The most important events of the month. Belarusian authorities have taken a clear position in the Ukrainian crisis, expressing willingness to cooperate with the new Ukrainian government representatives of the Kremlin. They also gave clear and public guarantees of non-participation in the war against Ukraine. Obviously, all the alarmist statements regarding retraction of Belarus in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine are not unfounded. At the same time Belarusian authorities supported preservation of the unitary character of Ukraine. The illustrative example was the visit of Alexander Lukashenko to Alexander Turchinov, who governed the neighboring country in the most difficult time.
The courage official Minsk in the Ukrainian crisis suggests that in the near future Russia will not be able to put pressure on Belarus. It can be connected both with internal and external problems (in Ukraine and in connection with the sanctions of the West). Perhaps the official Minsk has information, which allows to make definite statements without fear of reaction from Moscow. Such information may be obtained from Kiev and touch upon the U.S. plans for the further containment of Russia.
The Belarusian authorities are seeking to expand the space for political maneuvering, using the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine for its personal benefit. In the context of vague position of the West and China such attempt is expedient. Moreover Russia is not ready start an open conflict after creating the EAEC. However, it is important for the Belarusian regime not only to avoid conflicts with Moscow, but also to ensure financial aid flows from there.
The Russian policy towards Ukraine continues to hold in suspense part of the Belarusian society. The movement «For Freedom» addressed the Belarusian army, expressing concern in underdeveloped patriotism. The organization urged the authorities to develop a new concept of national security to meet current threats to statehood of Belarus. A new action plan with understanding of the priority of defending the independent Belarus as Motherland should be adopted. There should also be the desovietization of the army.
The development of situation for the month. On 02.06.2014 Alexander Lukashenko met with Chairman of the State Border Committee (hereinafter SBC) Leonid Maltsev. The Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Mezhuev attended the meeting. It is interesting to note that during the meeting «… a series of instructions was given to optimize the structure, more efficiently use the forces and means available to the SBC.» And the next day on 03/06/2014 a separate air corps of SBC of Belarus was transferred to the state aviation rescue agencies «Aviation» of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
On 10/07/2014 U.S. President Barack Obama extended U.S. sanctions against the Belarusian authorities. The grounds for such decision: the policy of the official Minsk is a threat to the national security of the United States.
The crisis in Ukraine not the best way affected the credibility of the ruling elites of the CIS countries to the Kremlin. In conflict with Kiev, Moscow seeks to retain one of the most important sources of impact on post-Soviet states – the information. The Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (hereinafter CSTO) stated again the importance of a coordinated information policy for the member countries. It is about preservation of a single information space, i.e. to put it simply, preservation of the CSTO countries in the Russian information field. While Moscow continues to attempt to discharge anti-Western sentiment in the capitals of the CSTO, intimidating the local authorities that in respect of the alliance states «attempts are made to use the technology of color revolutions». The objective is to consolidate the post-Soviet states around Moscow in the face of the Western threats. The June statements on adequate response to a possible strengthening of NATO’s military activity, especially if it affects Ukraine, are of the same nature.
Further on 24.07.2014 a round table discussion was held in the CSTO Secretariat on «Information, social networking and security.» The main objective of the event was the development of recommendations to counter the destructive activities in the information sphere. Separate proposals, taking into account the implementation of practices in the post-Soviet space, are openly repressive (the opposition shares information and psychological pressure in the blogosphere and social networks against the leaders of CSTO countries, continuous monitoring of social networks in order to block the dissemination of negative information in the information space of CSTO). It looks like someone is inclined to compensate the lack of its own ideas by restrictions on the dissemination of ideas of others. We’ve been through this in the USSR. The result is known.
The work of CSTO associated with the neutralization of threats emanating from Afghanistan seems much more urgent. Despite the fact that CSTO does not expect large-scale breakthroughs of Islamists from this country after withdrawal of the Western coalition forces, assistance to Tajikistan in strengthening the border with Afghanistan remains on the agenda. The CIS governments will provide such support on the request of the Tajik side and on the basis of its opportunities. The Council will be the coordinating body of the Border Troops Commanders Council (hereinafter BTCC). The states, which provided assistance to the Tajik side, and BTCC will be able to monitor its use. The latter is relevant considering the level of corruption on the post-Soviet area.
