Situation in the field of national security and defence of Belarus (January 2020)

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The most important events of the month. In January, the country’s top military command was reshuffled: a new Secretary of State for the Security Council of Belarus, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff were appointed. This was the final of a kind of the regime’s personnel training for the presidential electoral campaign. We dedicated a separate article to this event.

On January 30, 2020 by order of the Minister of Defence Viktar Khrenin, under the command of the Chief of the General Staff Aliaksandr Valfovich, a comprehensive check of the combat readiness of the Armed Forces was launched. The main goal is to determine the ability of military command and control bodies to manage subordinate military units and subunits, and their willingness to carry out tasks in a rapidly changing environment.

The troops operated under various conditions day and night, both in forests and in settlements. Particular attention was paid to the condition of equipment and weapons in storage.

About 50 military servicemen were called up because of the understaffing of military units.

Check of the combat readiness of the army is a traditional event for the beginning of the year since 2014. The present one is carried out by the new Minister of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff. Therefore, it can be considered as a kind of revision of the actual state of the army in connection with the change of command.

The developments within the month. On January 9, 2020 the saga with the appointment of the former head of the Security Council of Belarus Stanislau Zas as Secretary General of the CSTO, which lasted more than a year, finally ended.

On January 19, 2020 Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Volha Chuprys reported on the possibility of decriminalization of some crimes with their transfer to the category of administrative offenses. If the work to amend legislation on administrative offenses is already underway, the issue of adjusting criminal law is still being discussed. It is planned that administrative legislation will put more emphasis on the prevention of offenses, rather than punishing the perpetrators.

On January 21-24, the training to prepare the territorial defence governing bodies of the Viciebsk district of territorial defence was held. The training involved officials on the formation of territorial troops; reserve officers intended for staffing the posts of the headquarters of the territorial defence district and military units of the territorial troops; the heads of the territorial defence facilities; the administration of the reception centre for the personnel of the territorial troops with the practical reception of those liable for military service. Viciebsk city executive committee trained the management of the formation of territorial troops.

On January 28, 2020, an initiative to replace urgent military service with reserve service (periodic military training) for agricultural specialists under the pretext of their shortage was voiced. Lukashenka supported this idea.

On January 31, 2020 State Military Industrial Committee held a board dedicated to the results of work for 2019.

So, the assembly of small automatic weapons has been established. There are plans to start the production of sniper rifles. Weapon samples have already been submitted for testing to the special unit “Almaz” of Ministry of Internal Affairs. The economic feasibility of full localization of production is being studied. SMIC seeks to use the equipment of advanced Western manufacturers in the production of small arms. But not all of these companies are ready to cooperate with Belarus due to the restrictive measures that Western countries have taken with regard to Minsk.

In Orsha district, a cluster of ammunition production with the capacity of about 30 million rounds per year, is formed. It is planned to begin production of nitrocellulose, while the feasibility of building a powder factory and localizing the production of metal components of ammunition by the Belarusian industry is being studied. The creation of a laboratory for certification of cartridges of various calibres for their subsequent tests is almost complete. The sports and hunting cartridges are supplied to the foreign market: their production is considered as an export priority.

The creation of an anti-tank guided missile assembly workshop is also completed there. The plans include the organization of the assembly production of armoured vehicles. The repair of the air-to-air R-27 missiles (which have to be disposed) has already been established. More than a hundred reconstructed and ready-to-use missiles with a total value of over USD 90 million were already provided to the Army.

The volume of SMIC enterprises’ orders in Orsha district exceeds their production capacities.

There are also plans to conduct flight tests of a medium-range missile system of the Belarusian anti-aircraft missile system Buk-MB3K. A set of ground and performance tests in different environments has been already conducted. Later it became known that the tests are scheduled from February 17 to March 2 of the current year.

In 2019, 1,100 new, repaired or modernized units of equipment were delivered to the Belarusian army (including more than 30 units of repaired and modernized armoured vehicles). As well as 12 thousand units of personal protective equipment.

Last year, the development of the MLRS with 122-mm calibre “Shkval” began. The works on the creation of a kamikaze UAV with a range of 25 km (obviously, based on the “Sarych” project) and the integration of small bombs and missiles into the unmanned aerial complex “Grif-100” is underway.

The export of defence industry products in 2019 is distributed by region as follows: 26% — to Russia, 27% — to other CIS countries (probably the post-Soviet space as a whole), 31% — to the Middle East and Asia. In total, deliveries were made to 97 countries of the world (21 countries more than in 2018).

The volume of defence products in 2019 amounted to a record BYN 1.4 billion or about USD 670 million (109.3% compared to 2018). Investments grew 17% to BYN 84.7 million, or slightly more than USD 40 million.

