Tuesday 21 May 2024 | 01:10

Despite economic hardships, Minsk is putting issues of military security at the top of its priority

08.02.2016  |  Politics   |  Siarhei Bohdan, BelarusDigest,  
Despite economic hardships, Minsk is putting issues of military security at the top of its priority

The threats allowed for in the new edition of military doctrine include violent political changes, which may come from Ukraine and pro-Moscow forces' attempts to repeat Ukrainian scenario in Belarus.

On 22 January, President Aliaksandr Lukashenka approved changes to Belarus' military doctrine. This document reveals fundamental changes in the mindset of the Belarusian establishment. Learning Ukrainian lessons, Minsk is putting issues of military security at the top of its priority list.

Belarusian strategists have also identified which threats are to be countered. They include violent political changes, which Minsk suspects may come from Ukraine and pro-Moscow forces' attempts to repeat in Belarus their exploits in Ukraine.

Minsk is also reevaluating its alliance with Russia. The Kremlin for years ignored Minsk's interests and is embarking on an increasingly chauvinist path. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticised Soviet-era international borders as 'arbitrary', implying that they could be changed through a Crimea- or Donbas-like scenario.

Minsk identifies threats

On 22 January, Lukashenka approved changes to Belarus' military doctrine, which had remained unchanged since 2001.

Identifying the potential military threats, the new edition of the doctrine points to 'hybrid warfare' and 'colour revolutions', clear terms if taken in the Belarusian and regional context.

'Hybrid warfare' refers to possible Russian interventions like those that occurred in Ukraine. Colour revolution means the West, interpreted IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. But that is a moot point.

Minsk indeed harbours suspicions that somebody in the West might be working on toppling Lukashenka, but in recent years Belarusian officials have more frequently named Ukraine as a source of destabilisation in Belarus. For instance, just before the recent October 2015 presidential election a Belarusian government-affiliated TV channel reported about "200 armed Ukrainians" being detained at the border.

Although Lukashenka cites the collapse of the state in Libya, Syria and Yemen as examples of possible scenarios that he wants to prevent, Minsk reviewed its military doctrine only after the crisis and conflict in Ukraine developed. In parallel, it started – however reluctantly - to construct a border with Ukraine.

Beware of Kremlin allies

Commenting on forthcoming changes in the military doctrine, last autumn Defence Minister Andrei Raukou claimed that Belarus did not consider any foreign state an enemy and added, “But we, of course, will not concede our territory and will use any forces and means, including military, to avoid that.”

The official Belarusian parlance sends signals warning to extremist elements in Russia not to try in Belarus anything like they did in Ukraine.

Raukou was merely further developing earlier statements made by Lukashenka who has many times publicly rebuked the Ukrainian government for “giving up its lands [in Crimea]” and neglecting the Ukrainian army which as a result failed to defend the country.

Belarus remains an ally of Russia but Minsk regards this status less and less only as an asset, and hence is trying to reformulate the alliance. The Belarusian leadership sees a danger of the country being enmeshed in somebody else's war as a result of confrontation between Russia and other countries.

In his earlier statements Lukashenka described the alliance with Russia as an obligation with reservations and qualifications. On 30 October, speaking before commanders of the national armed forces, he said, “Having allies is an important factor in ensuring our military security. Nonetheless, we shall build the mechanism of collective protection in accordance with our national interests.”

No arms for Belarusians

The very first reason for Minsk to review the conditions of its alliance with Russia has to do with Moscow itself. The Kremlin frequently refuses to deal with Belarus as an ally and does not hide it. To take only the most known example, Moscow concealed from Minsk the early stages of the Russian operation to annex Crimea.

Despite all lamentation about NATO expansion, Russia provides only minimal support for the Belarusian army that is sorely in need of equipment. This concerns even the most critical sphere for Russia – air defence. The Kremlin after many years of delays gave Belarus second-hand decommissioned S-300 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems of the oldest possible model. While Moscow is about to supply Iran with the S-300PMU, a model from the 1990s, Minsk receives from Moscow S-300PS, a model from the early 1980s.

