Situation in the field of national security and defence of Belarus (January 2019)

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The most important events of the month. On January 29, 2019 a comprehensive inspection of the combat and mobilization readiness of the army started. The event is quite traditional and is held at the beginning of the calendar year not for the first time. It is also not the largest in the history of such events. For example, in 2016 both mobile brigades and all four mechanized brigades available were involved in the comprehensive inspection. The infrastructure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was used for the preparation of military reservists, and some vehicles were taken from the national economy for the military needs.

According to official data, within the framework of the current inspection, about 1,400 people were called up from the reserve, and 20 units of equipment were obtained from the civil sector of organizations of the Viciebsk region. The actions of the conditional opponent were imitated by the units of the Special Operations Forces.

According to official data, the 51st artillery brigade and the 19th mechanized brigade were replenished with personnel at the expense of those called up from the reserve. At the same time the latter unit could get more than 1,100 people. Thus, its size increased more than by 50%.

The developments within the month. In January, the Minister of Defence of Turkey Hulusi Akar visited Belarus. On January 15, 2019 Aliaksandr Lukashenka met him. Traditionally, Lakshenka stated the readiness of Belarus to fully develop cooperation with Ankara. The Turkish delegation also visited a number of enterprises of the military-industrial complex of Belarus and held talks in the Belarusian Ministry of Defence and the State Military-Industrial Committee (SMIC). Most of the events were held behind closed doors. The Belarusian state mass media covered the visit of the Turkish official to Minsk in extremely sparse way. Note that the Turks expressed satisfaction with the results of the visit to Belarus. Time will tell whether this is diplomatic politeness or something bigger. In any case, Belarus is counting on the expansion of military-technical cooperation.

January 21, 2019 a delegation of the Chinese AVIC Corporation, headed by Deputy Director General of AVIC International Aero-Development Corporation Zhang Hezhan, visited the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The delegation also included representatives of the North-West Industrial University and the Institute of the City of Xian. The issues of expanding cooperation in the field of unmanned aircraft, as well as financing of CJSC “Aviation Technologies and Complexes” were discussed. The latter enterprise was created by AVIC and the Academy of Sciences. It is interesting to note that the Chinese delegation also visited the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranavičy.

On January 23, 2019 Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian Army, Major General Aleh Belakoneu, visited the 927th centre for the preparation and use of unmanned aircraft complexes. In particular, he was shown Russian-made Superkam C100 UAVs, designed to conduct aerial reconnaissance day and night in various weather conditions. The complex provides receiving, transmission and recording of information in real time, determining the coordinates of the objects of observation. In 2018, the Belarusian army actively used the Russian Superkam-S350 UAV. Both units (C100 and C350) are available in the civilian market. Obtaining these UAVs is related to the largest supply of equipment to the army last year.

On January 28, 2019, under the chairmanship of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Aleh Belakoneu, a meeting on the prospects for the development of UAVs in the army was held.

On January 30, 2019, during a visit by the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to the Irkutsk Aviation Plant, it was announced that this year four heavy Su-30SM fighters are preparing to be transferred the Belarusian army. Belarus Security Blog have dedicated a separate article to this question.

On January 30-31, 2019 consultations on amending the Plan for the joint preparation of command bodies and forces and means of the collective security system for 2019 at the Joint Headquarters of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) were held. The reasons and nature of the adjustment of the document for the current year are not reported.

On January 31, 2019 at a meeting chaired by Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the issues of information security of Belarus were considered. The Belarusian ruler expressed concern about the state of affairs in this area and acknowledged the ineffectiveness of state propaganda. Apparently, the situation from the point of view of the Belarusian authorities is very alarming, since the next meeting of the Security Council of Belarus will be devoted to it as well. Lukashenka declared the need to resist information attacks that are being conducted from different sides, not only from the West. It is also recognized that the state has actually lost the Internet as a channel for disseminating information.

In January, the prosecutor’s office of the Minsk region held an event in the 2nd Special Police Brigade of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) dedicated to the maintenance of legality and law and order among the troops.

Conclusions. Minsk has been showing interest in cooperation with Turkey since the late 1990s. Belarusian officials responsible for military-technical cooperation with foreign countries previously studied the experience and results of the interaction of the Turkish military-industrial complex with other post-Soviet countries. In addition, the list of trusted partners of Minsk and Ankara in the post-Soviet space is almost the same (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova). The parties already have a certain positive experience of cooperation in such a sensitive area as the production of missile weapons. The nature of the Belarusian-Turkish political relations actually gives the “green light” for the development of cooperation on a wide range of topics in the field of security. It has already been announced that the promising areas of cooperation include the space sector (optics for remote sensing satellites) and air defence systems. In the latter case, we can talk about a wide range of products of the Belarusian military industrial complex: wheeled chassis, radar systems, optoelectronic stations, control and data exchange systems. These products may be of interest to the Turks in the framework of work on the HISAR air defence system.

Among other things, AVIC International Aero-Development Corporation is engaged in the export of civilian aircraft, the production and import of components for the aviation industry of China, research and development (including international) in the field of aircraft manufacturing. In turn, the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant, being one of the leaders of the Belarusian military-industrial complex, seeks to diversify its business and organizes the production of components for civil aviation in the interests of the Russian aircraft industry. It is also worth recalling that for a long time the prospect of Azerbaijan’s purchase of a large batch of JF-17 fighter jets produced in Pakistan is being actively discussed. AVIC took part in the development of these aircraft. The interest of the Belarus may be to obtain the necessary certificates and approvals for the maintenance of such fighters.

There is a question about the reasons for the procurement of Russian UAVs, when Belarusian manufacturers, including state-owned companies, offer a fairly wide choice of such equipment of a comparable class. This can be caused both by the need to provide many UAVs to the troops, and by the end of the service life of the existing UAVs (the Russian “Irkut” and their Belarusian modifications “Berkut”). Obviously, the army is interested in obtaining UAVs of acceptable technical characteristics (range, duration and altitude of the flight) at reasonable prices. In this regard, Belarusian military industrial complex could lose price competition to Russian producers. However, we can not exclude the receipt of “Superkam” from Russia in the form of military-technical support. In this case, the supply of free equipment, which has local analogues, can be considered as a strategy to oppress Belarusian manufacturer. It is doubtful that the Belarusian defence industry gave way to its market without a fight: Lukashenka personally earlier stated the high quality of domestic reconnaissance UAVs and demanded that the military buy domestic products, even if it is worse than imported ones. It is necessary to recall that at present, at least 4 state-owned companies and organizations, as well as a number of private enterprises, are working in the UAV-related area.

Public recognition of the weakness of the state information policy by Aliaksandr Lukashenka will not lead to positive changes in this area. The problem is that the Belarusian ruler hopes to improve the situation in the information sphere with the methods that led to its current state. We can expect the formation of new bureaucratic structures, attempts of information manipulations (for example, calling state-controlled media independent ones) and additional restrictions for really independent media. As a result, the information and psychological vulnerability of Belarus to destructive external influence can only increase.

We should also note that the official filming of the meeting on information security issues of Belarus was conducted in such a way that only a part of the event participants was visible. Obviously, this was done intentionally, with the goal of disorienting external observers. It is unlikely that there were “secret” personas, otherwise the event would simply not have become known to the public.

It is believed that, unlike for the army, for the MIA Internal Troops the issue of maintaining law and order as well as statutory relations between military personnel is not so relevant. However, it is obvious that there are certain problems in this area. Which attracted the attention of prosecutor’s office. In addition, issues of maintaining law and discipline, prevention of drug addiction and drunkenness among military personnel are regularly in the focus of attention of the military council of MIA Internal Troops.