The most important events of the month. The Belarusian authorities continue making efforts towards improving their relations with the major Third World countries. Our country is in strong need of strategic partners, which could appear allies on the political arena and major economic partners.
November was full of contacts between the Belarusian officials and their colleagues from Pakistan, Myanmar, Turkey and Indonesia, most intensively with the first two of them. Generally, the past month may be conditionally called the month of Pakistan:
— there have been contacts on foreign policy and military-technical cooperation;
— the economic dialogue has been intensified.
The relations with Myanmar experience phased development. On 04.11.2011 Alexander Lukashenko met with the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Myanmar Min Aung Hlaing, who was visiting our country at that time. It was stated that the Belarusian authorities consider the relations with Myanmar quite promising. The priority is given to the economic and military-technical cooperation. On 05.11.2014 the Minister of Defense of Belarus Lieutenant-General Yuri Zhadobin held a working meeting with the Myanmar military leader. The guests were shown the ability of Belarus to train and prepare the military personnel. Besides, the delegation visited a number of enterprises included in the system of the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus (hereinafter referred to as SMIC), where the visitors got acquainted with the capacity for development, manufacture, repair and modernization of military products. The parties confirmed their mutual interest in further cooperation development in the sphere of military-technical cooperation, including in the field of defense, repair and modernization of military equipment for the land forces, as well as training in the Belarusian military higher educational establishments.
It is worth mentioning that the previous visit to Belarus of the Myanmar military officials took place at the end of August 2014. The Joint Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation, under which seven meetings were held, currently works.
The dynamics of the situation development for the past month. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter referred to as CSTO) decided to suspend its efforts on improving the relations with NATO. This decision is motivated by the non-constructive and often openly hostile attitude of the EU and NATO. The West is traditionally accused of trying to destabilize the situation in the countries of CSTO, which is characterized by a “disproportionate increase in the number of employees of the Western embassies and, above all, the United States embassy” and “revitalization of many non-governmental organizations, funded through the Western grants.”
On 05.11.2014, in CIS headquarters in Minsk a meeting of the expert group was held to finalize the draft agreement and the Cooperation Program of the CIS member states on strengthening the border security at the external borders for 2016-2020. The program covers the organizational and legal, organizational and practical activities, the development of cooperation in the information, military-technical, research and humanitarian spheres, training and retraining of personnel, funding mechanisms and monitoring of program stages performance. Implementation of the Program will contribute to efficiency increase in the fight against cross-border crime at the external borders of the CIS.
On the same day, a meeting of the Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services of the CIS member states was held in Astana (Kazakhstan). The agenda covered the issues of combating international terrorist organizations in Afghanistan because of threat of expansion of their activity on the territory of the CIS after withdrawal of the main part of ISAF troops in 2014. The protection of transport infrastructure from terrorist attacks was discussed as a separate matter. The meeting was not attended by the representatives of Ukraine and Turkmenistan.
On 06.11.2014 it was stated that the CSTO countries intend to harmonize legislation in the military sphere. The question itself seems strange, since this has not been done during all the years of CSTO existence (since 2003), and it is not clear why this idea will be a success in the future. And under the right circumstances the CSTO countries had no such a need, and now, taking into account the external background, even more so.
On 08.11.2014 the Protocol to the Agreements between the Ministries of Defense of Belarus and China was signed to provide free military aid from China to Belarus. It is highly probable that it will be another supply of armored vehicles. It is doubtful that the amount of aid exceeded USD 7 million.
On 13.11.2014, Alexander Lukashenko met the Chairman of KGB of Belarus Valery Vakulchik, who made a report. The fight against corruption was called one of the most important tasks for the security services. On the one hand, the anti-corruption rhetoric together with preservation of stability in the country became the basis of the election program of Alexander Lukashenko in 2015. On the other hand, this phenomenon really grows even larger. The Ukrainian example demonstrated that corruption may become a threat to stability in the country (including the personal powers of the Belarusian leader). The fight against corruption is not seen as solely a law enforcement task, but as a necessary force to protect the very existence of the regime.
