Situation in the field of national security and defense (January 2015).

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The most important events of the month. The devaluation of the national currency and the next financial crisis could not but affected the public expenditures, including the law enforcement agencies. The funds saving regime was introduced, and a significant portion of capital expenditures may be frozen. The new revised data on the current year budget, which will be made public before the end of February, may show the real picture. This update is likely to become not the last one this year.

In January, an intensive training was carried out in the Armed Forces of Belarus. The measures were taken to bring the individual units up to wartime due to call-up of the reservists. The latter caused particular excitement: there was another stove-piping about the call-up of 15,000 reservists due to the escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian war. The misinformation quickly engulfed the national information space and was picked up by a number of serious media. However, in reality the total number of the called-in people, who took part in combat shooting and tactical exercises, amounted to 341.

The call-up of the reservists is a common event, when training the transfer of military units from peacetime to wartime and resupplying the military personnel. And it happens regularly. In a typical year, the number of recruits for training ranges from 2 to 4 thousand people. Judging by the size of the military budget for 2015, we should not expect any planned militarization of Belarus. The excitement around the event is associated with the external background – the war between Russia and Ukraine.

At the same time one fact remained unnoticed: during the January exercises the interaction of troops and border guards was simulated to increase the security of the State border, preventing invasion of sabotage and reconnaissance groups from the neighboring state.

The dynamics of the situation development for the past month. January was the month of summarizing and forming plans for the current year.

On 30.01.2015 a meeting of the Board of the State Military-Industrial Committee (hereinafter referred to as SMIC) took place, which summed up the development of the department in 2014 and set objectives for 2015.

The intention was confirmed to complete the product development, originally determined in 2010, by the end of the year. This is particularly about fighting geographic information systems, systems of complex counteraction to precision weapons, unmanned aircraft systems (hereinafter referred to as the UAS), fire damage systems, combat systems of special operations forces and ground forces. The line of communication means is almost completely developed: the digital shortwave radio stations will be finished by the end of the year.

This year we plan to develop a legal framework for creation, testing and application of the UAS, as well as to create the Center for Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Equipment.

In 2015, SMIC and the law enforcement agencies will identify the key ways to improve the efficiency of national security, including the defense sector, and will develop offers for them. This problem is highlighted as a priority.

The amount of export of defense products and services is increasing: the growth rate was 118.6% compared to 2013.

The problems of the military industrial complex include:
— insufficient level of cooperation between the SMIC organizations;
— complaints about the products quality.

The export policy of the department aims at searching for new markets, investment cooperation with foreign partners, attraction of new technologies, use of package offers and state support of export.

Besides, the head of SMIC highlighted the desire for direct participation of the Belarusian defense enterprises in the Russian state defense order. Such participation is currently indirect. The Russian side only promises to provide equal rights to the Belarusian MIC.

Head of SMIC Sergey Hurulyou admitted a slowdown of domestic defense industry cooperation with the Ukrainian colleagues: «… for some reason, but not due to Belarus».

The Belarusian defense industry is preparing for the creation of shock UAS. But there is no clear position from the Defense Ministry.

S. Hurulyou said that Belarus attaches great importance to cooperation with the Russian OJSC «United Aircraft Corporation» (hereinafter referred to as UAC) in order to develop its own aircraft industry. At present, the platform for such cooperation is the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranovichi (hereinafter referred to as the 558th ARP). The Belarusian party is planning to organize manufacture of both military and civil aviation products. As for the plans of UAC to become the shareholder of the 558th ARP, the decision will be made personally by Alexander Lukashenko. The interaction currently develops on the basis of the concept of cooperation development between the 558th ARP and UAC and the consolidated production program until 2025.

In 2015, it is planned to renovate 8 MiG-29 and 2 combat-capable Su-25 for the national Air Forces at the facilities of the 558th ARP.

In 2014, the 558th ARP has rendered services to the foreign customers on repair of military aircraft for the amount of at least USD 80 mln.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter referred to as CSTO) shared its new plans in January. The structure is created as part of the block for defense management of the participating countries – the Center for Crisis Response. It will be paired with the Russian National Center of Defense Management, so that CSTO will be able to use the already off-the-shelf channels of communication and control for the purposes of crisis response. The relevant national structures of the CSTO member states will be connected through the same channels to a single point.

There will also be changes in preparation of the Collective Forces of the CSTO, to which the element of surprise is introduced. The previous criticism stated that the exercises of the CSTO are just demonstration performance.

In addition, equipping of all the armed forces of the CSTO member states with the compatible weapons and military equipment remains an important area of work. This issue has been stuck over many years; only relatively small supplies of small arms and equipment took place. It was assumed that Russia will become the donor of the CSTO re-equipment program. Now, it is unlikely that the process will accelerate because of the economic situation in the country. Other CSTO members expect to receive but not give (in the best traditions of the post-Soviet countries). In the meantime, it was stated that last year the CSTO countries have bought arms and military equipment at bargain prices for the amount of USD 650 million. These supplies include that the price of the products purchased by the member states is established on the basis of its cost for the national armed forces. The main buyer is obviously Russia, and Kazakhstan is in the second place.