In January, Belarusian law enforcement agencies reported on the criminal situation in the country in 2019.

On January 27, 2020 it became known that in 2019 the customs authorities opened 181 criminal cases on the facts of drug and psychotropic substances trafficking (source). More than 645 kg of drugs were seized (225 kg in 2018). Of these, almost 500 kg were transported through Belarus to Russia. 2017 was record-breaking for Belarusian customs: more than 1 ton of drugs was seized, which is more than 60 times higher than in 2016.

On January 31, 2020 the Ministry of Internal Affairs summed up its performance in 2019. The number of recorded crimes increased by 5.4%. Mainly due to more than twofold increase in crime in high technology, as well as in public places and in a state of intoxication. Sexual offenses against children are considered as a serious problem.

Last year, much more hooliganism and theft in public places were committed. In order to prevent them, a number of measures are being taken, including the expansion of the video surveillance network. Today, images from more than 6.4 thousand video cameras have been displayed on the monitors of the operational duty police services. With their help, nearly 2.5 thousand crimes were uncovered.

Half of the crimes of an economic and corruption nature are committed in the state sector of the economy and are connected with the spending of budget funds.

The number of crimes in the field of drug trafficking decreased. But the number of seized potions and overdoses has become greater. 29 dope supply channels from abroad were eliminated. The largest batch of drugs seized was almost 550 kg of heroin. In total, over 1200 kg of narcotic drugs and 64 kg of psychotropic substances were seized last year.

The implementation of new approaches to the organization of operational and official activities in connection with the gradual abandonment of statistical indicators as an assessment of the effectiveness of law enforcement was announced: the Ministry of Internal Affairs introduced a point system for evaluating the results of employees.

The issues of strengthening discipline and rule of law among the personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are still pressing. Regarding work with personnel, the emphasis will be made on improving the communication between MIA employees and the citizens, strengthening partnerships with the population, as well as strengthening the human resources of leading services, giving priority to local inspectors and the traffic police.

In 2019, more than 153 thousand litres of alcohol-containing liquids and alcohol products (not including moonshine and mash) were seized by the Interior Ministry units.

According to the prosecutor’s office of Belarus:

— In Minsk, the level of crime increased by 17.2% (28.6% more murders and attempts on them, 40.7% more hooliganism, 29.7% more theft, 8.5% more teenage crime).

— In Mahiliou region, the number of recorded crimes increased by 0.7%, mainly due to crimes in the field of high technologies (1037 versus 392), robberies, hooliganism, extortion, carjacking, causing grievous bodily harm. Level of “drunk” crime increased by 22.2%.

-In Homiel region, the increase in crime amounted to 17.5%. There were more crimes involving the use of computer equipment and malware as well as crimes in public places (1/3 of which is hooliganism).

— In Viciebsk region, number of crimes increased by 1.8%.

— In Hrodna region, against the backdrop of a decrease in the overall crime rate, the number of crimes in the field of high technology grew more than 3 times (from 300 to 930).

The Investigative Committee (IC) of Belarus has opened more than 92.1 thousand criminal cases. The level of detection decreased to 65.4%. Such decrease in effectiveness was the result of increase in the number of cybercrimes. Their share in 2019 amounted to 12.5% of the number of criminal cases ​​(in comparison to 6.7% a year earlier). In most of these cases even the accused are not identified. Therefore, for 2020 the priority area in the activities of the IC is the improvement of work on combating crimes in the field of high technology.

The level of law-abidingness of the employees of the IC of Belarus themselves is still a problem.

The absence of an event is sometimes equal to an event: Belarus still has not approved a decision to protect the State Border in 2020. Usually this happened in January-first decade of February. Although the decision itself is not a critical document, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, who has special feelings for border guards, must have good reasons for moving away from an established tradition.

Belarus will continue to modernize Vietnam’s Su-27 fighters to the Su-27UBK and Su-27SKM standards at the facilities of OJSC 558 Aviation Repair Plant. Vietnam is also considering upgrading its Su-30MK2 fighters to a more modern standard in Belarus, by analogy with fighters previously acquired by the Angola Air Force.

The prosecutor’s office continues to work on crime prevention in military. In the 72nd Joint Training Centre, they conducted an event with new conscripts in order to prevent crimes against military service procedures and violations of the statutory rules of relations. The event was attended by more than 2 thousand people, including the command of the centre.

Conclusions. 14 months with empty chair of CSTO Secretary General had no effect on the functioning of the organization. But it has demonstrated that allied relations within CSTO exist more in theory than in practice. Which is a natural consequence of the lack of common values ​​of the member states. Initially, CSTO was created more likely to protect political regimes in member states than for real military-technical cooperation. Naturally, at the Russian expense. The Kremlin’s attempts to turn CSTO into an analogue of NATO were soon abandoned due to futility. In addition, the long-standing authoritarian leadership style of most leaders of the CSTO countries teaches them to relate their actions only to their personal interests, which complicates the development of common decisions and their implementation. The latter is true for all integration associations in the post-Soviet space.

