Situation in the field of national security and defence of Belarus (January 2017)

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The most important events of the month. The most important event of the month was the visit of Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić to Belarus. It can be argued that according to its results the sides are close to conclusion (or even have reached full agreement on it) of a package deal in the field of military-technical cooperation. Belarus will gratuitously give Serbia eight MiG-29 and two battalions of anti-aircraft missile systems (hereinafter referred to as SAM) “Buk”. This equipment was for sale, but there was no buyer. The Serbian side will pay for the repair and modernization of the units transferred on Belarusian enterprises.

In the future, Serbia expects to receive S-300 from Belarus.

The sides agreed to expand cooperation in the field of co-production and modernization of arms and military equipment.

The developments within month. The result of the absence of President Lukashenka at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in December 2016 was the fact that the organization was left without a permanent leader: the authority of the Secretary General of the CSTO Nikolay Bordyuzha expired on December 31, 2016. Currently, his duties are performed by the Deputy Secretary-General Valery Semerikov.

In January, the State Security Committee (SSC) continued the series of arrests of high-profile officials and business leaders on charges relating to corruption and causing harm to the state.

The optimization of the structure and the number of Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) is continuing. Thus, two subordinate organizations that are not directly related to the immediate activity of the Ministry were removed its structure. Two other structures, subordinate to the MES, were united.

In January, a sudden readiness test of units of territorial defence was held in the Klichau district. In total, the event was attended by about 50 reserve officers.

On January 15-17, Aliaksandr Lukashenka paid a visit to Egypt and Sudan. Among other the issues of cooperation of Belarus with these countries in security field were discussed.

In Cairo, such an agreement was reached. President Lukashenka held a separate meeting with the Minister of Defence and Military Industry of Egypt Sedky Sobhi on cooperation in the military-industrial sector. Already in the beginning of February, in the presence of the Minister of Military Production of Egypt Mohammed al-Assar a protocol on cooperation between the National organization of military production (hereinafter NOMP) and the company MAZ on the establishment of the production of heavy transport vehicles of Belarusian development with the use of power of the Egyptian military-industrial complex was signed. Over time, the localization of production is expected to be 60-70%. NOMP will fund the project.

While in Sudan, Aliaksandr Lukashenka stated that “… the common ground in the defense sector was found”.

On January 20, 2017 Mr. Lukashenka has approved the decision on the protection of the state border by the border service bodies in 2017. It defines the tasks and priorities, taking into account the current situation on the external borders of Belarus, including the unilateral introduction by Russia of restricted passport control on the Belarusian-Russian border with regard to third-country nationals.

On January 23, 2017 the Ministry of Information of Belarus has restricted access to one of the Russian socio-political websites. The materials published there were recognized extremist.

On January 24, 2017, while meeting the Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) Ihar Shunevich, President Lukashenka stated the need to optimize the Ministry, including downsizing. Deputy Interior Minister — Commander of the Internal Troops, Major-General Yury Karayeu said that the Ministry will optimize the administrative apparatus this year. The aim is to eliminate duplication of functions of employees of various departments of the MIA. One of the directions of optimization is to combine the positions. For part of the positions the titles limit will be lowered. The optimization of administrative positions continues as well: employees in uniform are replaced by civil servants. It’s necessary to note that On January 28, 2016 President Lukashenka chaired the Interior Ministry board on the results of work in 2015. It was claimed, that in 2016 it was planned to complete the optimization of the MIA structure, which meant reduction in support and administrative staff of the Ministry and the transfer of the freed human resources to direct tasks in struggle against crime.

On January 25-26 a meeting of the expert group to discuss the draft CIS Treaty on combating legalization of profits from crime, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of WMD was held. It is proposed to harmonize national legislation of the member-states in this area, to provide each other with legal assistance, to exchange information, to conduct operational-search measures, to recognize the list of individuals and legal entities, groups and organizations involved in terrorist activities and the proliferation of WMD. The unification of procedures for confiscation of the property, obtained by illegal means, and assets of organizations and individuals associated with terrorism. The contract will provide for the procedure for the suspension of illegal banking transactions and the ability to implement it in the territory of another State — Party to the Treaty.