In November, Zaporozhye (Ukraine) hosted a meeting of Ukrainian corporation “Motor Sich” and SMIC of Belarus. At the official level neither Ukrainian nor Belarusian side announced the event, and both refrained from commenting. Meanwhile, there is information on reaching of a number of preliminary agreements on expanding cooperation. Including the transfer of production line of small gas turbine engines for cruise missiles to the JSC “Orsha Aircraft Repair Plant”. Nothing of the kind was earlier produced in Belarus; there are no experts, no engineering school or production equipment. If the agreement is implemented, it will be a serious technological breakthrough for our country, even despite the fact that it will served by the Ukrainian specialists. It was previously reported that the start of production will take place in 2016.
On 17.11.2014, the leaders of the General Staffs of the Armed Forces of the CSTO member states at the first enlarged meeting of the Military Committee agreed to continue regular monitoring of military-political situation. The monthly results will be forwarded to the members. The need for monitoring is based on the complexity of threats facing the CSTO countries. This is generally in line with reality, with the only difference that the main source of threat lies within the CSTO, and not outside it. And it is related to the nature of the political regimes existing in many countries.
It was also agreed to create a unified CSTO air defense system. It will take a lot of time and money, which will be mainly allocated by Russia. The process is planned to be phased: creation of a unified regional air defense system in Central Asia, and after that gathering of all existing regional air defense systems into the single CSTO system. The latter will be strengthened in the future by the unified missile defense system. If the first idea (single air defense system) looks realistic, the second one (the CSTO missile defense system) is frank rainbow-chasing, at least as long as there is no clear price of the issue and no volunteers to pay this price.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus captures transformation of the drug market. The traditional drugs are being displaced with synthetic drugs. Their cheapness promotes drug abuse, especially among young people. The fight against this phenomenon is complicated by the fact that most sales points moved to the Internet. The payment is made by electronic transfer. The situation becomes frankly threatening. The law-enforcement agencies have to admit that near 60-70 thousand people under the age of 30 are users of synthetic drugs. The Ministry of Internal Affairs initiated a number of amendments to the legislation in order to increase the effectiveness of combating the drug-related crimes. Tightening of liability for illegal drug trafficking and facilitation in putting the intoxicating substances on the list of banned substances is planned.
On 20.11.2014, Brest hosted a meeting of the Council of Commanders of Border Troops of the CIS. The Central Asian direction was defined as a priority in the short-term perspective concerning the interaction of border agencies of the CIS. According to the experts, the situation is becoming even worse there. It is expected that in spring 2015 the situation on the border with Afghanistan will be even more complicated.
On 25.11.2014, the Minister of Defense of Belarus Yury Zhadobin was transferred to the reserve due to his age, and Andrey Ravkov was appointed the new Minister. This was a technical change of one manager of the military department by another one. The personnel decision was made as part of Lukashenko’s recently implemented course on lowering the age structure of senior officials. The new Minister has made it clear that significant changes in the defense construction should not be expected, since the strategy was established by Lukashenko. And it will be implemented. The details of this strategy are traditionally not disclosed. The results of the defense budget for 2015 will have critical importance. It will become the sign of a possible shift in government priorities due to the current regional security crisis.
According to the unofficial information, in November 2014 the western and north-western operational and tactical command of the Air Forces and Air Defense (hereinafter referred to as OTC) was eliminated. This supposedly was made possible by re-equipment of the military control bodies, which made it possible to control the actions of the entire aviation and air defense systems from one command post in an automated mode.
On 26.11.2014, Minsk hosted an expert group meeting to finalize the agreement and draft decision of the Council of CIS Heads of State on the formation of the group of border and other CIS agencies, which will serve for settlement (liquidation) of crisis at the external borders. The work on the document involves only those CIS countries, which are also members of the CSTO. It is assumed that the number of members of national departments composing the crisis management group will be adjusted annually, taking into account the forecast of the situation at the external borders of the CIS. It is worth mentioning that the work on the agreement is not moving fast: the draft has already been discussed last year in November.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs is making efforts to improve the situation with the police manning. The youth career orientation seems to be the one potential tool to change the situation. The importance of this work is evidenced by the fact that in November a workshop was held at the MIA Academy with the representatives of schools with the legal orientation classes and cadet schools, with the participation of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Major-General Igor Shunevich.
