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

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The most important events of the month. The key event of the month was the international arms exhibition “Milex-2017”.

During the event, it was announced that in 2016 the volume of military exports amounted to about USD 1 billion.

During the exhibition “Milex-2017”, the concept of a national anti-aircraft missile system was introduced. The solutions implemented within the framework of “Buk MB” will be applied in it. It is assumed that anti-aircraft missiles will also be produced in Belarus. The project is being developed by the “OKB TSP” company without the involvement of government funding. The project is expected to be finished in 3-5 years. In May, as part of the work on the creation of a national anti-aircraft missile system, for the first time in the country, the modernized Buk MB missile was fired. All targets were destroyed. During the firing a new radar station, capable of detecting Stealth targets was successfully tested.

However, the main attention was paid to the multiple launch rocket system (hereinafter referred to as MLRS) “Polonaise”. Chinese M20 missile was presented as a munition for it. The claimed range of the missile is 280 km, which is within the limits established by the missile technology control regime.

Currently, there is at least one export contract for the supply of the MLRS “Polonaise”. Although the first buyer is not called, there is a high probability that this is Azerbaijan.

The technical potential of the MLRS “Polonaise” laid by the developers makes it possible to use a number of elements of the complex when creating a national anti-aircraft missile system. There is information, that the manufacturer is working on this issue. There is a high probability that a Chinese-made anti-aircraft missile will act as a means of destruction.

Chairman of the State Military Industrial Committee (hereinafter referred to as the SMIC) confirmed the seriousness of the plans for the creation of a national anti-aircraft missile system. According to Siarhey Hurulyou, this work is going on actively, and a model of the SAM system will be created by the end of the year. The main issue is getting a missile. And it is being solved.

The work on a Belarusian-Russian project to create a new short-range air defence system, an agreement on which was achieved two years ago, never began. Formal reason is the lack of money. However, at present there are hopes for the start of project financing at the expense of the Union State of Belarus and Russia budget.

Also, the prospects of increasing the grouping of communication satellites of the Belintersat system by several more units were announced.

Nothing is known about the size of the contracts signed during “Milex-2017”. Thus, the agreement between JSC “558th Aircraft Repair Plant” and the holding “Helicopters of Russia” for the repair of Russian Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters of civil purpose, is an achievement but not a significant one. It’s necessary to recall, that during the exhibition “Milex-2014” the signing of documents amounting to about USD 700 million was reported.

It is worth noting that among other things “Milex 2017” was noticeable thanks to Chinese manufacturers. Joint stands of defence enterprises of Belarus and China were organized for the first time. Samples of Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles, which are planned for joint production in Belarus, were demonstrated. At the same time, the Russian military-industrial complex showed little interest in the exhibition and rather was just marking its presence.

On May 26, 2017, after the concrete projects of cooperation between Belarus and China in the field of unmanned aircraft, the possibility of establishing a joint UAV development and production centre with Russia was announced. However, this is just a statement.

The developments within the month. From May 15, 2017 all flights from Belarus, which were previously serviced in the domestic terminals of Russian airports, were transferred to international sectors. The border control of aircraft and passengers also began to be implemented. In Belarus, border controls on aircraft that fly from Belarus to Russia and in the opposite direction are still not being carried out.

May became the month of intensive Belarusian-Chinese communications in the field of security. On May 16, 2017, during the talks between Aliaksandr Lukashenka and Chairman of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, the sides touched upon issues of cooperation in the military sphere and the special services. The latter will focus on interaction in terms of ensuring domestic political security, combating terrorism and extremism. The Belarusian side expressed interest in expanding military-technical cooperation, including joint development of weapons and military equipment.

On May 17-22, at the invitation of the Ministry of Defence and the Belarusian SMIC a Chinese military delegation led by Colonel-General Zhang Yusia, member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, a member of the Central Military Council of the People’s Republic of China, head of the Central Administration of Arms and Military Equipment Development of the Central Military Council visited Minsk. The Chinese commander held meetings with the Defence Minister of Belarus, Lieutenant-General Andrei Raukou, and with the Deputy Minister of Defence for Armament, Major-General Ihar Latsiankou. The directions of development of cooperation in the military and military-technical sphere were discussed.