On January 27, 2017 the board of the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus (SMIC) was held. The results of department over the past year were announced and the activities for 2017 were defined. SMIC head Siarhey Hurulyou said that in 2016 the whole industry has been successful. Thus, industrial production increased by 1.5 times, investments increased by 1.9 times, the planned net profit exceeded by 2 times, the level of profitability of sales was high. But it’s not clear whether it is the data on the national defense industry in whole or only on the part of it subordinated to SMIC, which is more likely.

The creation of multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) “Polonaise” with a range of up to 200 km was announced one of the main achievements of the national military-industrial complex. There is a system of upgrade and extension of the technical suitability of the lifetime of missiles of various classes, including for foreign customers.

Three-coordinate radar complex “Vostok-3D”, jamming stations “Groza-2”, “Groza-6”, station for combating UAVs “Groza-S”, an autonomous S-band radar “RLS-50”, which is able to detect airborne targets created using “stealth” technology, were named among the perspective developments.

The main part of the development of light-armored vehicle “V-1” was finished in 2016. There are several modifications of the vehicle (apparently depending on the purpose and portable weapons), including an export one. The armored vehicles “Cayman” and BTR-70 MB1 are mentioned as successful examples of arms upgrade.

The project of creation of a national system of satellite communication and broadcasting “Belintersat” is specially underlined.

The plans for the current year include development of domestic medium-range air defense missile system based on the “Buk” systems, anti-tank missiles system and grenade launcher, as well as the modernization of the aviation guided “air-to-air” short range missiles.

The intention to put “Grif-100” UAV into service after the experimental operation by the troops in 2017 was stated as well.

The development of MLRS with a range of up to 300 km continues.

The full line of communication means for military purposes is being created.

Conclusions. Obviously, the Belarusian-Serbian agreement on cooperation in the military-technical sphere was preceded by a long work of specialists. The Serbs have a clear idea what Belarus can offer (source). Obviously, Minsk also has specific proposals on cooperation for the Serbian defense industry. Belarusian side may be interested in Serbia’s achievements in the field of ammunition, artillery, rocket fuel, light armored vehicles and tank engines.

Belarus’ providing to Serbia air defense systems, especially the possibility to provide S-300, is a sign that Minsk expects to get new weapons of this kind in the foreseeable future. It can be either system of domestic production or imported one.

Blocking the election of a new head of the post-Soviet interstate association (CSTO) by a member-state is perhaps unprecedented. We should remind that Belarus is considered to be an apologist for the integration of the former Soviet Union countries. This situation allows to assign the official Minsk public responsibility for any failures of the CSTO activity (no head — no success) and use this fact in the information war against the Belarusian authorities with a goal to destroy the image of the most faithful and consistent ally of Russia. Which gave Belarus the opportunity to become the largest recipient of Russian financial and economic assistance.

Continuation of the series of criminal cases on facts of corruption is justified by a number of reasons. On the one hand, in the situation of economic downfall and reduction of available resources for the state there is a need to consolidate the “feeding field”, and filling the budget (or budget savings by preventing unjustified expenses) becomes a national security factor. On the other hand, given the fact that at the end of last year law enforcement agencies got considerably less financing than planned, high-profile corruption cases are designed to demonstrate the efficiency of the SSC, and thereby increase the importance of agencies in the eyes of President Lukashenka. Which will improve the position in the struggle for government funding.

Egypt has a developed defense industry and the Belarusian-Egyptian cooperation in this area can be various. Regarding Sudan, belonging to the poorest and least technologically developed countries, areas of cooperation are quite limited and have previously been worked out in the framework of Belarusian-Sudanese cooperation in the security field. We can predict the recovery of the training practice for the Sudanese security forces in Belarus, as well as training directly in Sudan by Belarusian specialists not only for the army but also for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It is traditional for Belarusian enterprises to participate in the modernization and maintenance of military equipment of the Sudanese army, which consists mainly of Soviet-developed units.

It is worth noting that Egypt and Sudan have close contacts with Saudi Arabia. And the promotion of Cairo and Khartoum in the development of Belarusian-Saudi relations could also be topics for discussion during the African visit of President Lukashenka. Saudi Arabia may be interesting to Minsk as an investor, as a lender and as a potential buyer of Belarusian products. In terms of oil revenues decline Belarusian enterprises can be competitive due to lower prices. It’s necessary to note that Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that actively invest in basic science abroad and in foreign technical developments. Belarusian science has traditionally suffered from a lack of funding.