In the absence of the possibility of “buying” the loyalty of the electorate, the Belarusian authorities are trying to remove/reduce irritants for large groups of the population, which gave rise to the ideas of reforming administrative and criminal legislation, changing forms of police work as the closest institution to civilians, and improving work with military servicemen in army.

In case of the practical implementation of the idea of ​​exempting agricultural specialists from military service, this will become a vivid demonstration of the real strength of the departments in the Belarusian system. For almost 5 years, the Ministry of Defence lobbied the adoption of amendments to the legislation on military service. It was enough for the Ministry of Agriculture to simply state its not very important needs, so that a decision was made actually to the detriment of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Border Committee. It won’t be a surprise if other social and economic departments require the same privileges for themselves like the Ministry of Agriculture. The Belarusian authorities demonstrate inconsistency, first making an unpopular decision to cancel a number of deferrals from military service, and then not showing the will to fully implement it.

It is necessary to note that the organization of production of small arms in Belarus and the economic development of the Orsha region are a personal order of Aliaksandr Lukashenka. Demonstrating effective effort, SMIC is increasing its authority in the eyes of the Belarusian ruler as an effective and disciplined institution. This allows the leadership of the military-industrial complex to divert attention from projects where successes are not so obvious (for example, the creation of a combat UAV) and gain additional “weight” within the system of Belarusian authorities. This can be especially useful in the confrontation with the Ministry of Defence, which persisted in the unwillingness to adopt technically raw products of the Belarusian defence industry. Moreover, the main initiator of the policy of buying what the army needs, and not what the national defence industry is able to offer – ex-chief of General Staff Aleh Belakoneu is no longer an obstacle. While the new heads of the Army and the Ministry of Defence have yet to prove their professional and “regime” competence.

It should be noted that SMIC is still evading the announcement of export figures for 2019, which does not allow determining the volume of foreign sales of equipment from stock, intermediary and other military and dual-use services. There is also no data on the volume of exports of the Belarusian defence industry as a whole, and not just the companies controlled by the State Military Industrial Committee. It was previously reported that in 2019 a slight increase in the export of military products is planned.

If information on the volume of exports for 2019 is not made public, the most likely reason is its decline compared to 2018. Which can be explained by both a reduction in the export of services and the volume of intermediary activity as well as with the end of the execution of large contracts (primarily to Azerbaijan – export there fell 11.5 times in 11 months of 2019 in comparison to 2018). Another negative factor is a reduction in the supply of defence products to Russia. Recall that in 2018, it was officially stated that Russia accounts for 1/3 of the export deliveries of the Belarusian military industry (according to other no less official, but less public data – 40%). In any case, some of the largest enterprises of the national defence industry, previously operating almost entirely in the interests of Russian customers, are already forced to look for new markets for their products. It is worth recalling that the volume of exports to Russia has been declining for several years. So it’s appropriate to talk about a trend, not about an event.

It is also necessary to pay attention to the insignificant size of the capital investments (in comparison with the volumes of production) of the SMIC enterprises against the background of ambitious plans for the development of new high-tech products.

An increase in the number of crimes committed while intoxicated, teenage crime, theft of property and hooliganism is a sign of serious social problems in Belarus. The solution of these problems is outside the scope of the functions and capabilities of law enforcement. The outstripping increase in crime in relatively prosperous Minsk can be partially explained by the fact that some of the crimes are committed by visitors.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs’ abandoning statistical indicators in the evaluation of work was declared back in January 2016 (though, then details of the new assessment system were not reported). Obviously, the creation of a new adequate and stimulating system for evaluating the work of the police is a very complicated and not quick process. One should also not be 100% sure that this time the result will satisfy the initiators.

During October-November 2019, the official Minsk announced its intentions to revise the terms of cooperation with Russia in the field of border security. The reasons were non-fulfilment of its obligations by Russia: the deployment of border guards on the Belarusian-Russian border and the introduction of restrictions on its crossing by third-country nationals. Moscow publicly ignored the statements from Minsk. Probably, the position of the Kremlin raises the question of revising certain provisions of the decision to protect the state border of Belarus for 2020.

In November 2019, a delegation of the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus visited the A32 aircraft repair plant in Vietnam, which specializes in the current and overhaul of fighters of the Su-27/Su-30 family. Belarusian-Vietnamese cooperation in the field of military aircraft may receive an additional impetus. Not only in terms of repair and modernization, but also in terms of joint production of aircraft, including UAVs.

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