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

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The most important events of the month. The most important event of the month were the past presidential elections. The main result of this election campaign was the absence of the post-election repressions. This was appreciated by the EU and followed by suspension of the restrictive measures against Belarus. Obviously, Brussels took up the strategy of dialogue with the Belarusian authorities. Though the West is not waiting for the political liberalization of the ruling regime in Belarus. Instead of effectiveness, the criterion of progress is being introduced. Even a slight improvement of conditions for the civil society, religious organizations and independent media will be considered as an achievement. The West tends to promote the official Minsk for such steps, but Minsk will not be forced into it. In fact, we may conclude that the EU is ready to welcome the “democratization” of the political climate in Belarus, which are in turn acceptable for Alexander Lukashenko to the extent and form. The main thing here is the absence of repressions. The new position of Europe came as a result of a change in priorities. Now, the regional security and preservation of the statehood of the Eastern Partnership countries are the priority. Although the pro-democratic rhetoric from the European officials still takes place.

In this regard, an important role in the Belarusian-European relations will be played by the Polish government, formed by the “Law and Justice” party. The new Polish policy towards Belarus may become more favorable for the Belarusian civil society and the opposition. Therefore, Minsk and Warsaw need to perform the main task, which is not becoming involved in conflict and avoiding tough rhetoric. Such restraint, however, should be observed by the official Minsk in the first place. Poland on a par with the Baltic states, Romania and Sweden remains the moderator of the EU policy towards the Eastern Partnership countries.

As for another important result of October, the Belarusian authorities have finally clearly marked their position in creation of the Russian airbase in Belarus (hereinafter referred to as the RAB):
— On 06.10.2015, Alexander Lukashenko stated that “… we’ve never talked about placing the Russian airbase in Belarus”;
— On 11.10.2015, Alexander Lukashenko also spoke against the deployment of RAB and stated that Belarus has been working at rocket armament, which is more efficient than aviation. At the same time Alexander Lukashenko repeated that Belarus would like to receive from Russia a regiment of fighters (24 pcs.), possibly on terms of leasing;
— On 22.10.2015, the Minister of Defense of Belarus Lieutenant-General Andrey Ravkov expressed his opinion against the deployment of RAB. According to him, instead of creating a foreign military facility, we should focus on obtaining the long-range weapons. According to the Minister of Defense, the consultations on the terms of placing RAB are completed, but the final decision has not yet been taken by A. Lukashenko;
— On 28.10.2015, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makey declared that the deployment of RAB may to aggravate the situation in the region.

The dynamics of the situation development for the past month. Belarus plans to adhere to the previously announced plans in the area of space exploration. In the coming months the authorities will determine the technical specifications for the new Belarusian remote sensing satellite. They will also determine the marketing strategy for the use of the satellite. After resolution of these issues the stage of direct satellite creation will begin. The launch is scheduled for 2017.

On 02.10.2015, a meeting of the Board of the State Military and Industrial Committee of Belarus (hereinafter referred to as SMIC) took place, where the results of the current year were summarized and the development plans for 2016-2020 were approved. In the future period, the domestic MIC is planning to implement the following five integrated projects:
— fire damage systems;
— mobility facilities for armament systems;
— unmanned aircraft systems for military and civil purposes;
— combat geographical information systems;
— integrated systems of counteraction to precision weapons.

These projects identified seven areas of development, including robotic and unmanned vehicles, combined into a network of combat and support platforms; fire damage systems; automated command and control systems.

The existence of shortcomings in cooperation with the security agencies of Belarus is acknowledged. It is obvious that this is a long-standing problem of the “price-quality” relations concerning the products of the domestic military-industrial complex.

It is reported that during January-August 2015 the industrial enterprises of SMIC produced goods in the amount of BYR 3,571.1 bln or more than USD 238 mln. The growth in exports of goods and services amounted to 126.8%. It is predicted that the volume of industrial production in 2016 will amount to 146% of the level planned in 2015. This volume is supported for 73.4% by the existing product portfolio, including 52.1% of contracts carried over from 2015.

Among others, the targets set for the following year include growing export capacity, diversification of export markets, reduction of stocks of finished products and outstanding receivables.

