Situation in the field of national security and defence of Belarus (August 2018)

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The most important events of the month. The most important event of the month was the change of the top of the Belarusian Government. As a result the Chairman of the State Committee for Trade and Industry, Aleh Dvihalyou lost his position. On August 8, 2018 Aliaksandr Lukashenka visited several enterprises, including one relating to the military-industrial complex (“Tekhnika Svyazi”) during his trip to Orsha district. Although the development of the enterprise was positive, the Belarusian president remained dissatisfied with the general state of affairs.

The State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Stanislau Zas was accused of professional incompetence. One of the most trusted associates of the Belarusian ruler, Colonel-General Viktar Sheiman was criticised as well.

Raman Halouchanka, who has experience both in the military-industrial complex and in the diplomatic service, has been appointed the new head of the State Military-Industrial Committee of Belarus (SMIC). He outlined his main tasks:

— creation of high-tech weapons and military equipment;

— extension of the nomenclature of the equipment produced in Belarus (including small arms and means of destruction);

— expansion of defence exports (source).

The developments within the month. On August 1, 2018 the meeting of the SMIC board took place. It was announced that the departmental organizations in the first half of the year received net profit of USD 78.6 million, which is 107.9% compared to the same period last year. The profitability of sales through the SMIC system was 22.5%.

The work on increasing the volume of exports and entering new markets remains one of the main tasks for all enterprises in 2018, and primarily for special exporters. It is controlled both by the country’s top bureaucracy and the SMIC management. It is interesting to note the wording of the results of the SMIC’s foreign economic activity: in general, certain indicators on increasing exports have been reached and to some extent the tasks and problems have been effectively tackled. But the words hide serious difficulties in achieving the necessary goals.

On August 9, 2018 the official sources reported on the visit to Ukraine of the Deputy Prosecutor General of Belarus Aliaksei Stuk. In Kyiv, the Belarusian side raised the issue of criminal prosecution of Belarusian citizen Yury Palityka, whom the Ukrainian competent authorities accused of espionage. Mr. Stuk officially stated that Yury Palityka is not connected with the Belarusian special services, and his criminal prosecution in Ukraine is groundless. The Deputy Prosecutor General of Belarus expressed concern over the observance of Yuty Palityka’s rights and the impartiality of the preliminary investigation and trial.

On August 14-16, a joint computer command and staff exercise of the joint air defence system of the CIS member states “Regional Security – 2018” took place. The event was aimed at improving the United Regional Air Defence System of Belarus and Russia (hereinafter referred to as URADS). The military operations of the troops from the URADS in the Eastern European region of collective security, their management, and the organization of interaction between aviation and air defence forces were trained. Among other things, the training included the imitation of a violation of the state border by a combat aircraft, loss of visual orientation by aircraft, hijacking of an aircraft for a terrorist act. The results will allow to optimize the composition of the URADS forces. For the first time, an operational group to support the work of the URADS commander was formed. Representatives of the Coordinating Committee on Air Defence of the CIS countries observed the event.

On August 15-18, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus Aleh Belakoneu visited China. During the visit, the issues of cooperation with the PRC in the field of combat training, military education and cooperation within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were discussed. In addition, Belakoneu observed the active phase of the joint Belarusian-Chinese counterterrorism training “Attacking Falcon – 2018”. This is a traditional event, which is held alternately in the territory of Belarus and China.

On August 21-24 an official delegation headed by the Chief of the General Staff of the Azerbaijani Army Colonel-General Najmaddin Sadykov was on an official visit to Belarus. During the meeting with the SMIC Chairman Raman Halouchanka, the issues of the development of bilateral military-technical cooperation were discussed. The Azerbaijani delegation got acquainted with the products of the Belarusian military-industrial complex capable of strengthening the fighting capacity of the Azerbaijani army. During the meeting, Colonel-General Sadykov and Defence Minister of Belarus Andrei Raukou traditionally underlined the mutual interest in developing cooperation in the military and military-technical fields between the two countries.

