The most important events of the month. May became the month of Belarus in Asia and first of all the month of China. The visit of the President Xi Jinping to Belarus lasted for three days (May 10-12). It was assumed that such duration of visit is associated with conclusion of transactions on sale of the Belarusian state property to the Chinese investors. However, this has not happened yet. Though it is worth noting that possibly the public was informed about not all the agreements reached. It is likely that there will be more news later on the results of the visit of the President of China to Belarus.
Alexander Lukashenko highlighted the Belarusian-Chinese cooperation in the military and technical field. It possibly involved not only creation of a domestic multiple launch rocket system of long range «Polonez» (hereinafter referred to as MRLS), which with a 100% probability will be equipped with Chinese rockets. It is expected that this project will be followed by other deliveries of arms from China to Belarus. And first of all we are talking about the fighters and missiles for the national air defense missile system of medium range (hereinafter ADMS).
On 10.05.2015 the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus (hereinafter referred to as SMIC) and the State Administration of Defense Technology and Industry of the PRC signed a Memorandum on mutual understanding and cooperation. The ceremony was held in presence of the heads of states, which demonstrates the high attention paid by the parties to this field of cooperation.
During the visit an agreement was reached on cooperation between Minsk and Beijing «… concerning the matters affecting national interests, national security and sovereignty». The opinion of China was outlined, which opposes any foreign interference in the internal affairs of Belarus, and it was also declared about support for the efforts of the Belarusian authorities to protect state independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
The dynamics of the situation development for the past month. Early in May, the military commissariat of the Mogilev region held a command and staff exercise of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the State Border Committee. The main purpose of the exercise was to develop a rational course of action to stabilize the situation in the border areas. One of the main objectives of the event is training and development of interaction between the territorial defense bodies and the border service bodies during preparation for the joint implementation of tasks. During the training, the local government officials have acquired practical skills in organizing the territorial troops formation, training of the territorial defense forces to solve problems jointly with the border guards. At the same time the Ministry of Defense stated that such activities are carried out in all regions of Belarus.
The exercise in the Mogilev region was not the only one, which involved units of the State Border Committee. In May, there was held a command and staff exercise of the 19th mechanised brigade. The subject of the exercise was organization of defensive actions on a broad frontline in cooperation with the border guards. It is interesting to note that the official publication of the Defense Ministry chose to miss out the fact of participation of the latter in the exercise: preparation for border defense operations was too clearly visible.
On 04.05.2015 in Kiev during the visit to Ukraine of the President of the State Border Committee of Belarus Colonel-General Leonid Maltsev an intergovernmental agreement on border cooperation and a plan and of cooperation of the State Border Committee of Belarus and the State Border Service of Ukraine for 2015-2016 years were signed. Particular attention was paid to improvement of measures to counteract modern threats and challenges in the field of border security and the need to consolidate efforts to protect the border between the two countries. The Belarusian authorities are extremely concerned about the destabilized situation in Ukraine, which directly affects the Belarusian border security. The political events of the last year did not the best way affect the neighbouring country border authorities capacity. Though the worst fears have not been fulfilled yet (smuggling of weapons from Ukraine and penetration of extremists).
We should separately mention a military parade on May 9. In fact, there were two events at the same time and on the same site: the Russian and Belarusian parade. The Russian side has reminded some people in Minsk that Belarus is included in the Moscow area of interests. They reinforced their position by demonstrating military capabilities. Most of the arms shown by the Russian side were of offensive nature. In this context, heavy MRLS “Polonez”, equipped with Chinese missiles, which are close to the Russian operational and tactical missile complex «Iskander-E», and the US military orchestra demonstrated that the official Minsk has its own opinion on the Russian ambitions. MRLS “Polonez” is planned to be put into service in 2016.
During May the Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter referred to as CSTO) has traditionally been focused on the situation in Central Asia. Thus from 12 to 19 May, exercises were held with participation of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces of the CSTO. Belarus was represented in the event by a troop of mobile forces consisting of about 100 soldiers and 15 vehicles. The exercises included transfer of forces (including standard weapons and equipment) by transport aviation aircrafts of Belarus and Russia to Tajikistan, where the active phase of the exercises took place.