Among the priority developments there is creation of air-defense missile systems (hereinafter referred to as the ADMS). Yet it is not entirely clear, if it is about creation of only one model of ADMS or a line or series of air defense systems. Currently, the work is in progress in Belarus and it is declared of the intention to proceed with development of three projects: short-range, together with the Russian “KBtochmash”; short-range T-38 “Stilet” with the Ukrainian missile; or medium-range “Alebarda”.

SMIC announced its plans to submit a prototype of the light-armored vehicles for the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the first quarter of 2016. At the military parade on 09.05.2015 were presented the armored vehicles “Fox” (a localized version of the Russian “Tiger”), a small party of which was sent to the army. Previously there were statements that “Fox” should become the main combat vehicle of the special operations forces. Later, however, it was announced “why we are buying from Russia, when we can do it ourselves” without specification of what kind of armor is being discussed. One may expect the presentation of new domestic developments of light armored vehicles. There is a clear understanding that domestic developers are investing in the term “light armored vehicles”: we may talk about the MRAP class armored vehicles.

The domestic MIC does not lose hope to participate in implementation of the Russian defense contracts. The solution is seen in offering modern high-quality products at an affordable price to the Russian military. The promising areas of cooperation with the Russian partners are the development and production of intelligence, electronic warfare, suppression of armored vehicles. Currently, about 500 Belarusian companies find themselves in cooperative relations with the Russian MIC, and are replacing the products, which Russia previously received from Ukraine.

The development of co-operation between the MIC enterprises of post-Soviet countries was considered in October at Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter referred to as the CSTO). The Business Council of the Interstate Commission for Military and Economic Cooperation of the CSTO developed the offers for expansion of cooperation between the enterprises of the MIC of the member states. The offers relate to the enterprises included in the “list of enterprises and organizations, which specialization is appropriate to be maintained in the interests of the military-economic cooperation between the CSTO member states”. The attention was also paid to the issues of conduct of the joint research and development works.

On 04.10.2015, Armenia completed exercises of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces (hereinafter referred to as the CPF) of the CSTO called “Indestructible Brotherhood – 2015” aimed at holding a peacekeeping operation in the Caucasus region. The following tasks were practiced:
— formation and deployment of the CPF of the CSTO in the area of peacekeeping operations;
— transfer of peacekeeping troops over long distances;
— separation of the conflicting parties, creation of the buffer zone;
— escort of humanitarian supplies;
— blocking and elimination of illegal armed formations;
— combat assault of buildings and release of hostages;
— patrolling with counteracting ambushes;
— casualty evacuation.

On October 10-12, Belarus received a visit of the Chinese military delegation headed by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army of China, Admiral Sun Jianguo. During the talks the both sides discussed further development of bilateral military cooperation. It is worth noting that the Chinese mass media sources are traditionally more informative. Thus, receiving the Chinese guest, the Defense Minister of Belarus said that their relations with China are a priority to the Belarusian foreign policy. He expressed full support for China on territorial issues (Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, etc.). Belarus is interested in training personnel and holding joint exercises.

The cooperation on combating drug trafficking continues within the scope of CSTO. On 10.14.2015, the XVII Meeting of the Coordination Council took place with participation of the heads of competent authorities and was dedicated to combating drug trafficking by the member states of the Organization. The main threat is the transit of Afghan drugs through the CIS countries, which tends to rise. It was declared of the need to find new forms and methods to counter the drug threat, primarily in Afghanistan. The international counter-drug operations are proposed to be considered the main direction of cooperation within the framework of the CSTO and should be held at least on a quarterly basis. In this part we have positive experience. Thus, on September 21-25, the anti-drug operation “Channel-Synthetic-Post” was held, which was attended by the representatives of the CSTO countries, Afghanistan, Iran, China and Thailand. As part of this operation more than 1.6 tons of synthetic drugs were seized. They discussed the possibility to create the CSTO Center for anti-drug operations and training specialists for drug trafficking control for the CSTO member states. However, talks about the anti-drug center started since 2013.

On 20.10.2015, it was declared that Belarus is considering the purchase of Su-30CM. The new machines should replace the MiG-29 after the year 2020.