On 30.01.2015 it was announced that the issues of import substitution within CSTO will be assigned to Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government Dmitry Rogozin. The Regulation on the Interstate Commission for Military and Economic Cooperation was amended, and now it shall include Deputy Prime Ministers of the participating countries responsible for the military-industrial complex. The Commission will mainly focus on the import substitution. Especially in terms of substitution of the Ukrainian defense products, which had been previously exported to Russia.

Within the framework of CSTO the cooperation is enhanced in the field of information security. The regulation on interaction in this area has been approved. The «PROXY» operation aimed at combating crime in the sphere of information is put into constant action, which will allow to enhance the cooperation in the field of information security, detection of the attempted information attacks on member states, criminal actions in electronic information networks. The advisory coordination center for cyber incidents has been created. The new structure will warn about the information security vulnerabilities and prevent the attempts to penetrate into the information networks, identify actions aimed at harming the information resources of the countries.

The Belarusian-Russian political and economic contradictions have not yet affected the bilateral cooperation in the field of security.

As part of the Union of Russia and Belarus in 2014, eight joint defense programs were financed for the amount of RUR 2.5 bln. Including 1.6 bln. at the expense of equity contributions of the Russian Federation. Certain difficulties have arisen due to the devaluation of the Russian ruble. It should be noted that initially in 2014 it was planned to spend RUR 3.16 bln. on ten joint defense programs.

The Ministries of Defense of Belarus and Russia have prepared the concepts of two new joint programs: on development and improvement of the infrastructure of the regional force groupings and improvement of technical coverage of the railway troops. These programs are planned to be implemented in 2015-2019.

The Belarusian military leaders took part in collection of management staff of the Western Military District of the Russian army. During the event, the peculiarities of military administration under conditions of a «hybrid» and «network-centric» warfare have been studied. The event was attended by more than 130 generals, admirals and officers.

It is stated that the network-centric warfare is a concept focused on improving the combat capabilities of the troops at the expense of achieving the info-communicational dominance, combining the combatants into a single network. Hybrid warfare combines a conventional war, a small war and cyber war, combining information actions, psychological actions and cyber attacks aimed both at the structural technical components of the country and its citizens.

The main directions of scientific work of the Ministry of Defense in the current year were declared in January, inter alia:
— experimental design works in promising directions of development of weapons, military and special equipment, state quality testing, formation of attractive appearance of the technical support of the Armed Forces until 2020;
— bringing the statutory documents in line with the organizational and staffing amendments and the results of scientific researches, clarifications of application and methods of action of the troops.

On 16.01.2015 it was stated that the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Belarus in 2015 will complete equipping of all district units with heavy equipment. At the same time the agency has no plans to purchase the aircraft. The latter contradicts with the previously stated intentions. Thus, the currently operated helicopters Mi-8 should be replaced by Ka-32, which are more suitable for the requirements of the MES. The allocation of about USD 15 mln. was planned for purchase of the first helicopter back in 2013. And yet in October 2013 it was reported that the contract was signed in 2014 for supply of one machine for the Minsk rescue staff. However, the management of the Ministry stressed the importance of Ka-32 procurement and the need for such machines. However, the financial problems have brought their adjustments. Apparently, in the next few years the issue of buying aircraft for the Ministry of Emergency Situations was removed from the agenda: there is no money and they are not expected.

Belarusian authorities continue the policy of distance from the Russian-Ukrainian war. Belarus supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine, its unitary nature, and it will not allow other countries to carry out aggressive actions against it from its territory. This was declared by the Belarusian ambassador to Ukraine Valentin Velichko on 16.01.2015.

On 19.01.2015 Alexander Lukashenko has approved the decision to protect the state border in 2015. It was stated that the border security is among the priorities of the state policy (apparently in connection with the events in Ukraine). The results of the border service optimization were also discussed, together with the issues of law and order in the border zone, cooperation of the border guards with the local authorities, involvement of local communities in protection of the state border.

On 19.01.2015 the Interior Minister Igor Shunevich said that the agency is satisfied with the new amendments to the legislation to toughen the liability for illegal drug trafficking. Further amendments to the drug laws, including their toughening, are possible.

On 28.01.2015 anti-terrorist exercises «Reactor Anti-Terror — 2015» were carried out at the Joint Institute for Power and Nuclear Research «Sosny» of the National Academy of Sciences. The KGB, MIA, the Investigative Committee, Forensic Committee and the Ministry of Health were among the participants. The interaction of state bodies in case of a major environmental hazard and minimization of the possible negative consequences were worked out.

A. Lukashenka has continued to set records of the press conference duration. Another one was held on 29.01.2015. Passion of the Belarusian leader for the lengthy reasoning places him on a par with such speakers as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Despite this, some statements deserve to be paid attention to.

Lukashenko stated that the only grounds for his not participating in the presidential election may be «imbecility, stupidity or illness». He has «no right» to leave this position.

Belarus will leave the Eurasian Economic Union in case of the agreements breach.