On 20.05.2015 in Tajikistan there was a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries of Security Councils of the CSTO. Among other things, they discussed the situation in Afghanistan and its impact on security of the participating countries. Measures were developed to counteract recruitment and departure of the CSTO citizens to participate in the armed conflict on the side of international terrorist organizations, and the issues of collective response to emergencies were discussed.
On May 25-27, Dushanbe hosted a meeting of the Council of Heads of Security Bodies and Special Services of the CIS member states. It was dedicated to the issues of information security of the CIS countries, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism, activation on the CIS territory of extremist and other illegal activities of right-wing organizations (neo-Nazis) orientation and their possible involvement in implementation of the «color revolution» technology. Measures were outlined to counteract threats from the «Islamic State».
The CSTO and CIS countries are concerned about the situation in northern Afghanistan. Effective operations of the Pakistani army led to forcing out of terrorists from Pakistan to northern Afghan provinces (mainly Kunduz, Badghis and Badakhshan). Though a direct invasion of militants in Central Asia is unlikely, their forces are shackled by the war with the Afghan authorities, the consequences of this war are felt in the region: the flow of refugees, drug trafficking, radicalization of the local population (especially the poorest layers).
In May, the Belarusian pilots started flying on combat training aircrafts Yak-130 with the trainers of the manufacturer – Irkutsk Aviation Plant. Currently, the pilots are being trained to be future instructors of the 116th Air Base and will be able to train other pilots flying on new aircrafts.
A lot of attention id still paid to the football fans by particular law enforcement agencies. Apparently, under the condition of the political opposition decline the members of this subculture were chosen to play the role of ritual enemies during the presidential campaign, and possibly after it. The fight of the law-enforcement agencies with the football fans may last long and turn to be very expensive for the public finances. Of course, only if the virtual threat will be «sold» to A. Lukashenko. On 14.05.2015, First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Chief of Criminal Police Valentin Mikhnevich during the plenary session of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus reported growth of offenses committed involving football fans. And as usually: «The experience of Kiev vividly demonstrated what kind of terrible power they may become.» The Ministry of Internal Affairs together with the interested parties are implementing «a set of measures aimed at preventing and counteracting extremism among the youth informal groups.»
On 19.05.2015, became known about the development within the Union of Belarus and Russia of «… a completely new anti-aircraft missile complex of short range», work on which is scheduled for the next year. It is obvious that new ADMS will replace the similar class systems «Strela-10» and «Tunguska». The Russian company «KBtochmash» will represent the partner of the Belarusian side.
Belarus has a theoretical chance to enter the Russian market of UAVs: the Russian Ministry of Emergencies is interested in appropriate technology, as well as equipment and software from Belarus. The head of the Russian agency said on the meeting with the head of the Ministry of Emergencies of Belarus on 19.05.2015.The supplies of the Belarusian machines to equip the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations are possible in case of victory in the competition, which has common base. The unspoken permission to use budget funds only to purchase Russian products may become a problem.
The domestic defense industry intends to fight for the Indian market. Belarus is ready to create joint ventures with India in the field of security and provide services for development, maintenance and disposal of military products. On 21.05.2015, it was stated by Deputy Chairman of SMIC Igor Bykov during the meeting with the First Deputy Head of Department of defense production of the Ministry of Defense of India Ashok Gupta. The Belarusian defense industry is ready to work under the brand «Made in India». In turn, the Indian representative reported of successful implementation of several projects and his desire to «… find new areas of mutually beneficial partnership». During the meeting of the Belarusian-Indian Commission on Military and Technical Cooperation, the Indian side stated that Belarus is one of the priority partners of their country.
On 22.05.2015, Alexander Lukashenko addressed the Congress of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, where in particular he declared as follows:
— Trade unions are parties of workers, the main conductor of the state ideas to the masses;
— Trade unions have a comprehensive area of interests, regardless of the fact whether it is stipulated by law;
— Trade union organizations should be established at all enterprises, including private and foreign capital enterprises.
