The most important events of the month. Contrary to the expectations, the new revision of the state budget for 2015 has not been introduced in February. All law enforcement agencies continue operating under the hard budget restrictions, despite the declarations of the authorities on financial stability of the security forces. It is clear that the delay in the approval of the new budget is associated with both external and internal factors. There is no clarity about the size and conditions of financial support from Russia in 2015. The economic situation may become worse than it was predicted by the Government. The budget pie will be significantly reduced, which will lead to serious redistribution of public finances.
The dynamics of the situation development for the past month. On 03.02.2015, the State Border Committee has summarized financial performance for the past year and identified some plans for the current year. In 2014 there was a significant (14%) reduction in the number of offenses on the border. However, their nature does not pose a threat to the border security of Belarus. The main risks are associated with illegal migration, smuggling of drugs, weapons and other forms of cross-border crime.
In the past year more than USD 1.9 mln. of international technical assistance was spent for development of the border infrastructure. This year we are planning to spend more than USD 2.5 mln.
It is worth mentioning that there was an insignificant amount of international aid. Meanwhile, Alexander Lukashenko regularly and for a long time has required from the border agency to achieve more of EU funding of the border security costs. Apparently, Brussels does not show any particular generosity.
Pinsk border detachment started formation of two units, which will be using the UAVs and gyroplanes. The gyroplane is planned to be equipped with surveillance systems. The main task is to find the pilots and maintenance technicians. All the more so, because the rate of proposed salaries for the border agency is not high.
At the same time it became known about the preparations for signing of the supply contract for the four two-seater gyroplanes of Calidus series manufactured by the Russian company AutoGyroRussland for the needs of the State Border Committee of Belarus. The first samples will be supplied to our country as early as mid-April. The gyroplanes will have special equipment in the form of round-the-clock camcorders and other equipment necessary to patrol the border. It should be noted that this model of gyroplanes was purchased by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Federal Security Service, though so far only for trial operation.
The Belarusian Ministry of Emergency Situations is planning to obtain an unmanned aircraft system (hereinafter referred to as UAS) “Burevestnik” with the range of use up to 290 km in the current year. The equipment is designed and produced by the research and production center “Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Technologies” of the Physicotechnical Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The device can be in the air up to 10 hours. It is designed for reconnaissance, detection of emergency situations, assessment of their development, and monitoring of agricultural lands in real time. In the future with the help of “Burevestnik” it will be possible to observe the radiation situation in the construction area of the Belarusian NPP.
The “Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Technologies” are planning to extend the production capacity for UAS of various types: more than 10 small range units per year and up to 10 large range units per year.
On 10.02.2015, it was announced about the plans to replace the L-39 training aircrafts of the Air Forces (hereinafter referred to as TA) with the Russian Yak-130 training aircrafts. The phased development of new technology is planned, after which the old aircrafts will be put out of service. Fulfillment of the contract for purchase of the first link of four Yak-130 aircrafts is coming to an end. In February, the technicians and pilots were sent to Russia for training, from where they will return with new aircrafts. During the first year of operation the domestic Air Forces will be receiving support from the manufacturing enterprise. In the future, the Belarusian aviators would like to purchase an additional batch of Yak-130.
There were also announced plans to equip the radar troops with new radar stations of domestic production: “Vostok-D” (1 pc.) and “Rosa-RB” (2 pcs.). Currently, the automated radio control systems for the Air Forces and Air Defense of Belarus have been upgraded by 90%, the means of radar reconnaissance have been upgraded by more than 35%. It is expected that this work will continue up to 2020. It should be mentioned that in December 2014 it was reported on the intention to purchase 3-4 psc. of «Rosa-RB» in the current year. Obviously, the impact factor of the financial crisis is felt.
On 10.02.2015, the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center (hereinafter referred to as the ATC) held an International Conference “Information Combating Terrorism and Extremism in Modern World”. The event was expectedly ignored by Ukraine. We may confidently state that the country no longer belongs to the post-Soviet space.
The Head of the CIS ATC Colonel General of Police Andrei Novikov said that discussion of the problems of “information warfare” is motivated by the desire to effectively counter terrorism and extremism taking into account the potential of mass media, civil society and international organizations. It was traditionally pointed out that the main sources of threats to the CIS countries are posed by the international terrorist organizations operating on the territory of Afghanistan and a number of states in the Middle East. There is a real danger of export of social and political tension to the CIS. The main way of their involvement in terrorist activities remains impact from terrorist and extremist organizations using traditional methods, along with the impact of modern information and communication technologies.
The specialized data bank of the CIS ATC keeps record of CIS citizens, who participated in the warfare outside the CIS as members of terrorist and extremist organizations and illegal armed groups.
