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

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The most important events of the month. On January 1, 2018 Aliaksandr Lukashenka gave the order to resolve all issues with Russia in the border area in 2018. The Government and the line ministries are responsible for that. The Belarusian officials are instructed to discuss all the existing disagreements with the Russian side and determine the ways to resolve them. The Belarussian leader keeps himself aloof from the settlement of the problem situation.

On January 22, 2018 President Lukashenka, speaking to the head of the border department Anatoly Lappo, has designated the Belarusian-Russian border as a problem area. Moreover, officially the State Border Committee does not implement the protection of the Belarusian-Russian section of the State Border.

On January 30, 2018 Aliaksandr Lukashenka again returned to the situation on the Belarusian-Russian border. Meeting the Chairman of the State Customs Committee Yury Sianko, the Belarusian leader made it clear that he does not accept the unilateral deployment of border guard by the Russian side on the border with Belarus.

The developments with the month. On January 10, 2018 the seminar of the prosecutor’s office “Ways to improve the effectiveness of oversight activities in the army” took place. It was stated that the prosecutor’s office was reviewing certain approaches in this area. The goal is the intensification of the activities of the military units’ command to prevent the facts of harassment among servicemen, improve the quality of inspections and official investigations. The participants of the seminar were asked to report on existing problems and make suggestions on ways to improve the effectiveness of oversight activities.

On January 16, 2018, it was once again stated that the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus faces the task to diversify the sales markets for products and services while maintaining strong positions in Russia.

On January 17, 2018 Belarusian Defence Minister Andrei Raukou said that Belarus does not plan to deploy new Russian military facilities, in addition to the two operating in Hantsavichy and Vileyka.

On January 17 — 18, 2018, at the CIS Executive Committee in Minsk a meeting of the expert group on the coordination of the draft of the Interstate Program for Joint Measures to Combat Crime for 2019-2023 was held. The measures to counter cross-border crime, illicit drug trafficking, psychotropic drugs and their precursors, trafficking in persons and illegal migration, as well as crimes in the field of information technology are foreseen. Currently, the interaction of the CIS countries in this area is carried out in accordance with individual cooperation programs.

On January 18, 2018 while summing up the results of work with military personnel, Defence Minister of Belarus Andrei Raukou said that the staffing of the posts of officers has been growing in recent years and currently has the highest level for the entire period of existence of the modern Belarusian army. At the same time, specific indicators and concrete numbers were not reported. The issues of attracting young people to enter military educational institutions and popularizing military service were also discussed.

On the same day, a second shipment of Chinese light armoured vehicles CS/VN3 “Dragon” was delivered to Minsk. This was another part of China’s military aid to the Belarusian armed forces.

On January 22, 2018 Lukashenka met the Ambassador of Pakistan to Belarus Masud Khan Raja on the occasion of the completion of his mission. The Belarusian leader confirmed his commitment to earlier agreements between the leaders of the two countries, the part of which is military-technical cooperation.

On January 22, 2018 the State Border Committee of Belarus presented some data on the results of the activities of the Border Service bodies for 2017. For example, about 600 violators of the State Border were detained (against 524 a year earlier) of which 61 people illegally crossed the border at checkpoints and more than 530 – out of those points. The volume of seized narcotic substances was 35 times higher than in 2016. The chairman of the State Border Committee, Anatoly Lappo, said that in the issue of border protection, the emphasis is made on modern technologies that allow remote control of the situation and performing tasks by smaller forces. In the future, the department expects to create a system of “intellectual border”. Russia remains the main partner in arranging the borders of Belarus with third countries. At the same time, Belarus seeks to increase cooperation with the countries of the European Union in this area.

On the same day, President Lukashenka approved the decision to protect the State Border of Belarus in 2018. The event can be considered a ritual. The priority tasks of border guards are defined as counteraction to international extremism and terrorism; the fight against smuggling, illegal migration and drug trafficking; development of border infrastructure.

Since January 25, 2018, a comprehensive inspection was conducted in the Belarusian army. The event is a traditional one. All units of permanent readiness were involved in the inspection. In order to create a complex educational situation, the units of the Special Operations Forces were employed as a conditional enemy, which fulfilled their own training tasks. The mechanized units marched to the landfills, where they worked out the engineering equipment of positions, their camouflage, the deployment of a field camp, and the shooting of weapons at night. Air defence units and radio technical troops organized combat duty in unfamiliar areas. Part of the aircraft was relocated to new airfields. In 2018, one of the priorities of the troops will be training for action in an urbanized area. The necessary educational base was created specially for that.

January 31, 2013 the meeting of the SMIC board, dedicated to the results of the work of the department last year. was held. We have already written about the event. The SMIC head Aleh Dvihalyou said that the participation of Belarusian manufacturers in the state defence order of Russia is currently being worked out, and a number of meetings are planned in this connection.

 The customs bodies of Belarus in 2017 seized more than 1 ton of drugs, which more than 60 times higher than in 2016. The number of criminal cases brought by customs officers on the facts of illegal drug trafficking increased by 17% to 41. Almost 80% of seized drugs were transited from Russia.