In general, it should be noted that the CSTO and CIS are adequately enough responding to the threat of destabilization of Afghanistan. Although traditionally for all post-Soviet associations it not so quickly as we would like to.
On 24.06.2014 Alexander Lukashenko stated the need for creation of a national surface-to-air missile system (hereinafter referred to as SAM), «not worse than the C-300.» The Belarusian military-industrial complex has a certain technological advance in air defense. The problematic issue is lack of our own missile. Due to political constraints, the suppliers of missiles for the future national SAMs may be chosen from only three countries: Ukraine, China and Russia. Belarus has experience of joint Ukrainian MIC project on T-38 «Stiletto» short-range SAM, which uses a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile. However, delivery of medium-range missiles is a political decision. Moreover, it is doubtful that Chinese or Russian producers enthusiastically embraced the appearance of one more competitor. Moreover, a serious one, though not a large one.
Another problematic issue in creation of national SAM is the need to import from the Western countries of components for electronic equipment: the restrictions against Belarus on supply of such products are in force. The solution of this problem is possible by creating a system of smuggling the necessary equipment and components by fake companies according to the Iran’s example.
We may assume several versions, why Alexander Lukashenko demanded to create a national complex not worse than C-300:
— He called the first system that came to memory;
— Russia is clearly delaying delivery of promised in 2011 four battalions of C-300;
— It is likely that the complexes may transmit radio-electronic bookmarks, enabling remote command to bring the weapons out of operation;
— The irritation from the fact that Russia supplies to Belarus armament in the export package, i.e. with limited option.
On the same day it was announced that prospects of production in Belarus of armored fighting vehicle (hereinafter referred to as AFV) and grenade launchers. AFV “Bars” or localized version of the Russian armored fighting vehicle «Tiger» (project «LIS») may serve a good base for the first one. As for the grenade launchers the chances are that it is a universal automatic grenade UAG-40, which is now produced in Ukraine.
It is planned that AFVs will be produced by Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant, and the localization level will be about 85%. However the first 5 AFV versions may be presented in a year.
This raises the question of linking the project and production of national AFVs with the prospects of sale of Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant to Russian investors. The transfer of control o Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant over the enterprise and establishment of a new class of vehicles there is part of a package deal. Moreover, the prospects of the «Tigers» production were discussed in Belarus a few years ago.
It is also planned to finish the state testing of remotely piloted air complex (hereinafter RPAC) with the remotely piloted air system «Grif-1» produced by the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant. Until the end of the year it is expected to be accepted as the Belarusian army armament. And next year delivery of technology for the Ministry of Defense of Belarus may begin. We recall that in October 2012 it became known that the JSC «558th Aircraft Repair Plant» received a reservation order of a few tens of RPAC from the Ministry of Defense of Belarus, with the first six pieces to be transferred to the Department of Defense before the end of 2013.
On 16.06.2014 the State Military-Industrial Committee (hereinafter SMIC) held a meeting on creation and mass production of armaments, military and special equipment, increasing managerial responsibility for fulfillment of the state defense order, as well as on pricing.
The meeting was attended by the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Major General Oleg Belokonev, defense officials, and heads of organizations included in SMIC.
The aim of the event was to develop ways to enhance creation of new products for the Belarusian military, improve its quality and level of interaction between producers and customers.
However, the issue of financing the development of national defense industry was raised again. The problem remains in the pricing mechanism applied to the military products. Based on published information, the decision seems to reduce the producers’ costs, rather than raise prices. The latter is caused by the limited financial resources of the law enforcement agencies.
A scheme was introduced, under which the non-budget funds are spent on development of national security forces, and the government guarantees the purchase of the serial products developed.