The delegation from the PRC held talks with the leaders of the State Military-Industrial Committee and visited the enterprises of the Belarusian military-industrial complex. Issues of conducting joint research and development work on weapons and military equipment were discussed.

On May, 19 Aliaksandr Lukashenka received the Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Ihar Shunevich. The criminogenic situation and the reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were discussed. The reduction of crime this year by about 8.5% was stated. The intention to reduce the central apparatus of the Ministry of Internal Affairs by almost 10% and reform “a number of subdivisions of the internal affairs bodies” was confirmed.

In addition, the Ministry of Internal Affairs plans to have an unmanned aviation complex in every territorial department of internal affairs. The purchase of equipment can be carried out in the near future.

On May 21, 2017 the top officials of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter referred to as the CSTO) expressed their hope to return to the issue of equipping the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (hereinafter referred to as CRRF) with uniform weapons for free. This can happen in a year or two. Naturally, in case of favourable development of the situation in the Russian economy.

On May 22, 2017 Aliaksandr Lukashenka held a meeting on improving the social and economic situation in Orsha district. In Orsha mass protests against the social policy of the authorities were held in spring. It is interesting to note that the situation in Orsha district is entrusted to Viktar Sheiman. Although formally holding an economic position, he is one of Lukashenka’s most trusted officials. Earlier he proved his ability to solve complex issues in the interests of the Belarusian leader.

On May 22, 2017 Aliaksandr Lukashenka signed a decree on the establishment of a public security monitoring system. It is planned to merge existing video surveillance systems into a centralized system for monitoring public order. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is coordinating activities in the creation, functioning and use of the monitoring system.

In May, the army worked out actions against illegal armed formations, blocking and destroying them, as well as seizing and organizing the defence of the settlement, including fighting in buildings. Traditionally, “militants” more resembled servicemen of the regular army than terrorists. So, they actively used mine barriers on the approach to the occupied settlement. Air Force was fighting with the mythical fighters as well. At Lida assault aviation base, a training exercise, in which 15 aircraft were used (training L-39, combat training Yak-130 and Su-25 attack aircraft) took place. Aviators worked out the search for the enemy and applying massive and point strikes on it, including strikes from extremely low altitudes.

In May, it was announced that Belarus could purchase another batch of Yak-130 combat training aircraft in Russia in addition to the previously supplied eight ones. Obviously, the supply of four more aircraft is discussed.

In May, the command and staff training of territorial defence (hereinafter referred to as TD) was held in Vitsebsk region. Local authorities, representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Emergency Measures, the State Security Committee (hereinafter referred to as SSC) and the Investigative Committee were participating in it. The united headquarters of the territorial defence area, which united Vitsebsk city, Vitsebsk and Liozno districts was deployed.

Conclusions. Speaking about the export achievements of the domestic military-industrial complex, it is necessary to underline several points:

— weapons are only a part of exports;

— dual-use products make a significant part of exports;

— the exports of works and services for the repair and modernization of military equipment and armaments as well as provision of a secure communication are a big part of exports;

— not all exports are of Belarusian origin, enterprises — special exporters of military products can mediate services to producers / owners of weapons and military equipment not only from Belarus, but also from third countries.

Technical indicators of M20 missile confirm our earlier assumption: Beijing will not violate its obligations on the issues important for the US. In any case, not for Belarus. However, in the case of localization of production of M20 missiles, it seems feasible to create on its base a Belarusian surface-to-surface missile with a range of more than 400 km. The range can be possibly increased after some time. Moreover, the prospects for the preservation of the Soviet-American Treaty on the elimination of medium and short-range missiles are increasingly vague. On the one hand, the West accuses Russia of violating the terms of the document. On the other hand, the need to revise NATO’s nuclear deterrence strategy requires the Alliance to have short- and medium-range missiles.

