Russia Still Seeks an Airbase, Financial Constraints, Balancing on Ukraine - Belarus Security Digest

Belarus is running out of money as only priority expenditures receive budget financing. Security forces will get a raise in their wages. However, this bump will simply compensate for inflation.

Russia still wants to get an air force base in Belarus. Drone manufacturers are fighting for the Defence Ministry's orders. The internal troops are suffering from staff shortages.

Possible Russian Air Force Base in Belarus

The creation of a Russian air force base in Belarus may create problems for the Belarusian air force. Russian officials remain the only source of public information about the prospects of creating an air force base in Belarus.

On 1 August 2014, Viktor Bondarev, Russia's air force Commander, said that they would open an air force base in Baranavichy after the signing of an intergovernmental agreement. If this were to occur, there is a high probability that the Belarusian fighter jets, which are stationed there, will be moved to another airfield. They may even be moved to Babrujsk, closer to the border with Russia.

Moving the Belarusian air force fighter jets' base of operations from Baranavichy threatens to negatively affect the staff of the domestic aviation: the big question is whether the authorities will be able to provide housing to airmen at the new duty station, and jobs and schools for their family members.

As a result, some officers may refuse to move to the new duty station and to abandon their already established way of life.

Belarus is Trying to Reassure Ukraine

On 18 August 2014, Alexander Lukashenka received State Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Miazhujeu. They discussed the situation on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. Lukashenka demanded from the Belarusian border guards to avoid receiving "any legitimate claims from Ukraine", implying that any conflict should be avoided. According to the Belarusian leader, he agreed with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko that all security agencies of the two countries "should be in permanent contact".

The objective is to avoid any misunderstandings with its southern neighbour. Alexander Lukashenka received reassurances that all of the security agencies of Belarus and Ukraine had established contact among themselves and informational exchange was constantly ongoing.

On the same day, Valiantsin Vialichka, Belarus' ambassador to Ukraine, said at a press conference that Belarus would not allow for aggression from third parties to be committed against Ukraine from its territory. Officially, Belarus is in favour of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and against its federalisation.

The active pro-Ukrainian rhetoric of the Belarusian authorities in August could be a reaction to the information that Russia was preparing a large-scale operation to enforce peace. To do this, Moscow could promptly concentrate forces capable to address not only (and not so much) humanitarian but also combat. Simply put, this would be an intervention.

The CSTO exercises "Inviolable Brotherhood-2014" and "Interaction-2014" practised to prepare for such a scenario. The deployment of Russian forces with their staff and weapons over long a distance preceded the actual drills themselves.

The exercises included the use of artillery, armoured vehicles, aircraft and a massive air assault. In fact, these were not designed to be stricty peacekeeping missions but rather large-scale military operations that have a complementary humanitarian aid component.

'Irtyshia' Falls to Western Perfidy

The Belarusian authorities made these reassuring statements right on the first day of the "Interaction-2014" exercise of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Forces in Kazakhstan. For the training mission, two simulated states were created: 'Karania', a CSTO member, and 'Irtyshia', a neighbour of 'Karania', which was experiencing an acute political crisis provoked by a separatist movement against a backdrop of ethnic tensions.

Meanwhile, the crisis in 'Irtyshia' originated with the support of "some leading Western countries". 'Karania' asked the CSTO for military assistance, and the member states provided such assistance following a decision of the Council for Collective Security. During the exercise, the participants also practised cyber operations on the Internet as well as psychological warfare.

Officially, they talked about the threat of destabilisation in Afghanistan and spreading of instability to the CSTO neighbouring member states. However, the use of cyber warfare suggests that a more developed state was its real objective. The exercise scenario strongly hinted at the ongoing events in Ukraine.

Security Expenditures Stagnate

An increase in security expenditures is not possible at present due to budget problems. The situation with the budget's performance remains difficult. The budget surplus from January – July 2014 was abnormally low for this period of the fiscal year at 0.6% of the GDP and this was only because of the spending restraints on low-priority expenditures. This situation seriously challenges the reality of the Government's plans to achieve a balanced budget in 2014.

Security forces will certainly be recipients of budgetary funds. But they are not going to get much. On 1 September 2014, the service members of the Belarusian security agencies received a raise in their wages.

The average increase was 17% of the official rate of pay. In fact, this is merely compensation for inflation, which has already exceeded 11% since the beginning of the year. Besides, they were told unofficially that the next raise would happen only on the eve of the presidential election.

Struggle for military procurement orders escalates

The situation with Belarus' security agencies equipment, particularly with its drones, has had some rather interesting developments. On the one hand, there are many models. On the other hand, few of them have passed the first stage of official trials and are operational.

With regards to mid-range drones, the Belarusian defence industry has the UAS-100, the official trials of which ended on 30 June 2014 on the premises of the 927th Centre for Setup and Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems of the Air Force and Air Defence Forces. Belarus can use the UAS-100, the tactical unmanned aerial vehicle 'Grif-1', with a range of up to 100 kilometres in the future.

The main purpose of this model is air reconnaissance. Belarus is a leader among the CIS countries in this category: currently, no other post-Soviet country has a model which is ready for serial manufacturing.

The Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Staff Shortages

The Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are trying to solve a staffing problem. The issue of staff shortages in the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs remains a rather acute one. Thus, a new concept for the personnel policy for the Internal Troops until 2020 was adopted in July. The concept has not yet been released and will most likely will not be made public.

Otherwise, the real level of staff shortage in the Internal Troops has become well known. Meanwhile, the most efficient mechanism is conferment with officers after short-term refresher courses. Those servicemen were not trained for the posts of unit commanders (the most pressing of all shortages facing the Internal Troops). They were trained for officer positions in the EOD and pyrotechnic and canine units and services for the protection of state secrets.

To be more plain, Belarus faces a shortage of field experts. One can only hope that the future officers have attained a sufficient level of qualification during their 1.5-month training.

Andrei Parotnikau

Andrei is the head of “Belarus Security Blog” analytical project.

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