Russia is Trying to Control CSTO Countries, Mobilisation - Belarus Security Digest

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Fears that a call for mobilisation was on the horizon sent the public into a panic in Belarus, though the concerns were largely unfounded.

The Belarusian military and industrial complex is planning for the future and hopes on orders from Russia, though it remains unclear whether they will procure them. The CSTO creates a strategic defence management system and will try to confront the West in cyberspace and its information operations.

Russia is trying to Control CSTO Countries

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation also shared its new plans in January. A defence management body of member countries – the Centre for Crisis Response – is being established to support the alliance. It will be paired with Russia's National Centre for Defence Management. It will allow the CSTO to use tried-and-true channels of operational communication and management in crisis response situations. The respective national management mechanisms of the CSTO's members will be connected to a single centre, making use of the same channels of communication.

Cooperation in the field of information security develops within the framework of the CSTO's operations. An operation known as "PROXY", set up to combat crime, has become a full-fledged standing body. It will allow them to enhance cooperation in the field of information security, identify attempted information attacks on its members and criminal acts being committed on electronic information networks.

CSTO established an Advisory Focal Point for Cyber-Incidents has been established. The new mechanism will warn about information security vulnerabilities, prevent attempts to infiltrate information networks and identify actions directed at harming the states' respective information resources.

The CSTO's information security policy is not limited only to protecting information networks and resources from unauthorised interference and modification. Rather, this is just one of many things it is tasked with doing. The primary objective is to create a system to "counter attempts to use information resources for anti-government purposes aimed at destabilising the situation and violently overthrowing the government in CSTO's member countries".

Simply put, CSTO countries hope to control their own information space in order to carry out efficient information activities within it. Given the fact that the capabilities of nearly post-Soviet countries besides Russia in this domain is basically negligible, one can argue that it is first and foremost designed to support Russia.

It will be natural to expect cases of censorship, restrictions set on the dissemination of information, dissemination of 'false information' and anti-Western propaganda.

Provocative Announcement about Mobilisation Leads to Panic

In January, the Armed Forces of Belarus engaged in a session of intensive combat training. They staffed some units to be in line with wartime requirements by calling on reserve units. This move roused the public's excitement: there was a bit of stovepiping about the calling-out up of fifteen thousand reservists because of the escalation of the Russian – Ukrainian war.

False information quickly engulfed domestic information networks and even some serious media outlets picked it up. Meanwhile, the reality on the ground was rather different, with only 341 reservists being called up for training. They participated in firing exercises and tactical exercises in their companies.

The mobilisation of reservists is a common event during military training sessions where it is customary to switch out units from a peacetime to wartime standing and staff them with personnel to their full capacity. It happens regularly. In a typical year, the number of recruits for re-training hovers around two to four thousand people. Judging by the size of the military budget for 2015, one should not expect a specifically planned wave of militarisation in Belarus in the near future. The background to the whole situation – the war between Russia and Ukraine – generated more excitement around this event than warranted.

Meanwhile, nobody has noticed that during the exercises in January, military units and border guards drilled their interactions in strengthening the protection of the state border and preventing the infiltration of sabotage and reconnaissance groups from a neighbouring country.

The Belarusian Military and Industrial Complex Develops

It is especially noticeable against the background of the stagnation of other sectors of the nation's industry. The Board of the State Military and Industrial Committee (SMIC) met on 30 January to appraise the development of the agency in 2014 and set objectives for 2015.

They confirmed their intentions to decide on issues related to the nation's combat geographical-information systems, integrated counterattack systems for precision weapons, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), launching systems, and combat systems for special operations and ground forces. The development of a range of communication equipment has nearly been completed. Before the end of the year, the development of digital shortwave radio stations are also slated to be finalised.

This year, there are plans to develop a legal framework for designing, testing and using UAS as well as for establishing a centre for certification for operating unmanned aircraft equipment (drones).

In 2015, the SMIC and law enforcement agencies will identify key areas where they can improve the efficiency of national security operations, including in the area of defence and develop proposals accordingly, which has been designated as a priority.

Defence goods and service exports continue to grow, up 118.6% compared to 2013. The agency's export policy seeks to identify new markets, develop investment cooperation with foreign partners, attract new technologies, and use bundled offers and state support for pushing exports.

Separately, the SMIC's chairman underscored the intentions of Belarusian defence enterprises to participate directly in Russian state defence orders. Currently, their participation remains indirect. So far, the Russian side is still doling out empty promises of equal rights to the Belarusian military and industrial complex.

Siarhiej Huruliou, the head of SMIC, admitted that there was a slowdown in cooperation between the Belarusian defence industry and their Ukrainian colleagues "for some reason, [but] not related to the Belarusian [party]".

The Belarusian military and industrial complex is getting ready to design a combat UAV. However, to date, the ministry of defence failed to formulate a clear-cut position on this issue.

Andrei Parotnikau

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

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