Likewise, while proclaiming ever closer military cooperation, Russia attempted to give Belarus only the export models of another SAM system, the Tor-M2E. That means limited – in comparison to the models supplied to Russian army – capacities. Belarus received Tors also only after Moscow forced Minsk to give in on the issue of a Russian airbase.

Other cases also show a hardly ally-like attitude. Many Russian analysts acknowledge that the Belarusian army provides the bulk of force protecting Moscow from the west. Both in the air and on land, Moscow for many years has refused to give Belarusians newer aircraft.

The Belarusian army has only a few old fighter jets and no bombers, and plans to decommission its remaining battlefield close-support aircraft. This has rendered the Belarusian air defence system porous and ground forces useless without air support.

The Belarusian army has only a few old fighter jets and no bombers, and plans to decommission its remaining battlefield close-support aircraft. This has rendered the Belarusian air defence system porous and ground forces useless without air support.

Last ruble for military

The current economic situation in Belarus in comparison with 2010 has considerably worsened, with inflation reaching about 12 per cent in 2015. However, Lukashenka today insists that “if the last ruble remains in the state budget, we shall spend it on the security of our people.” To underline his point he again cited the situation in Ukraine, implying that insufficient care for security allowed that country to become a toy for more powerful forces.

The Belarusian government seems to be taking the matter seriously. Despite economic hardships, it has found resources for projects that should result in military or dual-use products – like designing and manufacturing the multiple rocket launch system SAM and possibly other weapons with Chinese and probably Ukrainian firms. It has also invested in the overhaul of old Belarusian fighter jets, putting national security interests over economic calculations.

While only a few experts have noticed these technical paraphernalia, adoption of an effectively new military doctrine has attracted much more attention. The doctrine, however, is only one small, visible example of fundamental changes triggered in Belarusian foreign and security policy by Putin's policies in the post-Soviet space. Minsk cannot cope with all the new risks without cooperating with other nations in the region and beyond. But it does what it can.

Originally published at BelarusDigest

Other news section «Politics»

