On March 12, 2014, at a meeting of the Security Council on the preliminary results of the first stage of the test for the readiness of the Republic of Belarus Armed Forces Alexander Lukashenko demanded the transfer of additional Russian fighters to Belarus due to the buildup of NATO’s military presence on the borders of our country.
In addition, he requested to conduct the exercises of the Armed Forces of Belarus in response to the maneuvers in Poland at the same time.
The supposed background of the events. It should be noted that in the Russian- Ukrainian conflict Minsk essentially took the side of Kiev, leaving the Kremlin alone. Taking into consideration the opportunities of official Minsk, it can be noted that some articles in the state media, which can be appreciated as hard against Russia, were a little sensational.
However, given the critical dependence on Russia’s financial and economic support, the Belarusian authorities can’t afford spoiling relations with Russia. At this rate, tough statements of the official Minsk shouldn’t be considered really seriously. The main target of them is to bridge the gap with Russia on the issue of Ukrainian crisis as well as to demonstrate that although Minsk doesn’t support the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the possible annexation of the territory of a neighboring country, Belarus remains a reliable (and most importantly vigilant) ally of Russia, which there are no grounds to doubt.
Moreover, we can speak about a visible attempt to use the strengthening of anti-Western sentiment among Russian top bureaucracy in order to return to the practice of “getting money in exchange for allied statements”. The fact, that the Belarusian regime during the second half of the 90s repeatedly “greeted virtual NATO tanks”, getting real benefits for that, has already been forgotten. We can expect that Alexander Lukashenka will try to get the maximum possible financial result of the situation of strategic loneliness, which Mr. Putin got into because of his Crimean adventure.
The earlier convergence of Russia and the West deprived Minsk of his favorite “object for sale”: the image of the last bastion of Russia in the western direction. Now the situation is favorable for further attempts to speculate on the phobias of the Russian political elite. However, it is really important not to exaggerate too much here, because otherwise relations of the official Minsk with the EU and the U.S., which has just got the prospect of establishing, are under threat.
The possible consequences. The measures to strengthen the defense of our country were announced. In the framework of checking a communication plan within a united regional air defense system of Belarus and Russia the redeployment of 12 Russian aircraft on our territory was announced.
According to the commander of the Air Force and Air Defense of Belarus Aleh Dvihaliou, the joint combat duty will be conducted from both airbases and operational airfields that were tested in the first stage of the test of combat readiness of the Armed Forces of Belarus. So Babruisk airfield, where the next day (March 13, 2014) six Su-27 fighters and three military transport aircraft with the staff arrived, was chosen. At the same time the further number of Russian aircraft in Belarus was connected with the actions of NATO by the Belarusian authorities.
The fundamental question is how long additional Russian jets will stay on our territory. And whether this means that the formation of the airbase has entered a phase of practical implementation. Perhaps it will be based on the airfield in Babruisk, but not in Lida or Baranavichy, as it was anticipated previously.
What for? It seems that the official Minsk fears of its own courage on the issue of Russian-Ukrainian conflict. And in the end the Belarusian authorities decided to change with Moscow something unimportant to something important. In this case, official Minsk decided to demonstrate its loyalty on defense issues in order to neutralize the effect from refusing to follow Russian policy.
It necessary to note, that despite the tough statements, the national defense is not a priority for the Belarusian authorities. Belarusian regime does not consider national armed forces able to defend the country in case of foreign aggression and relies on other geopolitical players: Russia – for struggling against NATO, and the whole world for struggling against Russia. The internal threats are neutralized mainly with the efforts of special services and to a lesser extent the Interior Ministry.
We should also note that the Russian Defense Ministry paper “Red Star” just reposted the materials from BelTA on the event, and the website of the agency didn’t reflect the event at all. Apparently, its importance for Russia is quite different than for Belarus.