Conclusion. It is obvious that the Belarusian authorities seek to repeat the financial success of the most active period of the Belarusian-Venezuelan relations. However, the search for other strategic partners in the developing countries continues. It should be noted that Pakistan and Myanmar, as populous countries, are among the poorest states. The place in Pakistan and Myanmar markets has long ago been occupied by the Chinese manufacturers. It will be not an easy task for Belarus to compete with them. Cooperation in the military-technical sphere is more promising. But a lot will depend on the position of Beijing and Washington, which are the main financial and technical donors to Pakistan. In addition to China Myanmar also relies on cooperation with Russia. Besides, active development of defense cooperation with these countries can serve as an irritant to the neighboring India and Bangladesh. There are high levels of corruption both in Pakistan and Myanmar, which requires special attitude to the methods, if they want to achieve the result. Both countries are not only poor, but also not politically stable. Thus, building a partnership with Pakistan and Myanmar will be not easy, cheap or quick.
Refusal of the CSTO from contacts with NATO was expected: the efforts of dialogue have been taken since 2004. The West ignored all of them, preferring to develop bilateral relations with the CSTO member countries. In fact, this decision, though not affecting anything, is one of the signs of “Cold War 2.0” between Russia and the West. The probability for the CSTO member states (excluding Russia) to be drawn into a confrontation with Brussels and Washington is small: the leaders of these countries give priority to direct contacts with the West, rather than the indirect ones through the integration structures of former USSR. The lack of recognition from the West means limited international personality of the CSTO. In any case, participation in peacekeeping missions under the aegis of the UN is unlikely.
Speaking of the PRC assistance to the Belarusian army it should be noted that in addition to the political aspect, there is also a commercial one: Beijing promotes the products of its MIC to the international markets. Its free transfer is made for information purposes and allows potential buyers to get acquainted in practice with the quality and characteristics of the Chinese products.
As for the prospects of establishing in Orsha the production of rocket engines under the Ukrainian technologies, some commentators concluded that the project was implemented in the interests of Russia in order to circumvent the embargo Kiev for the supply of military products. However, closer examination of the situation still appears to be more complicated.
Thus in late October, Alexander Lukashenko paid a visit to the United Arab Emirates. The visit was preceded by a series of contacts between the two countries in the field of defense and military-technical cooperation. Shortly before his trip to the UAE Alexander Lukashenko met with the head of «Motor Sich». The prospects of cooperation between Belarus and the Ukrainian corporation were discussed. It is highly probable that Belarus and the UAE will be the beneficiaries of location in Orsha of the rocket engines production. Within the framework of the Belarusian-UAE cooperation in defense industry it is possible that UAE funding will be attracted for development of work in the missile field at the enterprises of Belarus. The scheme of “roles” allocation in the probable missile consortium becomes clear: Ukraine provides the technology, UAE provides the finance, Belarus serves as a production site. However, Ukraine may become not the only technological donor. The cooperation with Pakistan in this field could be also interesting. Moreover, the country already has the final product: cruise missile “Hatf-7” with engine MC-400 from “Motor Sich”.
Provision of an improved version of missile «Hatf» using the Pakistani, Ukrainian and Belarusian technologies at the expense of Arab funding is possible. Such project is promising for all participants.
Although it has not been officially reported of elimination of the OTC Air Forces and Air Defense, in November departmental media of the Ministry of Defense did not mention their existence, and the information about existence of the OTC Air Forces and Air Defense has been removed from the Russian version of the website, although the Belarusian and English versions of the website still have such information. If the elimination of operational and tactical command of the Air Forces and Air Defense is confirmed officially, the reason for this should be seen not in the technical re-equipment of the Air Forces, but in the decrease of aviation fleet: the Belarusian Air Forces fleet halved since 2002. The two OTCs have nothing to command in this situation.
The threat of destabilization in the post-Soviet Central Asian countries is becoming more apparent. Although the region is located far from Belarus, the lack of effective control on the border with Russia does not allow our country to ignore the problem. The timely receipt of information about the situation on the borders of the CIS member countries with Afghanistan, tracking the internal stability of the region is necessary for the national security of Belarus. The Tajik border guards protect the Belarusian interests as well. Therefore, cooperation within the CIS in this area is necessary, as well as provision of financial, technical and advisory support in the field of regional security. At least as long as the Belarusian border guards are not present on the border with Russia. The lack of cooperation in the field of border security within the CIS and Turkmenistan requires cooperation on this matter on a bilateral basis. Moreover, the situation in this country is far from clear.
Despite the efforts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the prestige of the law-enforcers remains low among the young people. Thus, this summer graduation from the legal classes in schools was sponsored by the MIA Academy. Only 133 (21%) out of 638 graduates participated in the entrance campaign to the MIA Academy. Only 58 (9.1%) became the cadets.