In cases the work on the Belarusian-Russian short-range SAM system does not begin within the next year, it can be stated that the reason for this is the reluctance of the Russian side to assist the Belarusian military-industrial complex in creating products that have potential in the international arms market. Financial difficulties are just an excuse.

At present, Belarus can immediately work on two projects in the area of ​​medium-range air defence systems: one at the expense of private capital, another — at the expense of budgetary resources. Accordingly, with missiles of domestic and Chinese production.

At the same time, the visa regime will be introduced not for a clearly defined period, but from a specific date and to a special order. The Federal Border Service of Russia is working on the issue of organizing an international border crossing point through the Belarusian-Russian land border.

At the moment the temporary visa regime with Belarus is only being discussed. However, even now it is clear that the decision will be exclusively political: such measures are not planned in relation to Ukraine and the CIS countries. However, it can’t be excluded, that the leakage of information on visas for Belarusians is organized in order to execute political and psychological pressure on the official Minsk.

It is not clear about the reform of which departments of the internal affairs bodies and in what direction Minister Ihar Shunevich spoke. It can be assumed with a high degree of certainty that it is planned to unite the territorial units (most likely the Department of citizenship and migration, the Department of finance and logistics, the Department of security) of administrative regions into inter-district ones. Due to this, there will be a staff reduction at the managerial level.

The plans of the CSTO leaders to arm CRRF have a long, but inglorious history. Back in 2009, it was reported about the intention to re-equip the CSTO CRRF by 2015 with modern weapons, mostly Russian ones. However, the plans stumbled over finance: the price of the program was around USD 1 billion. Russia was ready to sell weapons on preferential terms; the other CSTO countries are interested in obtaining Russian weapons free of charge. As a result, even the military uniform, made for the money of the Russian budget for CSTO peacekeepers, is stored in warehouses and issued to the military only during joint exercises. Thus, the hopes of the CSTO leaders regarding the rearmament of the CRRF can’t come into reality in short-term perspective.

Obviously, the authorities are concerned about the scale of protest sentiments in the regions of Belarus. They worry not so much about current level of protest, but about the threat of their growth in the foreseeable future. The crisis isn’t overcome yet. Moreover, there is no clear plan about it. The power resource of the regime, although being significant, is nonetheless not infinite. Active protests in several regions simultaneously can lead to loss of control over the situation by the authorities. The socio-economic situation in most areas of Belarus is complex, in some places — critical. However, the problems of regional development at the level of the head of state and the Prime Minister were considered only in relation to Orsha. It seems very likely that the proximity of this large city to the border with Russia is the reason for the special attention of Minsk.

It is worth noting that at the moment it’s not the best time for creating a public safety monitoring system. Firstly, in the situation of growing protest sentiments this will become an additional irritant for the population, a symbol of the authorities’ fear. Secondly, the project will require significant financial investments. Again, given the complex social situation in the country, for the people the need of this system doesn’t seem obvious. Thirdly, earlier the idea to transfer the public safety monitoring system to the management of a private operator was announced. This in turn will cause a wave of suspicion of corruption. The situation is worsened by the fact that the authorities in a traditional manner provide a minimum of information.

Obviously, the May command-and-staff training of territorial defence in Vitsebsk region was of a research character with the aim of developing a command system for large-scale maintenance areas, uniting several administrative-territorial units. Earlier, we pointed out that the creation of territorial defence districts in each administrative area is irrational due to the limited human and economic potential of the territories. It was necessary to enlarge the areas of maintenance. In addition, the declared number of territorial troops at 120,000 apparently goes beyond the limits of the state’s ability to properly train and equip them. We also pointed out that civil officials do not have the necessary professional qualities for performing the command of the territorial defence. During the training in Vitsebsk, the command was entrusted to the military commissar of the Vitsebsk region, who is a career officer.

Thus, with a high degree of certainty it can be said that in Belarus there is a transformation of the territorial defence system in three directions:

— enhancing the capabilities of the territorial defence districts by enlarging them;

— assignment of the command of the territorial defence to the military personnel and not to civil officials;

— reducing the number of territorial troops to ensure their best training and equipment for them.

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