On August 27, 2018 the training camp of territorial defence in Slonim district started. The liable for military service, intended for the staffing of the headquarters of the territorial defence area, were involved in the event. The ability of local authorities to form and train the headquarters of territorial defence has been tested. The event is timed to the September command and staff training of the army.

On August 30, 2018, a working meeting between the heads of the Belarusian border agencies, Major-General Anatoly Lapo and Latvia’s General Normunds Garbars took place. The situation at the joint border is assessed as stable, and there is a decrease in illegal activity. The effectiveness of the joint border operation “Cordon – 2018” was discussed. Traditionally, the Belarusian border guards were talking about attracting international support in order to improve the effectiveness of border protection. Latvia already assists in the training of Belarusian border guards using the technical means of border protection purchased with the support of the EU. The border guards of Belarus and Latvia defined the fight against illegal migration and smuggling as priorities of cooperation.

On August 31, 2018, under the chairmanship of the Minister of Defence Andrei Raukou, a working meeting with the command of the Armed Forces on assessing the experience of conducting modern military conflicts was held. As a result of the event, the plans for defence construction, improving the combat and mobilization readiness of the army and training troops were adjusted.

August turned out to be full of military training. Thus, a command-staff exercise with the structures of logistic support of the Armed Forces was conducted. During which the following issues were trained:

— distribution of stocks from stationary bases;

— organization of intensive use of assault aviation;

— distribution of material resources from the field departments of storage, their delivery to the troops;

— technical covering of facilities and organization of road-curfew;

— counter-diversion struggle, ensuring the safe operation of the transport infrastructure of troops and their supply systems;

— masking of transport columns supplying troops.

It is necessary to note that during the exercises the UAV of the Russian production “Supercam S 350” was used for reconnaissance of the terrain. Which was the first public announcement about the presence of such unmanned vehicles in the Belarusian army. This UAV is used to equip the reconnaissance and fire systems of motorized rifle divisions and the Special Operations Forces, as well as to conduct optico-electronic reconnaissance during day and night.

Last month, the traditional air force and air defence exercises of Belarus with live fire at the Ashuluk firing range took place. The using of new and modernized equipment and weapons in conditions of active interference in the fight against high-precision weapons and shock UAVs, repelling air strikes as well as redeploying to new positional areas was trained.

During the exercise, the ground forces trained the following issues:

— command of reconnaissance forces and assets, organization of interaction between reconnaissance and artillery units;

-command of units in the conduct of a defensive battle.

In August the Belarusian army was involved into another criminal scandal. This time, related to the theft of weapons in the Baranavichy garrison: the chief of the weapons and ammunition depot of one of the military units abducted the weapons and ammunition entrusted for security. He sold a part of it, and also gave some units to his friends. In a criminal case, 14 people were taken into custody, the stolen weapons were returned.

The theft of weapons in the Baranavichy garrison became public by accident, during the proceedings for another offense. An employee of the territorial division of the military counterintelligence of the State Security Committee Among was among the arrested.

At the end of August, the leaders of the Security Councils of Belarus and Russia Stanislau Zas and Nikolai Patrushev met. Among other things, the issues of interaction between special services, law enforcement agencies and military departments of the two countries were discussed. The officials also discussed the fight against international terrorism, the problem of deepening military and military-technical cooperation “on a mutually beneficial basis for the sake of strengthening the defence capabilities of the two countries”.

The Military Academy of Belarus announced the results of the inaugural campaign. A total of 554 people were enrolled: in the interests of the Army — 476 people, Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs — 63 people, State Border Committee — 12 people, Ministry of Emergency Situations — 3 people. 15 people were the graduates of the Minsk Suvorov School (including 12 received no competition), 57 – the graduates of the cadet schools, 6 – the graduates of the specialized lyceums of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Emergencies, 21 – the servicemen, 455 – the civilian youth. The officer corps becomes nationally homogeneous: 97.7% of the officers are Belarusians. A quarter of new cadets come from the Brest region. Traditionally, the share of Minsk (8% of the freshmen, while Minsk has over 20% of the country’s population) and the Minsk region (9.5% of the freshmen) is low. The majority of cadets (77%) are from families of middle and lower middle class.