On 20.10.2015, DOSAAF announced its intentions to acquire new trainer aircrafts Yak-152, which in 2017-2018 will start to be produced by the Russian corporation “Irkut”. The cabin of Yak-152 is as close to Yak-130 and allows a higher level of initial pilots training.

On 20.10.2015, Alexander Lukashenko received the Chairman of the KGB of Belarus Valery Vakulchik with a report. The task was set “on organization of hard work aimed at detection and suppression of activity in the shady economy, including the involved officials”.

On 21.10.2015, a meeting of the Joint Board of the military departments of Belarus and Russia was held. The Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoygu stated his prospects of military organization of the Union of Belarus and Russia. More details on this issue were addressed earlier. During the meeting: a plan of joint activities was approved for the years 2016-2018; the implementation of the agreement was discussed on joint protection of the external border in the airspace and establishment of joint regional air defense system of Belarus and Russia (bearing joint combat duty, supply of arms and military equipment, regulation); improving of the joint system of electronic warfare was considered; the parties agreed on cooperation in the field of innovation technology, exchange of information on advanced technologies and developments.

On 22.10.2015, the Minister of Defense A. Ravkov announced his intention to buy a Russian battalion package BTR-82A. At the same time there will continue an upgrading of the existing military equipment. That is primarily due to the financial factor: the purchase of a BTR-82A costs USD 900 thous, and the modernization of a current BTR-80 costs about USD 300 thous.

On 28.10.2015, the 39th meeting of the Council of heads of security bodies and special services of the CIS countries completed its work in Moscow. The draft Program for cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other violent manifestations of extremism for 2017-2019 prepared by the CIS Antiterrorist Center was considered. As well as the issues of joint counteraction to terrorist threats and identification of the persons who have undergone the ideological and subversive and terrorist training in Syria and Afghanistan. Joint efforts will be focused on identifying and eliminating the transfer of militants and arms supplies, the sources of terrorist financing, opening and liquidation of «sleeping» terrorist cells, curbing recruiters.

On the same day, the first stage of gathering the operational command of the army under the leadership of the Minister of Defense Andrey Ravkov took place. Among other things, the participants of the event learned the tactics of fighting in town, organization of interaction between the army units and the troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Currently each operational command has premises with imitation of town, which allows to work out the combat skills in the urban area on a permanent basis.

Continuing the issue of illegal drug trafficking, on 29.10.2015 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus reported that during January-September this year, the activity of 25 channels of drugs delivery into the country was suppressed. The transparency of the border with Russia contributes to the drug trafficking in Belarus. During the same time period more than 5 thousand drug-related crimes were revealed, nearly half of which are connected with the drugs sale, over 300 kg of narcotics and more than 100 kg of psychotropic substances were seized, five criminal drug laboratories were eliminated, more than 20 premises adapted for the cultivation of narcotic plants were revealed. The law enforcement agencies noticed the increase in the share of opium and cannabis drugs, which in the recent years were replaced by synthetic drugs.

On 30.10.2015, speaking at the meeting of the operational command of the Armed Forces, Alexander Lukashenko stressed that Belarus has established itself as an independent, sovereign European state, and made a number of statements.

Due to administrative and support structures of the military authorities it is necessary to strengthen the combat component of the army: get rid of unnecessary equipment and property, but do it with a “clear benefit”, optimize costs. The army should be supported by an iron discipline and order, and create “normal conditions …” (obviously, the amenities).

The homeland protection should have a nation-wide character. In this connection, “… the education of the citizens’ sense of responsibility for security … is a key task in the system of measures to prepare the country for defense”. The importance of clear ideological orientation was again stressed. The aim of ideological work carried out by the military in society should be the patriotic education of youth, increase of the people’s trust in their army.

Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus is ready to draft a new military doctrine, which until the end of the year will be considered by the Security Council. It is scheduled to consider the new Plan of regional Belarusian and Russian troops application.

The Belarusian leader demanded from the military forces to focus on domestic appliances, repairs and modernization. And he criticized the planned supply of UAVs and armored vehicles from abroad. However, he had to recognize the problems with the quality and high cost of production in the Belarusian defense industry. The new domestic appliances should be transferred to the army for practical testing, after the results of which improvements will be made.