On 19.02.2015, Alexander Lukashenko met with commanders of the Ministry of Defense. During the event the Belarusian leader made a number of statements in his traditional manner.
Thus, Belarus is open to constructive dialogue with NATO on the principles of parity and transparency. At the same time participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization is considered as the guarantee of security and stability in the region.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that the inspection of the Armed Forces, which took place a year ago, has identified a number of shortcomings. Currently, we are working on their elimination. The tradition of inspecting the army will continue in the future.
The main task of the army at present is to improve and consistently increase the military capabilities. The Ministry of Defense has developed the relevant policy documents. They provide for exemption of servicemen from “… excesses of stocks of arms and military equipment” and additional government funding. However, it is necessary to upgrade all that can be upgraded, and try to get rid of the hopelessly outdated equipment with the greatest possible economic benefit. This was followed by a statement that “… the margin of safety in military technology is still far from being exhausted”. That is not only untrue, but also is an express hint that the massive rearmament should not be expected in the nearest future.
Alexander Lukashenko informed that last year the repair of the batch of fighters and attack aircrafts of the National Air Forces was carried out.
Activities to optimization of the number and composition of the effective combat forces have been largely held. Alexander Lukashenko expects to see the future image of the Armed Forces in the new edition of the Military Doctrine of Belarus. Until 2020 the basic measures on the army modernization must be completed. Alexander Lukashenko supported the offer of the Minister of Defense about the directions of the modernization of the Armed Forces, military equipment, procurement of new weapons. And he promised to allocate the necessary financial resources to “… have a decent army until 2035-2040, which will not require that amount of money we spend today”. The cornerstone should be rational spending of resources allocated by the Government.
Alexander Lukashenko also intends to personally inspect the physical and combat training of officers of the Armed Forces. The Security Council should develop a program.
The Belarusian leader stated he did not intend to refuse from the territorial defense, as “… the army wins the battle and peoples win the war”. The leading role in this area should continue to be played by the Ministry of Defense with the support of other authorities. Thus, the attempt of servicemen to abandon this troublesome task (territorial defense) may not succeed. The control over construction of the territorial defense should be carried out by the Security Council. Alexander Lukashenko demanded to strengthen military training of the territorial troops and assign them to specific units.
The requirement for discipline in the army was sounded. And “… the special reason to worry is origination in the law-enforcement agencies of such hazards as corruption, malfeasance, especially unacceptable betrayal of the service interests”. These issues are under special control of Alexander Lukashenko personally. And the demand for discipline in the armed forces is the strictest.
Despite the economic difficulties, the level of social protection of servicemen is planned to be maintained at a decent level. Housing is the main concern of the state. “The saved funds from optimization of combat composition and the size of army should be sent exclusively for re-equipment of the troops, maybe for housing, as well as the critical activities of the Armed Forces,” Alexander Lukashenko demanded. Earlier these funds were planned to be forwarded to increase the salaries of soldiers.
Alexander Lukashenko demanded to solve the problem of safety in the Air Forces as soon as possible and stated that “… the Ministry of Defense sometimes takes inadequate and ineffective measures”. However, the information on aging of equipment and the need to replace it was not disclosed for some reason. Then the Belarusian leader said that “… you won’t find it funny, if I hear about any accident in the Air Forces again”.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that threats to the national security begin with destabilization of the situation within the country. The Belarusian leader once again stressed that “… no one guarantees us quiet life”. The Belarusian authorities will continue to rely on Russian help in security matters. But we should count on our own resources. It was ordered to prepare the troops without association with the Russian army.
The national military and industrial complex is working on extension of sales markets. During February 22-26 the Belarusian defense industry took part in the international exhibition of arms and security technologies IDEX-2015 in Abu Dhabi. The issues of development of cooperation with enterprises and organizations of the United Arab Emirates were among the priorities of the Belarusian delegation.
February is remarkable due to the news that the holding company «Russian Helicopters» concluded the contract at the exhibition in Abu Dhabi to supply twelve Mi-17 helicopters in the civil modification to Belarus. There is no information on who is the counterparty on the Belarusian part. This may be a private operating company. And «Russian Helicopters» have not yet commented on the transaction. However, the fact that information about the contract was reported by the general director of the Russian state corporation «Rostekh» is a serious argument in favour of its existence.
Conclusion. Successful implementation of the project “Burevestnik” will allow to train the UAS control system at a maximum range, test its stability, including the challenging interference conditions. Developing an UAS control system seems the key task. Its solution allows to start building (perhaps on the basis of “Burevestnik”) a new intelligence complex for the needs of the Ministry of Defense, and later a shock UAS.
