Belarus Moves Towards Full-Scale Border Control With Russia - Belarus Security Digest
In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, Belarus started working on a full-scale border guard on the Belarusian-Russian border.
Western sanctions are impeding the development of industrial cooperation between Belarus and Russia, which still hopes to draw CIS countries into its confrontation with the West.
The Belarusian authorities do not trust America, but they still want to befriend it, as the series of recent meetings with the US officials show.
This and more in this months's Belarus Security Digest.
Belarus to Guard its Boarder with Russia
Belarus recently made a highly politicised decision to guard its border with Russia. On 4 September 2014, Alexander Lukashenka signed Decree No.433, which establishes a border zone within the administrative-territorial units adjacent to the state border between Belarus and the Russian Federation.
Although the State Border Committee still denies it, the analysis of the legislation explicitly allows one to interpret the decree as the beginning of the creation of (or a demonstration of the willingness to create) a full-scale border guard on the Belarusian-Russian border.
Taking into account the costs of installation of the state border of Belarus with other post-Soviet countries, the minimum amount of financial resources needed for the demarcation of the border and creating the infrastructure on the border with Russia will be at least $260m.
Besides this, at least two border units should be created, and more staff added to the existing Polatsk and Homiel border units. This would lead to a 150% increase in the number of border guards. The formal installation all the necessary components on the Belarusian-Russian border could take 7 to 10 years.
Russia Wants to Create an Anti-NATO alliance
In September, Russian officials once again stressed the need to create a military alliance in order to counterbalance NATO as well as repeated to its partners that the Russian missile defence system would be able to effectively protect the western borders of Russia and CSTO states. This anti-missile system would include the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan and two new airfields, the creation of which Russia has allegedly already agreed upon with Belarus.
These plans, however, appear a little out of sorts. First of all, Russia halted the Gabala radar station's operations, dismantled all of the equipment and withdrew all of its staff back in 2013. Furthermore, this was the first time these two Russian airfields in Belarus were ever publicly mentioned.
The latest incarnation of Russia's military doctrine also includes language about identifying its main adversary and setting up the necessary conditions to engage in a preemptive nuclear strike. It should be noted that the role of adversary has traditionally reserved for NATO in general and the United States in particular.
Recently statements appeared in Russian mass media that Russian bombers should be deployed in Belarus along with fighter jets. The likelihood of successfully creating an anti-NATO alliance is rather slim for one simple reason - no other CIS government sees the West as its adversary.
Belarus Fears Western sanctions against Russia
On 12 September 2014, the European Union imposed sanctions against the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). These sanctions will directly influence the prospects of the UAC acquiring a share in the capital of the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranavichy. The Belarusian authorities may take a time-out fearing the negative consequences, especially considering a possible toughening of sanctions in the future.
A similar situation is shaping up around the sale of state-owned shares in the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MWTP) to a Russian investor. The intergovernmental agreement is all ready to sign, but the Belarusian side is in no rush to finalise the deal. MWTP came under European and American sanctions in due to the war in Ukraine. Thus, one should not expect the selling off of MWTP to happen in the near future. However, Alexander Lukashenka will have to make the final decision.
CIS Countries Concerned about Nuclear Terrorism
The situation in Afghanistan continues to be at the center of members of the CIS attention. On 9 September 2014, Colonel-General Andrei Novikov, Head of the CIS Anti-terrorism Centre noted persistent attempts by Islamic terrorists to extend their activities into CIS countries.
The CIS Anti-terrorism Centre sees a real terrorist threat that could involve the use of nuclear or radioactive material in an attack on its soil. They are also taking seriously reports of radioactive material being stolen around the world. Particularly alarming are militants' reports of the theft of "dozens of kilogrammes of nuclear material" by the terrorist organisation "Islamic State" from the University of Mosul in Iraq.
In addition to this they took considerable sums of money, which would be sufficient to employ experts and buy the equipment needed to manufacture ammunition that contains radioactive material.
The suppression of the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials across the borders of CIS member states has recently become as important to the CIS security services as the fight against drug trafficking.
A Drill to Evacuate 200 Thousand People
On 2 September 2014, an annual practise emergency evacuation drill of 200 thousand people from schools, hospitals and social buildings was held in the Hrodna region. Warning systems and the preparedness of personnel to act in a crisis situation were audited. The drill took place in about 850 institutions.
Hopes to normalise Belarus-US relations
The Belarusian authorities are hoping to normalise their political and regional security relations with the United States. An interagency delegation of the US government visited Belarus on 9 - 11 September 2014. The delegation included representatives of the State Department, the Department of Defence and the US Agency for International Development.
On 10 September 2014, Colonel Alieh Voinau, State Secretary – Assistant to the Minister of Defence of Belarus on military policy issues, met with Evelyn Farkas, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. The delegation also had a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus.
The US representatives reiterated their previously stated positions on respect for democratic rights and freedoms, including the practise of holding election campaigns and the continued existence of political prisoners in the country. The parties agreed to continue the dialogue and declared their interest to normalise relations.
For Belarus, a normalisation of relations with Washington is the cornerstone of the entire architecture of the Euro-Atlantic policy. No full-fledged relations with the European Union are possible without normalisation of relations with the US, with all ensuing consequences: restrictions on investment activities, transfer of technologies and capitals, trade in dual-use products etc.
The limiting factor in the Belarusian-American relations is not only the low level of interest of the United States towards Belarus but also Minsk's distrust of Washington's policies. The Belarusian authorities do not understand and do not accept the modern Western world order. Therefore, they treat it with a considerable degree of hostility. In fact, the ruling regime is ready to receive Western money and technologies but is not prepared to adopt its state and societal structures.
Andrei is the head of “Belarus Security Blog” analytical project.