The most important events of the month. On 17.10.2014 Alexander Lukashenko gave traditional press conference for the Russian media. The event had a record length and included a number of significant statements of the Belarusian leader.
For example, he noted the failure of attempts to create state ideology. The ideological basis of the modern Belarusian state is absent. Those officials, who were entrusted to create it, failed the task. But at the same time they continue to hold their office and are supported by the Belarusian taxpayers.
Kaliningrad is the responsibility of Belarus, regardless of what Moscow thinks about it. Initially, these territories were planned to be attached to Belarus, but as a result of intrigues in Moscow Stalin took a different decision and the region was incorporated into Russia. Belarus is the only country (winner of the World War II), which has lost its territory as a result of the war. And this fact is not forgotten.
It was stated of the lack of military support from Russia. The Russians do not assist Belarus in creation of our own weapons and are reluctant to provide their own ones. It is interesting that in creation of our own weapon systems Minsk relies on the support of the third countries in exchange for «… the services we provide them in other areas.» The USA and Israel relationship model is called an example. According to Lukashenko, the USA supports and equips the army of Israel. The Belarusian leader made it clear that this is exactly the relationship model (especially, in its extent), which would be nice to implement in the framework of bilateral relations between Minsk and Moscow.
Also, Russia has been accused of imperial ambitions, trying to humiliate the Belarusian authorities, which causes an understandable offense.
Despite the alliance, Russia must respect the opinion of Belarus, which may differ from the Russian one.
The peace plan of Belarus regarding Ukraine was rejected by both the West and Russia. Consequently, «… this is the massacre someone needs.» The terrorists operating in the south-eastern Ukraine rely on the Russian support. The Kremlin’s policy in relation to Kiev is based on subjective reasons. The war in Ukraine is beneficial to «certain players in the international arena.»
Alexander Lukashenko also said that he needs Russian aircrafts rather than Russian pilots.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian-Russian military alliance is needed to protect Russian interests in the first place. At the same time Belarus needs to buy Russian weapons also to defend Russia. Such approach is unacceptable for the official Minsk. Moreover, Alexander Lukashenko stressed that Belarus needs its own strong army and does not only rely on the Russian aid.
The dynamics of the situation for the past month. The subject of the Belarusian-Russian defense cooperation remained relevant throughout October. On 15.10.2014 Russian Air Force Commander Colonel-General Viktor Bondarev announced plans to create a Russian airbase in 2016 in Bobruisk. Thus, this is the third proposed location of the Russian aviators in our country, and another shift in time period. Most likely, not the last one.
And on 29.10.2014 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu meeting his Belarusian colleague said that in 2015 twelve combat Su-27 aircrafts and two combat-training Su-27 aircrafts, and four Mi-8 helicopters will be placed in Bobruisk. Until the end of this year, Russia has completed transfer of four divisional sets of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to the Armed Forces of Belarus. The supply of Russian weapons is planned in spring of 2011 at the very least and may be seen as a kind of compensation for the use of Belarusian airfield. The compensation, frankly speaking, is absolutely insufficient in view of emerging military, political and financial risks for Belarus.
The Minister of Defense of Belarus and Russia discussed the issues of international and regional security. The Russian side has predictably given special attention to Ukraine. However, the commentaries on events in the country were accompanied by anti-Western rhetoric in the style of the late USSR. According to S. Shoigu, Ukraine puts pressure on Belarus and Russia, including through the «color revolutions». Traditionally, the EU and the US stand behind this.
The Belarusian party shied away from giving political assessments of the events in the region and expressed satisfaction from the level of bilateral military-technical cooperation, pointing out more than 50 contracts concluded in this area, yet dozens of contracts are under consideration. The information about the financial volume of these multiple transactions would be more interesting. It is doubtful that they are impressive.
The events in Ukraine adversely affected the functioning of the regional group of forces of Belarus and Russia. The activities for training and combat missions were suspended. At the same time Belarus has financed only 24% of the planned expenses. The funds will be reallocated to the other needs. The border security was funded at 68% (in Russia — 71.8%, in Belarus — 62.5%).
On 03.10.2014 the State Military-Industrial Committee approved the draft concept of the military-technical policy of Belarus until 2025 and an action plan for its implementation. The means of warfare, based on new physical principles, non-lethal weapons, robotic and unmanned ground and hybrid technology, joined in the network of combat and support platforms, development of light armored combat vehicles and means of weapons mobility, their integration with individual and group combat military systems, and a number of other areas, are offered as promising.
On 08.10.2014 after the meeting of the Coordination Committee of Chiefs of the Armed Forces of CIS member it was stated that almost all issues on compatibility of the communication means are resolved and the communication technology is being developed in the same direction.
Belarus in turn completes creation of the national satellite communications system («Belintersat»), which will replace the Russian satellites. The potential of «Belintersat» in the future may be used in the interests of friendly countries. China is represented as the partner in the system creation. In addition, before the end of this year the units of the Armed Forces of Belarus will be equipped with portable radios of the latest generation, the work on equipping the interpost automatic network for secure communications is in progress.
On 15.10.2014 the commander of the Air Forces and Air Defense of Belarus Major General Oleg Dvigalev shared perspectives of national air forces development for the next year. Thus, it is planned to obtain four combat training aircrafts Yak-130 and an electronic intelligence station from Russia.
Border agencies of the CIS countries have launched an electronic system for exchange of information about the situation at the borders. So far, the project involves only the countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter CSTO). It is under discussion now, if Uzbekistan will participate. The information exchange system is obviously aimed primarily at improving the effectiveness of controlling the external borders of the CIS in Central Asia. The expert group of the Council of Commanders of the Border Troops of the CIS in Bishkek based on the obtained data monitors and analyzes the situation at the borders of the Central Asian region.