Alexander Lukashenko declared that the Russian-Ukrainian war for the first time since 1991 directly affects the security of Belarus. Minsk will seek to maintain the current balance of relations with Moscow and Kiev: “In case of any scenario, we should not be involved in their (Russia and Ukraine) confrontation”. The revolution in Ukraine was called an orchestrated coup, he also mentioned that the redistribution of spheres of geopolitical influence directly affect the international security system. The Belarusian authorities are afraid of penetration from Ukraine of radical ideas, crime and weapons. In addition, based on the statements of A. Lukashenko on the possibility of accommodation of foreign troops in Ukraine, we may conclude that the Belarusian authorities consider the geopolitical turn of Kiev to the West an accomplished and irreversible fact.

Traditionally, an increase in terrorist activity and extremism was noted. The problems start to arise at the borders of Belarus and we need to be ready to counter them. The answer lies in the area of collective security. We obviously had in mind the situation at the CIS border with Afghanistan. An important factor is the availability of security allies and partners. But any alliance should be built only on the basis of national interests of Belarus.

The role of information expansion is highlighted in all kinds of confrontation. The information space of Belarus has also become a field of struggle.

A. Lukashenko announced the need for constant improvement of the country’s defense, including the territorial defense. It is necessary to rely mainly on our own strength. It is critical to maintain the stability of the state as a guarantee against external aggression.

Conclusion. The public statements of the Belarusian ministers are indirect evidence that A. Lukashenko has made a decision against the deployment of RAB in Belarus. Another thing is how final this decision may be. The Russian authorities have expressed their interest in increasing their military presence in Belarus, thus the issue on the agenda is not an easy one to be removed. The Kremlin may put a pressure on the official Minsk. Everything will depend on the extent of this pressure.

The earlier informally declared volume of production and services of the domestic MIC amounting to USD 1 bln represents the volume of solid contracts (and possibly the protocols of intent) with the maturity period of two years or more. The recognition of the problem of finished products stocks and outstanding receivables does indirectly indicate a decrease in the volume of exports of the Belarusian MIC to Russia due to the economic situation in the neighboring country.

It is worth noting that the main engine of cooperation may be direct admission of the CSTO military-industrial complex to the Russian state defense contracts. Despite the numerous statements and agreements at the highest level, this issue remains open. The MIC of the CSTO countries may participate in the Russian defense contracts vicariously through the Russian subcontractors, but not directly. It is doubtful that this situation will change in the foreseeable future. The competition in the “weapons” market grows among the Russian manufacturers as well. In this regard, opening access to the Russian state defense contracts for the new competitors from the CSTO countries seems almost impossible.

This year is marked by the revitalization of the law enforcement agencies on combating the underground economy and tax evasion. Dozens of criminal cases are under investigation with the defined amount of damages incurred to the state, starting from one million dollars. Last but not least these are the outcomes of the economic crisis: the authorities are seeking to consolidate the maximum possible resources in their hands. Including at the expense of voluntary compensation of damages by the accused entities. The fact that only some criminal cases have become known to the wider audience is an indirect evidence of the extent of the officials’ involvement in shady schemes. Despite the image of a corruption fighter, A. Lukashenko is afraid to show the real extent of “infection” within his own system of governance.

A. Lukashenko does not allow even as an assumption the possibility of a popular uprising against the corrupt government. Which is to be expected, given his tendency to sacralization of power in general, and his own powers in particular. The habit of seeing everywhere the conspiracies of the outside forces indicates his suspicion and mistrust. Especially, concerning the West. However, Russia, obviously, has not added to confidence in the past year and a half. This explains the call to the military forces to rely on their own resources.

In connection with the Lukashenko’s criticism against the plans to purchase foreign armored vehicles, it is not yet clear, how this will affect the procurement of BTR-82A. It is possible that the Belarusian leader has just criticized the military plans for purchase of the light armored vehicles. The domestic analogues are to be presented in the first quarter of 2016.

It is worth noting that the fear of destabilization in the countries of Central Asia and origination of extremist threats there has real grounds. The reason is obvious: any conflict in the region will lead to a mass migration to the North. Under the condition of an open border with Russia, this problem permanently affects Belarus. In view of the transit status of our country, there is an ever-present threat of moving the terrorists and weapons and any of their elements through the territory of Belarus.

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