At the same time, both the competition and the passing balls remain low. Moreover, for a number of technical specialties, the competition hardly exceeded 1 person per place, and the passing ball — just above 100 out of 400 possible points.

Conclusions. Public “bash” of the Government and changes in it are a pre-planned action that must demonstrate on the eve of elections that all problems in the country are due to careless officials who do not fulfil the right and useful instructions of the head of state. Losing responsibility for the failures of performers is a common practice for President Lukashenka. However, it should be understood that besides the purely PR effect, Lukashenka has real displeasure with the Government and the state of affairs in the social and economic sphere.

Speaking with an angry speech regarding the failure of his instructions by officials, the head of Belarus in fact recognized the partial paralysis of his own system of state administration and once again pointed to the sabotage of instructions of the country’s top bureaucracy by officials in the field.

Against the background of generally positive dynamics in the domestic military-industrial complex, the August meeting of the SMIC Collegium focused on the analysis of the effectiveness of activities aimed at preventing economic insolvency of enterprises. It is stated that in the first half of 2018 “… there are no trends on the growth of the number of unprofitable and insolvent organizations in the SMIC system. The work on implementing measures to restore the solvency of subordinate organizations was generally effective”. This was announced to be a positive achievement. In fact, this is the first public recognition of economic problems in the military-industrial complex, which required the adoption of special management decisions and the formation of a special departmental body to prevent bankruptcy. Consequently, the issue of the financial situation at a number of enterprises (and the large ones) of the SMIC system is very acute. There are no noticeable improvements and they are obviously not expected if the fact that the situation has not worsened is appreciated as an achievement.

It seems that the financial problems of some enterprises of the SMIC system can be related to two factors:

-problems in the Russian market;

-non-satisfactory quality of serial products and as a result — complaints, loss of confidence of customers and markets.

SMIC gives information about the state of affairs in the domestic military-industrial complex in extremely sparse and almost always fragment way, outlining achievements and hiding problems. The August SMIC Collegium is the rare case when the serious problems are admitted.

The reasons for the resignation of Aleh Dvihalyou from the position of the SMIC Chairman are complex. They are not limited to the situation at the sole enterprise of the military-industrial complex. In addition to the difficulties with increasing exports of defence products and the financial status of departmental enterprises, it can also be about the absence of significant progress in the implementation of projects that are personally controlled by Lukashenka. First of all, the creation of a national medium-range anti-aircraft missile system. This program is not only politically ambitious, but technically complex and expensive. Moreover, it is by no means a fact that its financing is carried out exclusively from Belarusian sources and in the interests of only Belarus. It is possible that Lukashenka has taken personal reputational and political responsibility for the result of the project (which is not yet implemented) in front of the external partners. Initially, according to the results of the visit of the Belarusian president to Orsha, the resignation of Aleh Dvilayou wasn’t discussed. But after the visit to “Tekhnika Svyazi” Lukashenka raised the issue of the general state of the military-industrial complex and its most important projects.

Obviously, the problem of a “spy crisis” between Belarus and Ukraine requires intervention at the highest level. Because at the level of executors (special services of the two countries) there is no desire to settle the issue. In the absence of positive shifts, the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations risk falling into a confrontational spiral. Which will hit not only the interaction of the two countries in the field of politics and security, but also in bilateral trade. Moreover, Belarus’ losses in this case can be significant.