Conclusions. The fact that Aliaksandr Lukashenka three times a month publicly appealed to the situation on the border with Russia is evidence of the extremely painful reaction of official Minsk to unilateral actions by the Russian side aimed at reducing the transparency of the Belarusian-Russian border. There is a high probability that the Belarusian authorities no longer count on a positive solution of the problem. Belarusian officials have to face new reality and prepare for the fact that, first of all, because of Russia’s actions the border between Belarus and Russia will continue to acquire more and more parts of a full-scale border control.

Beginning from September 2014, after the liquidation of the military prosecutor’s office, the number of prosecutors engaged in supervisory activities in the army has more than halved. While the number of objects of such control has not decreased. And although it is stated that the prosecutor’s office is able to solve the tasks set by a smaller number of employees, there is still an issue of effectiveness of prosecutorial control.

At the moment it is not clear how justified the Ministry of Defence’s enthusiasm for the growth of the manning of officer posts is. Firstly, the growth could be a consequence of palliative measures: the training of junior officers from among ensigns occupying officer posts; assignment of officer ranks to female servicemen; the replacement of vacant officer posts by ensigns and civilian personnel. Moreover, Andrei Raukou spoke about the staffing of officer posts. This does not mean that they are staffed by the officers. In addition, the dynamics of the change in the number of officer positions in the army is unknown. Secondly, the factor of the economic crisis and the growth of unemployment, which reaches a factual level of 15% of the able-bodied population, could positively affect the staffing of officer posts. On September 25, 2015 the Minister of Defence Andrei Raukou said that the number of retired officers decreased from 509 in 2012 to 164 in 2015. Over the past five years, 3,838 officers have graduated from military educational institutions of Belarus, 1884 junior officers (49.1%) have been dismissed. In 2015 there was a significant drop in the incomes of the population. Under conditions of unemployment and impoverishment, security agencies have become more attractive as an employer because of their stability in terms of both incomes and prospects. But there is still a question, what contributes more to the increase in the manning of the army by officers: the qualitative work with personnel or the economic crisis. In the latter case, entering the military service can often be forced, as it is impossible to ensure stable and comparable income in other segments of the labour market.

In June 2017, Belarus already received a batch of CS/VN3 “Dragon” armoured vehicles within the framework of military-technical assistance from China. It was reported that in whole about 30 vehicles will be transferred to Minsk. Moreover, these vehicles were substantially modified to meet the requirements of the Belarusian military. The latter may mean that the free batch of “Dragons” is intended for experimental exploitation. Based on the results of which the production of these vehicles, adapted to the requirements of the Belarusian military, can be deployed in our country.

During 2015-2016, Minsk and Islamabad demonstrated a promising dynamics of interaction in the field of the military-industrial complex. However, the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a negative impact on the intensity of relations between the parties in the security sphere. It is obvious that Pakistan continues to be an interesting partner for the official Minsk. The Belarusian authorities hope for developing cooperation with Islamabad in the sphere of security.

Traditionally, the Belarusian authorities exaggerate the migration and terrorist danger, from which Belarus defends the West/Russia. The reason for this is in the financial sphere: the official Minsk expects to attract additional resources from Russia and the EU to strengthen its own border security. In reality, the situation has a rather positive dynamics. Following the results of 2016, more than 500 border violators were detained, almost 50% of them were from Africa and Asia. At the same time, in comparison with 2015, the number of those wishing to illegally cross the border has decreased by more than 40%, while the number of the facts of smuggling detected was 30% less. In 2015, nearly 900 illegal migrants were detained by Belarusian border guards. If you go deeper into history, it turns out that from the 90s to the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, the border guards detained more than 2,000 illegal migrants annually at the border and about 5,000 at the approaches to it. While the number of potential migrants detained (foreigners with forged, alien or inappropriate documents, violating the rules of stay and transit) was about 20 thousand annually.

Unlike in past years, during the current comprehensive inspection of the Armed Forces, the cooperation of the army and border guards to protect the border was not trained, and preparations for territorial defence were not organized. In general, the inspection of the army in the coming year was quite limited.

It is necessary to note that the access of the Belarusian military industry to the state defence order of Russia is an “endless” topic, which has been discussed for many years at different levels including the highest one. In January 2015, SMIC top management already expressed hopes for the participation of the Belarusian military-industrial complex in the Russian defence order. Earlier, in October 2012, Aliaksandr Lukashenka personally dealt with the issue of access of the Belarusian military industry to Russian funds. But there were no practical results. Taking into account the growing competition for the money of the defence order among the Russian enterprises and the vague prospects for political relations between Minsk and Moscow, the probability of Belarusian military industry’s getting to this segment of the market is extremely low.

The results of the work of the Belarusian customs and border authorities to prevent the illegal import of drugs in 2017 are one of the pretexts for Russia to deploy a border control system on the border with Belarus. On October 20, 2017, a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, declaring his readiness to establish temporary border posts on the border with our country on highways and on the railway, reported an increase in drug trafficking from Belarus to Russia.

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