Lukashenko does not allow thoughts of the war between Russia and Belarus. At the same time he is ready to make anyone, who denies the statehood of our country, respect the Belarusian sovereignty and independence. Belarus does not claim for the territory, being a part of Russia, but it will not also give its land to anyone. He called a joke his previous statements on the rights of Belarus to a number of Russian territories.

Belarusian authorities are making efforts to create their own weapons. The first samples will be presented in a few months. We are talking about the fire weapons. Later, the Chairman of SMIC of Belarus S. Hurulyou reported that the new national fire weapons will be presented on the 9th of May at the military parade in Minsk.

Minsk also evaluates everything happening in the world of military conflicts and is adapting the national defense system on that basis. Lukashenko said: «We have decided that we need to be mobile, well-armed and well-trained military units. If necessary, they should be prepared to appear in Brest today, and in Vitebsk tomorrow». Though it remains a mystery how the high level of combat capability may be achieved, taking into account the fact that all the years of his reign, to put it mildly, inadequate financial resources were allocated for defense. The military budget of Belarus is comparable to the military budget of Estonia, which is seven times smaller than Belarus. As a result, in 2015 Belarus will account for about USD 16 thous of budget financing per soldier, which is EUR 74.9 thous in Estonia, i.e. more than five times as much.

The West is already not the enemy, but Russia is still the priority. No one is going to flirt with the West, we are talking only about the normalization of relations. Lukashenko understands that he will never make friends with Brussels and Washington. Someone always wants to put Belarus on the knees, and in the recent years such sentiments have been increasingly noticeable in Russia. And finally the picture was completed with the statement of the Belarusian leader that «the Americans have never pressed on them», the dialogue is going on, and some agreements are reached and implemented, but without announcements.

And the apotheosis of the press conference was the statement about the fact that Belarus is not a part of the «Russian world».

Conclusion. The quality of products has been called one of the main problems of the national defense industry for a number of years. The reason may be in the limited financial base of companies that cannot update the production capacity with the necessary speed, forces to save on components, using what is cheaper, but not always better. It is worth noting that the issue of the quality of products is relevant to the entire national industry, and not only for the military industrial complex.

Currently there is no information on whether the repair of aircraft of the national Air Forces involves their simultaneous modernization. Earlier, the Belarusian officials notified of the obstacles to modernization of the Belarusian military aviation on the part of the Russian producers. For a long time there has been no information on future plans of Su-27. There were previously made statements about their possible modernization by the domestic industry and return to duty. However, it did not come further yet.

The reason for restraint by the Ukrainian side of cooperation with the Belarusian defense industry may be the concern in Kiev that as a result of such cooperation the Ukrainian defense products will continue to appear in Russia. This is quite an unpleasant result for the Belarusian defense industry, since the Ukrainian colleagues have always been our long-standing and natural partners. Moreover, in 2014 Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly made it clear that Belarus is interested in cooperation with Ukraine in the field of military-industrial complex. Particularly in the field of transfer of the Ukrainian technologies, many of which are unique for the post-Soviet space.  

Establishment of the CSTO Center for Crisis Response means creation of a unified system of strategic defense management within the bloc. The central information hub will however be located in Moscow. It will carry out accumulation and distribution of information within the CSTO. In theory, this will allow the Russian side to get a complete picture of the national security systems of the other CSTO member countries, including their available reserves. However, it is still not clear, how the CSTO countries are willing to share the information about their defense plans and capabilities beyond what is currently reported.

Actualization of the CSTO cooperation on import substitution of the defense products indirectly confirms that Russia is experiencing difficulties in replacing the Ukrainian military-technical products by its own producers. This opens up new opportunities for the domestic defense industry. On the other hand, Russia continues to implement the policy of reducing dependence on the imported defense products. The prospects of the Belarusian defense industry in the Russian market as a whole will depend on the success of such strategy.

The CSTO policy on information security is not limited only to the information networks and resources protection from unauthorized interference and modification. This is rather a minor task. The primary objective is to create a system «… preventing the attempts to use information resources for anti-state purposes, aimed at destabilizing the situation and the violent overthrow of the Government in the CSTO member states.» To put it simply, the CSTO countries are hoping to take control of their own information space. Given the fact that the potential of all post-Soviet countries except Russia in this part is negligible, it can be argued that it is protection of the Russian information field in the first place. We may expect manifestations of censorship, restrictions on the dissemination of information, dissemination of misinformation and conducting anti-Western propaganda. In this regard, the following explanation should be specially highlighted: «We cannot allow that the information field of our state is used as a base for subversive activities against the state, against the existing system, against strategic plans, laid in the foundation of his policy». Absolutely any criticism of government policy is subject to the above formulation. It is worth noting that four of six CSTO countries have authoritarian regimes with far from young rulers.

It is obvious that the economic situation in Belarus and the external background in the region are forcing Alexander Lukashenko to change the rhetoric against Washington and Brussels. The Official Minsk expects significant changes in relations with the West only after the presidential elections in Belarus. We should add that the direction of these changes (for better or worse) depends solely on the behavior of the Belarusian authorities, their endurance and willingness not to yield to the provocations and stove-piping. And since the regime may not be sure in its nerves of steel, the probability of repressive actions in the current year remains high.

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