Belarus is the only European country that takes part in the activities of the SCO. This project is considered as a regional initiative of Beijing, aimed primarily at promoting Chinese influence in the Asian countries of the CIS. The activity of Minsk within the SCO is part of the policy of building a strategic partnership with the PRC. The organization itself is a platform for demonstrating support for any foreign policy initiatives of Beijing, even if they do not have relations with Belarus.

It is highly likely that Najmaddin Sadykov’s visit is related to the next stage in the implementation of the deal on deliveries of the MLRS “Polonaise” from Belarus to Azerbaijan. We can talk about the prospects of integration into the weapons complex of the “Polonaise” the ammunition of increased range and / or power.

The Belarusian military industrial complex offers UAVs that in their technical characteristics are comparable with the Russian UAV “Supercam S-350”. In this connection, there is a question, why the choice was made in favour of the foreign product. The most likely explanation is the price: “Supercam S-350” is offered in the civil market at a price of USD 50 thousand. The second advantage of the Russian UAV over the Belarusian analogues is the flight duration: up to 4.5 hours against 2-2.5 hours. In any case, the fact that Belarusian defence industry is losing its domestic market is unpleasant and requiring correction.

Theft of weapons in the Baranavichy garrison is another blow to the reputation of the Defence Ministry. But that’s not the only point. Less than a year ago an ordinary serviceman, Aliaksandr Korzhych, who was serving in the Barysau garrison, died. His death essentially entailed a limited internal political crisis. Both Baranavichy and Barysau garrisons are among the largest ones in Belarus. That’s why they should be in the zone of special attention of military counterintelligence. Which, judging by what is happening, does not fully control the situation. The fact that its employee was involved in illegal activities is absolutely blatant. In addition to the question of the state of legality in the troops, it is time to raise the issue of the SSC military counterintelligence, which is unable to detect or prevent crimes. Obviously, due to unsatisfactory quality of operational work. Which can be the consequence of both the problems with the staffing of the service with quality personnel, and with the shortage of operational employees of military counterintelligence.

Like in the case of Aliaksandr Korzhych, the military authorities initially tried to hide information about the theft of weapons. But thanks to non-state media, the incident became public in details, which allow us to assume, that this leak of information was purposeful. For understandable reasons, neither the SSC nor the Defence Ministry were interested in disclosing the details of what happened. The Prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs could have full access to information about what happened. MIA could also have and relevant operational information.

For Belarus, the subject of international terrorism is not a pressing issue. Russia is using it as a pretext for its presence in Syria. It is possible that during the meeting of Stanislau Zas and Nikolai Patrushev the issue of Belarus’ participation in the post-war reconstruction of Syria was raised. In recent months this topic is extremely relevant for the Russian top bureaucracy, which has repeatedly called on third countries, including their formal allies, to provide practical (and not only verbal) support to Russian politics in Syria. The second issue discussed by Zas and Patrushev could be the issue of access of the Belarusian military industry to the Russian market (direct participation in Russia state defence order), as well as the import substitution of products for the Russian defence industry, which are traditionally supplied by Belarus (for example, microchips and multi-axle chassis). For a number of large companies of the Belarusian military-industrial complex, access to the Russian market is critically important. Each year there are more and more problems in this field.

The prestige of the officer’s profession in the eyes of the Belarusian youth remains low. The problem has a long history and there are no signs of improvement. In general, the level of passing score to higher educational institutions of law enforcement agencies remain low, over 200 points (out of 400 possible) for certain specialties are demonstrated by the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The problem is aggravated by the fact that even with low passing scores the competition for technically complex military specialties is low. There are difficulties even with the involvement of not the best entrants. In this case, it is rather about the effectiveness of the work of the army HR bodies: 397 people applied for the 92 places in the Institute of the Border Guard Service this year; which is 3-4 times more than in the Military Academy. Obviously, the issue of improving personnel work is relevant for all law enforcement agencies. But for the Ministry of Defence — in the first place, because the military department has the greatest need for specialists of engineering and technical profile.