The most important events of the month. The plans on supply of armament and equipment for the year 2016 have been announced. Thus, the following purchases are planned: one battery of air defense missile systems (hereinafter referred to as ADMS) “Tor-M2”; radar station “Protivnik” of Russian manufacture, as well as “Rosa” and “Vostok” of domestic manufacture; transport and combat helicopters Mi-8MTV-5; armored vehicles, including modernized T-72 tanks.
It is planned that the division of multiple launch rocket systems (hereinafter referred to as MRLS) “Polonaise” by September 2016 will be transferred to the 336th reactive artillery brigade.
Moreover, in the interests of the Ministry of Defense, UE “Minotor-Service”, together with JSC “MZKT”, is working on creation of the light armored vehicles of domestic manufacture, which may be demanded in the international market either. In the interests of the Armed Forces, JSC “140th repair plant” organized modernization of BTR 70 and development of armored vehicles “Cayman”. Besides, the “… re-equipment of troops with the above mentioned models is planned in the short-term perspective”.
The works are underway to extend the service life of anti-aircraft guided missiles, anti-tank guided missiles, and reactive rockets for MRLS “Grad”. For the latter the upgraded missiles with extended destruction range were created and tested, and in 2016 they are planned to be implemented.
On 15.02.2016, Alexander Lukashenko met the Chairman of the State Military and Industrial Committee (hereinafter referred to as SMIC) Sergei Gurulev. The prospects of satellite “Belintersat-1”, which on 01.04.2016 will be handed over to be managed by the Belarusian specialists. A. Lukashenko was also reported on the progress of implementation of his order to develop rocket engineering in Belarus. Over the next two years a new missile system of up to 300 kilometers range will be created and delivered to the troops. This supposedly is “… the maximum number, allowed by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe”.
Purchase of Su-30 aircrafts for the Belarusian Air Forces is scheduled for the end of 2020. At the same time they will be not of that large amount as currently available for MiG-29.
The dynamics of the situation development for the past month. Apparently, the political decision was taken on criminal prosecution of the citizens of Belarus, who participated in the war actions in Ukraine. In any case, such conclusion may be made based on the information campaign started in the state-run media. In terms of socio-economic crisis, the authorities are concerned about appearing in the country of ideologically motivated people with combat experience, who are most often put against the existing regime.
On 08.02.2016, A. Lukashenko met the Chairman of the Committee of State Security Valery Vakulchik. Positive evaluation was given to the KGB activities “… in the fight against corruption, as well as on ensuring compliance with the country’s interests in the sphere of economy and finance”. Lukashenko has welcomed the fact that the intelligence agency has focused on the issues of economic security and the fight against offenses in this area: “Other security agencies lag far behind from the KGB in this respect”. V. Vakulchik noted in his report that according to the results of 2015 the intelligence agency has identified systemic problems among various sectors of economy, and has identified opportunities for the increased economic efficiency of work.
The Belarusian leader said that although today’s statehood and national security is not under threat, the priority areas for the KGB should remain lying in intelligence and counterintelligence, as well as protection of the constitutional order.
On 09.02.2016, Commander of the Air Forces and Air Defense, Major-General Oleg Dvigalev reported that the 4th division of ADMS S-300 from the number of the machines handed over by Russia will arrive to Belarus in March 2016. Two divisions are already in Polotsk and now they are being placed to the positions. The third division at the time of announcement was passing through the stage of acceptance.
On 10.02.2016, a meeting was held with participation of the leaders (chiefs) of the national anti-terrorist centers from the CIS states. The main areas of cooperation in the field of combating terrorism and extremism were determined the following areas: identifying and elimination of the “sleeper cells” of terrorists; overlapping the channels of illegal migration, funding and resource support of terrorists; strengthening the border control; joint activities on the international search of the persons, who have committed crimes of a terrorist and extremist nature, as well as those who left the CIS member states to participate in the war actions, which may return to the country of origin, including through migration channels.
On 10.02.2016, the Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov called yet irrelevant the current issue of establishing a Russian military base in our country. According to the Russian diplomat, the idea is under discussion. And the result of discussion may be either positive or negative.
On 11.02.2016, A. Lukashenko, speaking at the enlarged meeting of the board of the Investigative Committee (hereinafter referred to as IC), made several statements. If there is a crime, the investigators should without delay initiate criminal proceedings and start investigation, rather than waiting from the operational services a “… ready criminal case to be beautifully signed, stitched or sent to the prosecutor”.
One of the main areas of activity for both the IC and the law-enforcement block, as a whole, should be ensuring the safety of financial and material resources. A. Lukashenka de facto instructed to focus their efforts on identifying and combating economic crimes, as well as obtaining maximum compensation for the damage caused.