On 16.10.2014 Alexander Lukashenko met with the head of Ukrainian corporation «Motor Sich». The Belarusian authorities are dissatisfied with the outcomes of the activities of JSC «Orsha Aircraft Repair Plant» (specializing in helicopters servicing and maintenance) belonging to the Ukrainian investors. At the same time, the advent of «Motor Sich» made the company work better, but not that much as the President would like it to do.
The essence of the claim was not made public. We may with high probability assume the three reasons for dissatisfaction of the authorities. Firstly, the level of technology transfer was not at the appropriate level, as it was expected in Minsk. Secondly, it is clear that Belarus would like to create in Orsha the only production and servicing platform «Motor Sich» for the Russian market, and possibly for the entire CIS. This arises from the statement of A. Lukashenko that «… it is necessary to work with Russia through Belarus.» Thirdly, it may be assumed that due to of the ongoing war the Ukrainian corporation has limited possibilities for implementation of the investment commitments to Belarus.
Russia did not manage to turn the CSTO into the analogue of the Warsaw Pact: the participating countries will be independently address the issues of military-technical cooperation with Ukraine. At the same time cooperation inside the CSTO military-industrial complex will expand. Yet, there are certain plans in this direction, including with regard to import, repair and modernization of equipment.
Conclusion. It seems that the press conference of A. Lukashenko to the Russian mass media was designed to give a sign to the West in the first place. It means that:
— the official Minsk is not a vassal of Moscow at present, nor will be in future;
— despite the close bilateral relations, Belarus is not going to rely solely on Russia;
— there is a number of problems in Belarusian-Russian relations;
— assistance to Belarus in the field of national security will be welcomed in Minsk.
The security cooperation may be considered as one of the ways of normalizing relations with the West.
It is obvious that the Kremlin is trying to play on the fears of official Minsk regarding the possibility of Western interference in the internal political processes in Belarus and draw our country into a confrontation with the West. These fears are unfounded, the United States currently have little interest in Belarus. The Washington’s task is to keep Belarusan regime in certain acceptable limits of behavior at home and in the international arena. Belarus is rather an insignificant state and neither Washington nor Brussels have intentions to invest billions of dollars in the regime change and establishment of the pro-Western government in the country. There are much more important things in front of them than the political future of Lukashenko.
However, the union of Minsk and Brussels or Washington seems unlikely. Lukashenko does not understand the West, does not perceive its value and does not trust Western politicians. It condemns Belarus for the state of strategic loneliness.
Speaking about the prospects of the Russian air base in Belarus, we should specify a number of factors hindering this:
— the Belarusian authorities do not want to be drawn into confrontation with the West, Russia and Ukraine;
— by destroying regional security with aggressive actions against the former friendly Ukraine, the Russian government has lost confidence of its partners in the CIS;
— uncertainty about prospects for the crisis development makes the Belarusian authorities delay the decision regarding the new Russian air base with a view that further this issue will lose its relevance for Russia in connection with the challenges in other geographical regions.
Undecided question for air base may be regarded by Minsk as a guarantee of the Russian financial support.
Speaking about the prospects of using the Russian air forces at the airfield in Bobruisk, S. Shoigu noted that «… the question of sharing military infrastructure in the interests of the regional grouping has been realized in practice.» In this regard there are doubts that the official Minsk will agree to create a full-fledged Russian airbase in Belarus under a separate bilateral agreement. It is highly probable that the Russian air fleet will be based in our country within the existing contractual framework. I.e. no special status of the foreign military base is provided, the Russian air forces will be «visitors» as long as it suits the official Minsk. The official report of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus omitted statements of S. Shoigu against Ukraine, the accusations against the West and the information about the prospects for placement of Russian aviation at the airbase in Bobruisk. It seems that the Belarusian authorities do not consider the bargaining finished.
Referring to the plans for development of domestic air forces in the coming year, we note that the return to the system of Su-27, regardless of the relevant statements of Alexander Lukashenko, was not commented.
There is no reason to assert that there is a conflict between the Belarusian authorities and the «Motor Sich». The words by A. Lukashenka about the possible nationalization of production sold to investors in case of failure to comply with the investment commitments should not be taken literally. Probably, the parties will adjust the previous agreements. In any case, Belarus is interested in developing their own aircraft industry. And it is impossible without an external partner. The level of interest of the Belarusian authorities is high, the presentation of modernized Mi-8MSB and MSB-2 in September 2013 in Minsk was visited by the head of the Presidential Administration Andrei Kobyakov. Aircrafts were modernized and re-engined at JSC «Orsha Aircraft Repair Plant». The largest domestic operator of Mi-8 is the Ministry of Defense, which is suffering from chronic underfunding. It is doubtful that the Defense Ministry of Belarus in the near future will become a major customer of Mi-8MSB. The main attention is focused on foreign markets. Apparently, there were prospects, since certification procedure of Mi-8MSB in Belarus was promptly completed.
October evidences distancing of the CSTO countries from the Russian-Ukrainian war. Moscow failed to ensure the blockade of Kiev on the part of the post-Soviet countries in the field of military-industrial complex. On the other hand, through development of cooperation between the CSTO countries (excluding Russia) and Ukraine, Moscow will be able to get access to the products of the Ukrainian defense industry until the practical implementation of plans on replacing the Ukrainian products with the Russian ones.