What does the draft state defence order — 2022 tell us?

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On May 10, 2022, Aliaksandr Lukashenka held the meeting on the approval of the state defence order for 2022.

The special moment. It is interesting to note that earlier such events, if they were held, were not covered publicly. However, this year the state propaganda is trying to use the issues of the state defence order for personal promotion of Lukashenka. Who not so long ago confidently asserted about the rapid military defeat of Ukraine and threatened NATO with a vigorous march to the English Channel. So they have to update the image of an effective commander in chief. And at the same time to demonstrate to the military that they are in the spotlight at the highest level. Although this won’t increase the expenditures for the military issues.

It is worth noting that the state defence order must be approved no later than three months from the date the law on the republican budget for the current financial year comes into force. Thus, the state defence order-2022 was to be approved no later than the end of March. The reason that this issue has actually been moved to mid-May is the course of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Russian victory parade on Khreshchatyk didn’t happen, Kyiv has resisted and is fighting back. Preliminary conclusions from the war became the reason for the adjustment of the state defence order in terms of the range and volume of purchased products. Which led to the postponement of its approval.

War in Ukraine. During the event, Lukashenka highlighted the problematic issues of the Russian army, revealed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine: the stability of the logistics and communications systems of the troops. An interesting point was Lukashenka’s special requirement not to complicate military equipment in order to simplify its use by ordinary soldiers. The Lukashenka regime assumes that in case of war there will be no time to prepare a mass mobilised army.

As a result of the analysis of the current Russian-Ukrainian war, the training plans of the Belarusian army as well as the operational plans for defence and modernization of the technical base of the army will be changed.

Thus, despite the pro-Russian state propaganda, official Minsk, on the whole, adequately assesses the course and intermediate results of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The purchase of weapons. Speaking about the prospects for obtaining S-400, Lukashenka clearly expects that they will be handed over to Belarus by Russia free of charge. At the same time, it is stated that the capabilities of the S-400 are redundant for Belarus, and the existing S-300 are very good modern weapons. Moreover, in the event of a large-scale war, enemy will try to quickly destroy the S-400, like combat aircraft. Or make it impossible to use the latter, destroying the airfield infrastructure. It turns out something like “it is not essential for us, but we’ll take it as a gift”.

But Minsk is ready to buy “Iskander” missile systems, located in Belarus (as far as is known, one division). Probably, at the residual value of the delivery price for the needs of the Russian army. That is, 2-3 times lower than the cost of the new “Iskanders” for export deliveries. Judging by Lukashenka’s confident tone, certain agreements on the parameters of the deal may have already been reached.

Later it was announced that expensive Russian weapons (Su-30SM aircraft, helicopters, Tor-M2E air defence systems and others) would be purchased at the expense of the Russian export loan. At the same time, nothing is known about the negotiations regarding the allocation of such a loan. Last year, Lukashenka several times announced the possibility of using the balance of the Russian loan for the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant for the purchase of weapons in Russia. The Russians did not comment on this issue. Therefore, it is likely that official Minsk is only counting on the possibility of Moscow providing a loan for the purchase of Russian weapons.

It is also unclear whether it is planned to purchase the “Iskander” at the expense of the above-mentioned loan, or still at own expense. Probably we’re talking about the first option. As the additional funds for the state defence order-2022 will not be allocated. There is also a requirement to prioritise the purchase of defence products from the domestic military-industrial complex.

Accordingly, the scheme of defence purchases desired by official Minsk is as follows:

— the products (works, services) of the Belarusian military-industrial complex and critical imports, without which it is impossible to maintain the combat capability of the troops, are purchased at the expense of budgetary funds;

— part of the weapons of interest is obtained from the stocks of the Russian army either in the order of military-technical assistance, or is acquired at a residual value;

— new expensive Russian equipment is purchased at the expense of a Russian loan (credit line) in the amount of at least USD 500 million (preferably a preferential one with a “never” repayment period).

Obviously, official Minsk hopes for an effective bargaining with the Kremlin over the supply of Russian weapons. It is not clear what this optimism is based on. Indeed, back in September 2021, Lukashenka claimed that Russia would soon transfer a large batch of weapons to Belarus. But so far there has been no news on that.

Missile issues. Based on the requirements of the Missile Technology Control Regime, Moscow is unlikely to be ready to transfer to Belarus ballistic missiles for “Iskanders” with a launch range of more than 300 km. This is indirectly evidenced by the fact that Minsk is counting on Russian technical support in the development of its own ballistic missile. The Lukashenka regime still adheres to the requirements of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, so we are talking about creating a Belarusian missile with a range of up to 500 km.

However, the Lukashenka regime’s counting on Russian support in the development of its own missile weapons seems overly optimistic. It is worth recalling that in May 2020, Lukashenka, in response to the refusal of Russia and China to support the development of Belarusian missiles, said that “… there is no need to kneel before the Russians” and demanded to eliminate dependence on the PRC in the missile sphere. Obviously, no one wants to create a competitor on the international arms market with their own hands. Especially the Kremlin, which adheres to a long-term strategy to prevent a significant increase in the defence potential of its formal allies in the post-Soviet space.

It can be assumed that the official Minsk hopes to sign a commercial agreement with Russian institutions with competence in the field of missile technology. But such an agreement requires political sanction from the Kremlin. Which can be problematic.

Appealing to Russia for help means China’s refusal to supply or assist in establishing the production of M-20 ballistic missiles in Belarus and doubts about the effectiveness of their own efforts in this area. Although back in 2019, the Belarusian military-industrial complex demonstrated its readiness to start developing a ballistic missile with a launch range of 500 km. But then this idea didn’t interest the Ministry of defence.

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