New reality in the field of border security Belarus is the fact that starting from August 2016 Russia de facto withdrew from the regime of freedom of movement across the border with Belarus. It was done unilaterally, without prior approval of such a move with the Belarusian side. Moreover, Moscow gradually tightens control on the Belarusian-Russian border. On January 26, 2017 Russian FSB ordered the introduction of a border zone on the border with Belarus. Obviously, this fact can’t be ignored in Minsk.

These Moscow’s actions are part of broader Belarusian-Russian conflict. The situation on the border can be resolved only within the framework of the overall normalization of relations between Belarus and Russia. The Kremlin expects Minsk, being the weaker party, go to significant concessions. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities keep to a firm position. The depth of the contradictions between the two countries makes real the prospect of a full-fledged return of border controls on the Belarusian-Russian border.

Belarusian society has repeatedly demanded to limit the spread of extremist Russian informational materials. Each time the authorities were pretending that there’s no this problem. The decision of the Ministry of Information on the limitation of access to the Russian extremist websites isn’t an attempt to humiliate Moscow. Belarusian authorities have been having the desire to limit the spread in Belarus of the most odious part of the Russian propaganda for a long time. But earlier they refrained from this for fear of the negative impact of these steps on the Belarusian-Russian relations. It’s obvious that the current level of bilateral political relations is so low that it can’t be worsened with such steps.

Optimization of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is motivated by the improvement of the crime situation. The level of crime in 2016 was the same as in 2014. In fact, there is some fluctuation in the number of reported crimes within 3-5%. In the view of the current economic crisis, the crime situation will tend to exacerbate. The change in the number of recorded crimes is not a sufficient basis for the reduction of the Ministry. Rather, it is dictated by the need to reallocate resources within the law enforcement agencies. This is important especially in the view of the prospects for the establishment of a full border control on the border with Russia.

It’s necessary to pay attention to the words of President Lukashenka that the funds saved as the result of MIA optimization will stay in the Ministry. Moreover, he promised to double the amount of savings. In the situation, when the revenue part of the budget is executed with big difficulties and in 2016 law enforcement agencies haven’t received the planned financing, a promise to double the saving from the optimization of MIA can mean one of two things: either it’s just a beautiful statement for the public, or a part of law enforcement agencies’ expenses is covered from public revenue not included in the budget.

Speaking about the results and plans of the domestic defense industry, it’s necessary to pay attention to several points. At the moment “Grif” project is still perspective. The first products were to be transferred to the Defence Ministry of Belarus before the end of 2013. Then the army started to test the UAV in April 2015. Obviously, at that time the possibility of “Grif” didn’t impress the military. And the fact that in 2017 it is still planned to put “Grif” into service makes us expect better characteristics than the initial.

The maximum range of MLRS “Polonaise”, which are already put into service, is still unclear. It is reported that the next generation of weapons will have the range to engage targets at 300 km, “i.e. bigger to 1/3”. Thus, the range of available MLRS “Polonaise” is 225, not 200 km.

The creation of the line of means of communication for military purposes was discussed in January 2015.

Speaking about the perspectives of creation of Belarusian air defence system it’s worth noting that this is a “big step to the finishing different SAMs, at the moment — medium-range ones”. It is not clear is whether this list includes Belarusian-Russian project of creating a short-range air defense missile system to replace the Soviet SAM “Strela-10”, which had to start in 2016. The fate of the “Alebarda” project, which was presented in spring 2014, is interesting as well. But as far as we can judge everything stopped on the exhibition samples. It is likely that the aim of “Alebarda” project was to demonstrate President Lukashenka the possibility of the national defence industry to create air defence systems in order to obtain resources for the relevant development, which was also stimulated by the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine.

The perspectives of Belarusian air defense system “Stilet” are unclear as well. Anyway, the research firing from it is conducted.

The production of missiles for Belarusian SAM is still an open issue. It is likely that initially we are talking about missiles from stocks or imported ones. In November 2015 President Lukashenka gave the order to proceed to the creation of domestic rocket engines. The developers claimed to cope with this task within five years. The class of missile, for which the engines should be created, was not announced.  

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