The fight against corruption is among the priorities.
Alexander Lukashenko gave instructions to optimize the IC staff by reducing its financial and logistical structures.
On 17.02.2016, there was a meeting dedicated to the territorial defense of Belarus, which was attended by the head of Minsk and the regions. We have devoted a separate article to this event (text). The following words of A. Lukashenko should be specially noted: “… there will be weapons and ammunition at the territorial divisions of troops – they will be able to fight and defend their home. This is the power of the territorial forces.”
On 22.02.2016, speaking at the solemn meeting devoted to the Day of Fatherland Defenders and the Armed Forces, the Minister of Defense of Belarus Andrey Ravkov said that national security is now being implemented in fundamentally new geopolitical, political and economic conditions, conditions of the increase in military activities in the world and on the European continent. At the same time there are cases, when the “geopolitical actors” encroach on the territorial integrity of other states by provoking internal armed conflicts “ … and we must be ready and able to respond to these challenges and threats”. This is reflected in the new Military Doctrine. The Minister said that Belarus would defend its national interests using all means at its disposal. Along with the union with Russia and participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) the Minister of Defense named the cooperation with China as a factor of national defense. He highlighted the desire of Minsk to develop a constructive dialogue with NATO “… with a view to strengthening international and regional security”.
From 25 to 27 of February 2016, the first visit to Belarus of the delegation from Thailand led by the Vice Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense of the Kingdom General Pravit Vongsuvan took place at the invitation of the Chairman of SMIC S. Gurulev.
On 26.02.2016, receiving P. Vongsuvan, A. Lukashenka stated that Belarus is ready to develop all areas of cooperation that are of interest to Thailand. In turn, the Asian country is interested in cooperation in the sphere of military-industrial complex.
On the same day a meeting was held in the military department. They discussed the issues of cooperation in the military and military-technical spheres.
The Thai delegation visited a number of military enterprises, where they got acquainted with the possibilities for development and production of military products. For normalization of relations in this area the parties have signed an intergovernmental agreement on military-technical cooperation.
On 25.02.2016, a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union of Belarus and Russia took place. The Belarusian side was interested mainly in getting the financial aid from Russia. Moscow, among other things, was interested in development of industrial cooperation, import substitution of foreign industrial products, especially in sensitive sectors, on which the security of both countries directly depends. Concrete steps were also identified to counter the “illegal circulation of industrial products”. To put it straight: import through the territory of Belarus of those industrial goods in respect of which Russia imposed sanctions.
Conclusion. Currently, the 336th reactive artillery brigade is equipped with MRLS “Smerch” of Soviet production. In this connection, we may expect changes in the organizational and staff structure: creation of the 4th division there or re-equipment of the existing ones with distribution of MRLS “Smerch” to the other two divisions. The distribution of MRLS “Smerch” to other artillery divisions will require creation of the machines servicing infrastructure there, retraining or change of the staff. Such efforts are worthwhile only if it is planned to re-equip the entire 336th brigade with MRLS “Polonaise” with the transfer of “Smerch” to one of the reactive and artillery regiments, f.ex., armed with the outdated MRLS “Uragan” as the new weapons arrive.
The modernization project for BTR-70 is interesting for the army. The machine is outdated, the fighting qualities and effectiveness of upgrading raise many questions. Earlier, the Ministry of Defense planned to purchase a battalion of Russian BTR-82A. Later, however, Alexander Lukashenko demanded to focus on the purchase of products of domestic military-industrial complex and their modernization. The Belarusian defense industry representatives say they are ready to offer new light wheeled armored vehicles, which is to be examined yet. In this context, it seems that the issue of modernization of BTR-70 could only arise in case of need of additional armored vehicles in a short time period. That may be due to the formation of new divisions (not necessarily as a part of the Armed Forces), equipped with wheeled armored vehicles.
The statements that the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe establishes limitations on the missile range up to 300 km are untrue. In fact, such restrictions are set to the Missile Technology Control. Such a provision (of the maximum permitted range of new missiles up to 300 kilometers) means that:
— important components of missiles and/or technical documentation will be imported to Belarus;
— a relevant agreement has already been concluded;
— the seller does not risk to go out of the limitations imposed by the missile technology control regime.
Yet most probable seems cooperation with Turkey (J-600T Yıldırım-2 has a range of just 300 km away) and China (MRLS rockets with a range of 400 km or more, which are officially referred to as reactive high-precision missiles). China is not directly involved in the regime, but assumed its political obligations to the United States. And it may just not take the risk to supply some samples of weapons to Europe due to fear of negative reaction of the USA. Thus, despite the considerable and obvious achievements, the national missile program is critically dependent on foreign technology support and supply of critical components and parts.