Andrei Yahorau — Al Jazeera: “Lukashenko is irresponsible”
Andrei Yahorau — Al Jazeera: “Lukashenko is irresponsible”
He said Belarus would likely face economic tightening not only as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but also a Russian trade oil crisis that worsened this past winter.
Shhh! Belarus Wants You to Think It’s Turning Over a New Leaf
Shhh! Belarus Wants You to Think It’s Turning Over a New Leaf
Minsk’s muddled media clampdown could jeopardize warming of relations with the West.
Statement of the BNP in connection with the wave of searches in the editorial offices of the Belarus
Statement of the BNP in connection with the wave of searches in the editorial offices of the Belarus
The Belarusan National Platform of the EaP CSF issued a statement in connection with the wave of searches in the editorial offices of the Belarusan media and the detention of journalists.
Statement of the Belarusan EaP CSF National Platform on solidarity with the civil society of Armenia
Statement of the Belarusan EaP CSF National Platform on solidarity with the civil society of Armenia
The Belarusan National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum issued a statement on solidarity with the civil society of Armenia.
"Vilnius Consultations": Key points and recommendations on the future of EU Eastern Partnership
"Vilnius Consultations": Key points and recommendations on the future of EU Eastern Partnership
On September 11, the inaugural „Vilnius Consultations“ conference was organized by Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis and Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
From farewell to a new Eastern policy and towards a new development
From farewell to a new Eastern policy and towards a new development
Poland and Germany were both initiators and drivers of a New Eastern policy linked to the Eastern neighborhood and Russia/Soviet Union.
Uladzimir Matskevich: The sooner the "Union State" is denounced, the better for Belarus
Uladzimir Matskevich: The sooner the "Union State" is denounced, the better for Belarus
Not only does the "Union State" undermine the establishment of civilized relations with Europe, but it hinders the possibility of normal relations between Belarus and Russia.
Uladzimir Matskevich: The regime can no longer control the situation in the country
Uladzimir Matskevich: The regime can no longer control the situation in the country
The authorities are unable to prolong the social contract with the people: there is no way out of the social crisis.
Press release in connection with the dialogue in the format of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group
Press release in connection with the dialogue in the format of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group
Belarusan National Platform of the EaP CSF welcomes the dialogue process in the format of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group, the third round of which was held in Minsk on 3-4 April 2017.
Statement of the BNP in connection with the events of March 25-26, 2017 in Minsk and other Belarusan
Statement of the BNP in connection with the events of March 25-26, 2017 in Minsk and other Belarusan
Belarusan National Platform of the EaP CSF issued a statement in connection with the events of March 25-26, 2017 in Minsk and other Belarusan cities.
Statement by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on mass repressions in Belarus
Statement by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on mass repressions in Belarus
The EaP CSF Steering Committee issued a statement on repressions against civil society activists and journalists in Belarus, in view of the demonstrations planned on 25 March 2017.
Uladzimir Matskevich: Belarus-Ukraine relations need to be re-established
Uladzimir Matskevich: Belarus-Ukraine relations need to be re-established
"Case of Zhadan" demonstrated that Belarus does not actually have a clear policy - neither domestic nor foreign.
Belarus
Belarus's Lukashenko alleges “fifth column” plot as unrest continues
Belarusan President Lukashenko said on Tuesday a “fifth column” was plotting to overthrow him with the help of foreign-backed fighters, days before a planned street protest in Minsk against a new tax.
In Belarus, a rising fear: Will we be the next Ukraine?
In Belarus, a rising fear: Will we be the next Ukraine?
The relationship between Russia and Belarus has never been an easy one.
Andrei Yahorau: European window of opportunity is slowly closing, relations take form of fatigue
Andrei Yahorau: European window of opportunity is slowly closing, relations take form of fatigue
The Belarusian regime is not able to pursue a truly multi-vector policy, and the EU cannot decide what it needs in the region on the whole and from Belarus in particular.
Uladzimir Matskevich: Today Belarus is in a very difficult situation
Uladzimir Matskevich: Today Belarus is in a very difficult situation
But even under the circumstances the authorities have various ways out.
Uladzimir Matskevich: Lukashenka does not disrupt Russian plans to annex Belarus
Uladzimir Matskevich: Lukashenka does not disrupt Russian plans to annex Belarus
But Lukashenka is afraid for his fate and position - he needs Belarus to be sovereign to fully exercise his power.
Andrei Yeliseyeu: Russia is taking drastic unconstructive steps  
Andrei Yeliseyeu: Russia is taking drastic unconstructive steps  
There should be no actual passport control for the Belarusians arriving in Russia within the framework of the existing Belarusian-Russian agreements.
Uladzimir Matskevich: Visa-free regime is not a political concession to the West
Uladzimir Matskevich: Visa-free regime is not a political concession to the West
It is a process of normalization of Belarus-EU relations. Belarus just fulfils its international commitments.
Andrei Yahorau: Belarusian regime is self-improving, the only threat so far is the economy crisis
Andrei Yahorau: Belarusian regime is self-improving, the only threat so far is the economy crisis
Political analyst emphasizes that Belarus is the first modern authoritarianism in the European space, a phenomenon not yet studied by anyone.
Gintautas Mažeikis: The relation of political field and arena in the framework of information war

In his report, philosopher Gintautas Mažeikis discusses several concepts that have been a part of the European social and philosophical thought for quite a time.

“It is our big joint work”

It is impossible to change life in cities just in three years (the timeline of the “Agenda 50” campaign implementation). But changing the structure of relationships in local communities is possible.

Shhh! Belarus Wants You to Think It’s Turning Over a New Leaf

Minsk’s muddled media clampdown could jeopardize warming of relations with the West.

Mikhail Matskevich: How to create a local agenda and make it a problem solving tool

To achieve changes, you need to be interested in them and stop pinning all hopes on the state.