On May 25-29, the Minister of Defense of Belarus Lieutenant-General Andrey Ravkov paid a visit to China. An agreement was reached to continue provision of military assistance from China to Belarus. During the visit the prospects of bilateral cooperation in the military sphere were also discussed. As a rule, the Chinese sources have been more informative. Thus, on 25.05.2015, during the meeting of the Minister of Defense of Belarus A. Ravkov and the Deputy Chairman of the Central Military Commission of China Fan Changlong, it was stated by the latter that the military Belarus and China must implement an agreement between the leaders of the two countries and expand areas of cooperation. A. Ravkov responded by declaring the intention of Belarus to cooperate with China in the field of defense. Then, during the meeting with the Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Ravkov called the Belarusian-Chinese relations a priority of the Belarusian foreign policy.
At the same time our country received the Chinese military delegation headed by the commander of the Guangzhou Military Region of China, Colonel-General Xu Fengling. It was stated that «… the visit will contribute to further development of cooperation in military and military-technical areas.»
On May 28-29, Alexander Lukashenko paid a visit to Pakistan. Among other things Minsk and Islamabad agreed on military-technical cooperation, cooperation in science and technology, information and communications. It is interesting to note that the state news agency BelTA did not mention signing the Belarusian-Pakistani security agreements. The Pakistani source directly highlights conclusion the agreement on cooperation in the field of defense production.
On May 28-29, 2015, Minsk hosted the 2nd meeting of the Belarusian-Ecuadorian commission for military and technical cooperation, chaired by the Deputy Chairman of SMIC Oleg Morozov and the Deputy Minister of the National Defense of Ecuador Ivan Sempertegui Gonzalez. Inter alia, the parties discussed problematic issues arising in the field of bilateral cooperation and the ways of their solving.
On 29.05.2015, SMIC held a seminar on quality of the manufactured products of the domestic defense industry. It is worth noting that the issue of quality has been focused by the department for a long time. From time to time we learn about the claims on behalf of the Defense Ministry. Thus, on 30.01.2015, a meeting of the Board of SMIC was held, where the results of the department development in 2014 were discussed. Among the most important problems of the domestic defense industry was named the problem of the products quality.
Conclusion. It is not clear, why the Belarusian authorities needed the support of China in protection of territorial integrity, since at the moment there are no territorial claims put forward to our country. Three of the five neighbouring countries are members of the EU and NATO, which makes impossible any territorial claims on their part. Ukraine is busy restoring control over the parts of its territory. Moreover, this task will be acute to the Ukrainian authorities for many years and perhaps decades. Russia is formally a friendly country. Though Russia was friendly and with regard to Ukraine as well. It is obvious that the official Minsk is afraid of the unpredictability of the Kremlin. Especially in the run-up to the forthcoming elections. Moreover, there are reasons to believe that there is not only an economic component in the fall in export from Belarus to Russia. But also a political component, which unlike previous trade wars this time is simply not revealed by Moscow. However, one cannot exclude the fact that reference to the territorial integrity is a diplomatic measure and bears no actual sense.
It is worth noting that the official Minsk holds very active relations with the non-Western countries. Belarus is seeking to establish a partnership in all areas (including security) with the largest of them. The problem may be found in competition/conflicts between the major developing countries (China-India, Pakistan-India, Bangladesh-Myanmar, Ecuador-Peru-Colombia), when it will be necessary to make a choice in favour of one party. At least, in such a sensitive sphere as MIC. The cooperation in the field of security is not as much business as politics. It is clear that despite of the winning official rhetoric, the relationship between the Belarusian authorities and the West are far from normal. Moreover, the official Minsk has its different understanding of normality.
Practicing the interaction between the Defense Ministry and the State Border Committee evidences that the authorities do not see any significant internal threats to security, but do not rule out the possibility of military intervention from neighbouring countries.