The speech of Lukashenko on 19.02.2015 before the army command has been very controversial. It is not clear what kind of excess weapon he meant. The war in Ukraine demonstrates that excess weapons never happen. In a crisis situation it is necessary to return the equipment into operation after 60 years of being out of service, and even older (anti-tank guns, gun D-48 and mountain guns M-99). Especially, if there is not enough funds for the purchase of a new equipment.
Talking about the readiness to develop relations with NATO, Alexander Lukashenko essentially told nothing new. The cooperation of Belarus with the Alliance is rather stable, despite the problems in the political sphere between Minsk and the West. The Belarusian authorities demonstrate commitment not to confuse security cooperation with the political and economic relations. This applies to both the West and Russia.
It is worth noting that the funds allocated for defense during the period of reign of Alexander Lukashenko were not enough. There is chronic underfunding. To hide it, the Belarusian authorities have come up with a formula of “optimization aimed at bringing the armed forces in line with the economic opportunities of the state”. In essence, this was the reduction combined with the sale of what could be sold. In this regard, the intention of the Belarusian leader to spend less than today on defense, does not bring anything but surprise.
The fact that in his speech on 19.02.2015 Alexander Lukashenko was not talking about modernization of combat aircraft could be regarded as a sign of either absence of necessary financial resources (unlikely), or blocking of modernization of the aircraft by the Russian manufacturers, which misuse their rights of field supervision. The reason for the latter may be either a political decision by the Kremlin on counteraction to increasing by Belarus of its defense capabilities, or simple desire to force the Belarusian party to purchase new aircrafts in Russia. However, new aircrafts for the Belarusian Air Forces may be made in China, which is not expected by the Russians. In particular, J-11B fighter is generally an unlicensed copy of Su-27, which means the machine well known in Belarus, for which operation we have all necessary infrastructure.
As for the threat of punishment for failure to ensure security of flights it should be noted that in our country there is a tradition of making the executives guilty. While they are often forced to operate in poor environmental conditions due to the circumstances beyond their control. Though these factors depend on the country’s authorities. As a result, the Air Forces may repeat the situation similar to the decommissioning of the heavy Su-27: one of the commanders did not want to take responsibility for the admission of flying equipment, which service life has already expired. It may happen that the generals prefer rather to «immobilize» the equipment, than be responsible for its operation and possible flight accidents.
Lack of interest in the territorial defense has a number of reasons. Thus its creation did not result in a significant increase of funding the defense department. Alexander Lukashenko considers the territorial forces as a cheaper version of a mass army. But “cheap” is not synonymous to “free”. The additional general positions were not introduced, which was hoped by the Ministry of Defense. In other words, the general positions were obtained by the senior civil officials, who have nothing to do with the defense matters. This caused dissatisfaction in the military environment. Appointing of civil officials to military positions is a wrong step.
The problem of discipline in the defense and law enforcement agencies is not new. They are a part of society, though the most conservative one. And they are characterized by all the negative evidences occurring in society. In the light of Ukrainian events the government of the country pays special attention to maintaining control over the security forces, to ensure their loyalty and psychological stability. Increasing the level of discipline and preventing crimes in the military forces requires taking a fundamental decision for improving opportunities of the military counterintelligence and close approach of the operational staff to the military troops. Apparently, there are problems with this. The famous optimization of the law enforcement agencies leads to physical shortage of personnel directly involved in practical work «in the field».
It is obvious that the Belarusian authorities are worried due to the aggressive actions of Russia on the one hand, and the passive measures of the West on the other hand. Thus, the official Minsk recognizes full powerless nature of OSCE and the UN in the maintenance of international security. The problem is worsened by the fact that Belarus has no reliable external allies, which could provide effective support in case of external pressure on our country. The attempts to build an alliance with China ended up in a failure. In case of aggravation of the crisis of security in the region, Belarus will be in an extremely vulnerable situation. In this case, Belarus will have to rely only on its own resources. On 02.23.2015, speaking to the representatives of law enforcement agencies of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that due to the upcoming presidential elections it should not be allowed to destabilize the situation in Belarus, which primarily depends on the military forces. It is not clear whether this was a misunderstanding in the sense that the military forces include all the representatives of law enforcement agencies. If it was the army that was meant, it means only one thing: the authorities do not exclude the possibility of military intervention (direct or indirect) in the internal political processes in our country. The «Western threat» is illusory: the policy of the official Minsk as a whole corresponds with the interests of Brussels and Washington. On the other hand, there are increasing signs of irritation on the part of Moscow. At this time the Belarusian authorities managed to ensure that the Kremlin will not proceed with information warfare against Alexander Lukashenko during the presidential elections in Belarus. Another thing is that this is only a verbal agreement between the two leaders reached during the meeting in Sochi on 08.02.2015. But as you know, the Kremlin has many towers and they are looking in different directions.