Conclusion. Not everyone liked the stance of the Belarusian authorities in the Ukrainian crisis. It is worth mentioning that there was a prank call to Alexander Lukashenko by the famous Russian pranker. The Record of the conversation was made public by a third party. It is highly probable that this was made by the Russian security services. Thus, the Belarusian leader was given to understand that the powers of the Kremlin are sufficiently large. And this should not be forgotten. In addition, the disclosure of the conversation, in which Viktor Yanukovych was promised a possible asylum in Belarus, could complicate relations of Minsk with the new official Kiev authorities. We should also highlight the moment of conversation, when Alexander Lukashenko strongly advised not to use the Russian media as a source of information. What happened is very significant in terms of the real nature of the regime in Moscow and Minsk.
The fact that the opposition comes to understanding the need and value of the army may be welcomed. Not so long ago conscription of the young opposition activists was seen as manifestation of the repressive nature of the regime. It is obvious that in the near future we can expect generally more realistic and common approach by the opposition to all law enforcement agencies. At least due to the fact that in 2015 and 2016 the elections will be held. The Belarusian security forces and the MIC make about half a million of voters (including family members). And politicians should offer a coherent program of the national security sector development.
The statement on 02.06.2014 about «optimization of the structure» of State Border Committee is particularly interesting, as it can mean the beginning of the next reform of the border forces. The transformation may be carried out taking into account the situation in Ukraine, where the guards were unable to protect the border with Russia. One can expect a return to paramilitary nature of the border service of Belarus. And the main task will once again be the protection of borders and territorial integrity of the country, rather than law-enforcement activity. The Security Council may be aimed at determining the main directions of such reform.
The decision to extend U.S. sanctions against the Belarusian authorities was a sign that our country is not significant for Washington as a regional policy actor. And, accordingly, the Americans are not going to meet the expectations of the official Minsk. Or maybe they already do not recognize it as an actor of international relations. The latter is early. Some intensification of (formal and informal) contacts with the EU of fundamental importance has no effect on the international situation of Belarus due to geopolitical insignificance of the Brussels. Obama’s decision is a bad sign for foreign investors.
Talking about the prospects of creation in Belarus of new weapon systems a few points should be highlighted. So, last but not least the Ukrainian crisis affected the decision to create a domestic surface-to-air missile system. Russia unexpectedly for CIS launched aggression against Ukraine. It pushes for steps to reduce technological dependence of Belarus from Russian.
The fact of availability in Belarus of the technological groundwork for creating its own surface-to-air missile system may stimulate Moscow to transfer air defense armament to our country on concessional or non-monetary grounds. Firstly, it will keep Belarus under the Russian military-technical impact. Secondly, such a move could be aimed at “strangling» of a potential competitor in the market of air defense systems. If national army will not buy national surface-to-air missile system, it will dramatically reduce the export prospects of the new armament system.
In general, based on the available technological groundwork and availability of anti-aircraft missiles, it seems that the new national air defense system will be closer to the class «Buk» than C-300.
We should also pay attention to that talking about the production of an armored fighting vehicle A. Lukashenko declared that «mobile technology is more important than tanks, planes, etc.,» «we need to speed up.» It looks like the war in the east of Ukraine makes the Belarusian authorities adjust their priorities in the field of defense, one of which is aviation. It should be noted that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated that light AFVs rather play a supporting role. The need for heavy armored vehicles is still important.
The war in Donbass confirms the importance of a balanced army, but not the mere light infantry units. Even if it is of special purpose.
The delay in completion of remotely piloted air system «Grif» development is not less than 18 months. It seems that this may be due to three reasons:
— Technical difficulties common to the production of new complex products;
— Insufficient funding for the development;
— Bringing changes in the course of the project development aimed at improving the technical product. The changes may be made either on their own initiative or by the customer.
The question of pricing and financing of national military-industrial complex (MIC) was raised for the first time. Since 16.04.2013, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Petr Prokopovich, there was held a round table discussion on the problems of the industry development. The SMIC administration pointed out then the most acute problems, including:
— inadequate state financing of priority developments;
— the state-set prices for military products and services are not attractive.
On 12.06.2013 SMIC passed a board meeting. During this event, the head of department Sergey Hurulyou instructed to develop documents to deal with issues of pricing, specify the responsibility of state customers and producers on proper execution of the state defense order. It proved a certain amount of tension between the MIC and the representative of the Ministry of Defense.
For more than a year these problems failed to be resolved.