May exercises of the CSTO demonstrated the limited capacity of the Belarusian military transport aircraft. In case of crisis, which would require involvement of the CSTO mechanisms, the Belarusian machines may only be transferred by road or using the Russian transport aircraft. Belarus will have a limited ability to supply its own contingent in remote areas for a long period of time (a month or more). The national interests of our country do not require building the capacity of transport aircraft. However, there is a need for a planned gradual replacement of military transport aircraft, which are old enough and their operation cost will increases. The best option seem aircraft of tactical class capable of operating from unpaved airfields.
It is obvious that Russia is trying to maintain its influence in Central Asia as a guarantor of security and stability. With the same purpose the threat of coming to the region of the «Islamic state» is being discussed. Moscow is really the only external actor, ready (at least on the verbal level) to use power to stabilize the situation, if necessary. The means of preserving Russian influence in the Central Asia is the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The effectiveness of the block remains doubtful. Thus it has been two years already, since Tajikistan pledged to provide emergency assistance to strengthen border security, which was received by Dushanbe only from Armenia and Belarus. The arms shipments from Russia to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are very slow.
There is distrust to Russia on the part of the local elites: it is believed that Moscow has not only deliberately exaggerating the threat of Islamic extremism in the Central Asia, but also contributes to the Islamists using the Russian-like «strategy of controlled chaos». The purpose is to enhance the value of itself as the sole guarantor of security in the region and prevent penetration of China, Iran, Turkey and the West.
The Belarusian law-enforcement agencies completely ignore this experience, justifying the threat from football fans by the Maidan experience. And it showed that improper use of violence and repression may become much more of a problem for the authorities themselves, than small disorders caused by football fans. Belarus has forgotten that in November 2013 the protest activity was declining right until the moment the Ukrainian police attempted to clean up the Maidan. Trying to involve the small criminal elements («titushky» or “thugs”), which were to terrorize the protestants, provoked creation of the Maidan self-defense under the leadership of not the football fans, but the veterans of the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, retired army soldiers and riot police, former senior leaders of the law-enforcement agencies of Ukraine. According to various estimates the Maidan self-defense united 22 to more than 30 thousand activists, led by regular officers. After that the fate of the Yanukovich regime was clear, and the situation has lost a chance for a political solution.
It is obvious that the basis for the new Belarusian-Russian ADMS will be one of the existing developments of the Russian manufacturer. It can be assumed that for this will be used:
— ADMS “Sosna» capable of fighting air targets, with armored vehicles, fortifications and ships, which is a modification of «Strela-10» and roughly corresponds to the western ADMS ADATS and RBS-70;
— or anti-aircraft missile and artillery system (hereinafter referred to AAMAS) «Palma», using missiles of «Sosna», which, though designed to equip ships, can be adapted for installation on the ground platform. Thus, Minsk Tractor Plant produces the tracked chassis for AAMAS «Tunguska» GM-352M. Their ultimate load is 11.5 tons, which exceeds the weight of AAMAS «Palma» (7.2 tons).
In view of the pre-election period it may be assumed that a significant organizational support in the campaign may be provided to Alexander Lukashenko by the trade unions. Thus, «Belaya Rus», which is quasi-party of officials, will be finally pushed on the back burner. At the same time one may observe the creation of another structure with comprehensive control functions – on the basis of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus. The control of the enterprise management behaviour will be added to monitoring and control of the workforce mood, regardless of the form of ownership. Thus, along with the law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, and authorities the mood in the Belarusian society will also be monitored and controlled (to the possible extent) by the trade unions as well.
Judging by the domestic defense industry enterprises, which in May was visited by the Ecuadorian delegation, the development of bilateral cooperation includes not only the purchase of new products, but also participation of the Belarusian defense industry in repair and maintenance of the existing equipment.
The products quality has been called one of the major problems of the domestic defense industry for a number of years. This may be caused either by obsolescence of the equipment, or by a general decline in culture of industrial production, characteristic of the post-Soviet space. In addition, trying to reach the new markets of machinery products, the domestic manufacturers often try to compete in terms of price due to the use of cheaper, but also less efficient components.