The report of the Chairman of the KGB V. Vakulchik on 08.02.2016 could create the impression that the special services on their own initiative decided to help the state of the national economy and start the fight against crimes in this area. That is not true: the Belarusian law-enforcement agencies are not subject to adopting important decisions. They are involved in development and act as a mechanism for implementation of such decisions. And they are taken personally by Alexander Lukashenko. However, he relies on information from two or more not interconnected sources. All security agencies have been instructed to intensify efforts to protect the economic interests of the state, increase performance discipline in the public administration (including the economy). And the KGB was able to present the results of such work, which earned praise.
In this regard, it is not correct to talk about the growth of influence of the power block on the economy. It is about the strategy of consolidation of public financial resources during crisis. For such consolidation it is necessary to restrain the theft (in various forms) of state property. It should be remembered that a number of companies in our country, regardless being privately-owned de jure, are state-owned de facto.
The supply from Russia of four divisions of S-300 has been publicly discussed since 2011. It is obvious that this is part of the agreement to establish a joint regional air defense system of the two countries. The contract for transfer of the complexes was signed in summer of 2014, until the end of which they were to be delivered to the Belarusian side. But in the end the transfer started one year later. The transferred complexes are not operated by the Russian army and need repair. Obviously, we are talking about ADMS S-300PS of early series (1989-1995), which repair is carried out by the Russian companies at the expense of Belarus. Russia sends the equipment excessive to it. And provides the enterprises, engaged in repair of such equipment, with own orders. Moscow regularly transfers armament to the CIS partners and not only to them. One should not consider the transfer of ADMS to Belarus as a sign of the exclusive nature of relationship between the two countries.
The request of A. Lukashenko to the IC not to expect the finished criminal cases from the operational services is seen as manifestation of a long-term conflict between the investigative agency and MIA regarding the quality of preparation of pre-investigation materials check. Although the severity of this issue is now decreased, however, the problem is not completely solved.
Speaking about the meeting dedicated to the issue of territorial defense, which was held under the chairmanship of A. Lukashenko on 17.02.2016, we should note the following. It is not clear whether his comments on availability of weapons for the territorial forces in the field were the slip of the tongue or the Belarusian authorities are considering the possibility to distribute arms and equipment intended for the territorial forces by region. At present they are kept in military units of the Ministry of Defense.
It is interesting that saying about the need to take into account the economic and demographic opportunities of territories in determining the number of territorial forces, A. Lukashenko read out the prewritten text. It is believed that theses for the events of the Belarusian leader connected with the national security are as a rule prepared by the secretariat of the Security Council. Taken together, it may be regarded as evidence that the previously stated number of territorial forces amounting to 120 thousand people is finally recognized unrealistic and will be greatly reduced. Most probably the new number of the territorial forces will amount to 70 thousand people.
The visit of the delegation of the Kingdom of Thailand is essentially a continuation of the strategy of the official Minsk on building partnerships with major Asian countries. The fact that the main theme of the meetings in Minsk has been the development of bilateral military-technical cooperation requires a substantial interest in the political field. One is not possible without the other.
The geography of “Asian policy” in the official Minsk has yet several “gaps”: Malaysia, Philippines, members of the Great West South Korea and Japan, and covered by the permanent war Iraq.
It is obvious that the Belarusian authorities do not consider the Brussels and Washington as a partner in the political dialogue. Of course, if we understand the dialogue as a process leading to some positive results, and not the process for the sake of the process itself. The reason is the lack of mutual trust and rejection of the Western values personally by A. Lukashenko.
It is worth noting that import substitution involving the CSTO countries’ enterprises has remained on the agenda of the Russian officials for a long time. The technological and manufacturing capabilities of the Russian industry do not allow to completely replace the products previously shipped from the Western countries. The problem is that the CSTO and other countries are difficult to be attributed to a number of industrially and technologically leading countries. Apparently, Moscow is not the one to pick and choose. In this connection it is interesting to note that earlier the Russian Government planned to replace the Western industrial products by supplying the analogues from China. However, the talks on this issue have gone to naught in the recent months. The reasons are not clear. There may be the inability of China to replace all the necessary range of products, or there may be the unwillingness to do so, i.e. de facto they show accession to the Western sanctions, which are national in their form, but are global in their nature. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that Russia is trying to avoid the excessive dependence on China and use the industrial potential of the CSTO countries. Or rather its remains, mostly inherited from the USSR.