian army with a high degree of probability means that these will be complexes from the stocks of the Russian army, which are probably already on the territory of Belarus and were used during the aggression against Ukraine. But probably with the export modification of missiles for them, i.e. with a range of up to 300 km.

The developments within the month. On June 3, 2022, Lukashenka gave explanations regarding his ideas on the formation of new military structures and the militarization of existing law enforcement agencies:

— the people’s militia was essentially conceived by him as a rural militia with not very clear tasks (either a reserve of territorial troops, or a base for a partisan movement). We devoted a special article to this topic:

— it is planned to create an armed structure of about 5 thousand people from the members of the Belarusian Society of Hunters and Fishermen for use in wartime;

— a group of 2 thousand employees has been formed within the Ministry of Emergency Situations, who can be used “… for military purposes on a par with the army”.

On June 13, 2022, Lukashenka received with a report on improving the work and development of the State Security Committee of Belarus the head of Lukashenka’s administration, the State Secretary of the Security Council and the head of the State Security Committee (SSC). Details of this meeting are not reported for obvious reasons. But Lukashenka made it clear that it is also about expanding the functions of the special services.

On June 23, 2022, a working meeting between the defence ministers of Belarus and Russia was held. In addition to the traditional assurances of friendship and strategic partnership, as well as the readiness to form a single defence space within the so-called “union state” the parties discussed the strengthening of a unified regional air defence system and a regional grouping of troops, to which Russia is ready to provide support.

Viktor Khrenin thanked Sergei Shoigu for the decisions made in the framework of military-technical cooperation.

From June24, 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs conducted exercises on the protection and defence of facilities on communications, including railway and road bridges.

On the morning of June 25, 2022, Ukraine survived one of the largest missile attacks by Russia in the entire period of the war. At the same time, most of the missiles (44 units), according to the Ukrainian sources, were launched from the territory of Belarus.

On June 27, 2022, joint special tactical exercises of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus were held. 215 participants and 67 units of various equipment were involved. Reportedly, the methods of conducting emergency rescue operations in the liquidation of emergency situations that may arise during the commission of acts of terrorism, accidents and the consequences of natural disasters were trained:

— detention by the Minsk OMON (riot police) of the sabotage group and extinguishing the fire by the employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the transformer substation, which was damaged by saboteurs;

— “anti-terrorist operation” of the SOBR (rapid reaction forces) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, followed by rescue operations in destroyed buildings and structures;

— actions during the movement of radioactive substances;

— UAV attack on the oil depot;

— aviation terrorist incident;

— seizure of a bus by criminals.

The month of June turned out to be very rich in army combat training events:

— An exercise with a battalion of the 103rd airborne brigade to conduct counter-sabotage actions (organization of checkpoints, ambushes, guarding facilities, patrolling roads) was held.

— A reinforced battalion of the 38th Airborne Assault Brigade completed the crossing of the Prypiać River in an unprepared area.

— A reinforced battalion of the 103rd airborne brigade trained crossing the Prypiać River in an unprepared area in cooperation with aviation, which covered the crossing area with the involvement of an aircraft controller.

— A reinforced battalion of the 103rd Airborne Brigade, with the support of mortars and helicopters, trained a crossing over the Sož River in the situation of confrontation with the sabotage forces of a mock enemy, the paratroopers were supported by a border service boat with a reconnaissance platoon to protect the entrance and exit of equipment on both banks.

— On June 7, 2022, classes on the combat readiness of the army began after the next call for military service. They include training “… with all categories of military personnel, subdivisions, military units, formations, military command and control bodies on the organized implementation of measures for the transfer from peacetime to wartime”. The events are planned.

— In the Homiel region, from June 22, a mobilization exercise with military commissariats  was held. The exercise is held annually, each time in a new area. The issues of re-staffing of military commissariats were trained by calling up military reserves, alerting and sending those liable for military service to points of departure to military units. Those called up for training camps participated in the exercise as part of the military commissariats.

— A command-staff exercise was held with the structures of the rear support of the army.

On June 28-30, a command-staff exercise was held with the 19th mechanized brigade. In the course of which the issues of command and control of units in a defensive operation were practiced, taking into account the experience of modern armed conflicts.

Conclusions. Speaking about Lukashenka’s plans to create additional military structures (independent or within existing law enforcement agencies), it is worth noting the following:

— So far, we can talk about the implementation of the idea only in relation to the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

— The problem in the formation of other military structures will be the recruitment of a sufficient number of people who are loyal to the regime.

— It is highly likely that when creating a people’s militia and shooters-hunters structures, they will have to abandon the principle of their voluntariness in order to recruit the required number of people.

— In addition, it will inevitably be necessary to drastically lower the health requirements of potential recruits for these formations.

— It is also unlikely that the people’s militia will be formed exactly as a rural one because of the insufficient demographic potential of the Belarusian villages. It can be expected that we will talk about including residents of small towns in the potential “recruiting field”.

Speaking about the transformation of the functions and tasks of the KGB, it is worth noting that Lukashenka, in the light of the current Russian-Ukrainian war, is concerned about the stability of the functioning of the military communications system. And, probably, not only the military, but also the government one. It is worth recalling that in August 2019 he announced the hypothetical possibility of separating the Main Directorate of Government Communications and Information Technologies of the SSC into an independent agency in the future.

Khrenin’s gratitude to Shoigu for military-technical support is obviously connected with the transfer (prospective transfer) of weapons to Minsk from the stocks of the Russian army. Most likely we are talking about the aforementioned “Iskanders”. It is interesting to note that the official Minsk and its propaganda did not focus on this gratitude.

Although the details of the exercises of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the security of objects on communications are not reported, probably their meaning was to train counteraction to professional saboteurs, and not sabotage actions by amateurs. Thus there was no connection with the activities of the “rail partisans”, who technically do not have the ability to disable serious facilities.

The unusually high “density” of army exercises in June can be explained by two factors:

— there is a “catch-up” for the training of troops, as a significant part of the events planned for March-May was postponed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine;

— there is a political factor: demonstrating the military capabilities of the regime is used as an element of pressure against the West and Ukraine.

We can state the failure of official Minsk’s tactics to intimidate the West with military capabilities in order to persuade them to make political compromises. And the June wave of confrontational anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian rhetoric is a reaction to this failure.

At the same time, Moscow continues to strive for the maximum devaluation of the significance of the official Minsk as an independent player in the field of regional politics and security. The use by Russia of the military infrastructure and the territory of Belarus for waging war with Ukraine nullifies the hypothetical prospects for an effective dialogue with the West.