Russian Nuclear Weapons in Belarus, An Anti-Nato Military Bloc - Belarus Security Digest

The Kremlin pulls together an anti-NATO bloc. Minsk is trying to be helpful to the West as a source of information about the Kremlin's plan towards Ukraine insofar as Vladimir Putin allows them to.

The Russian elite is overtaken by chauvinism and are increasingly losing touch with reality. 

Belarus and Russia will jointly explore space. The number of those who want to serve in uniform in Belarus is declining steadily. China becomes Belarus' No. 2 military and industrial complex partner. 

Moscow is trying to create an anti-NATO bloc of post-Soviet countries

On 8 May, a truncated summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) took place in Moscow without the participation of the President of Kazakhstan.

The parties brought up the topic of the West's sanctions against Russia. It suggests that one of the goals of the meeting was to discuss ways to circumvent them using Moscow's usual clientele in the post-Soviet space (Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus).

Interestingly, the leaders of these countries were invited to visit the Russian National Centre for Defence Management: Moscow may have wanted to impress its guests by demonstrating its power. And to hint at the same time that there were offers on the table that should not be refused. Apparently, the Russian leadership got what they wanted: all of the post-Soviet leaders in attendance once again publicly confirmed Russia's regional leadership and prioritised collective security in the framework of CSTO.

The summit of CSTO member states on 8 May in Moscow may indicate Russian leaders' plan to forge a kind of anti-West bloc of post-Soviet countries, each of which will be backed by Russia.

If this is the case, then Vladimir Putin is playing a dangerous game directed at exacerbating the situation in the region by trying to transform the opposing 'NATO – Russia' forces into 'NATO – CSTO'. As a result, Eastern Europe and possibly Central Asia may face serious challenges to its security and, more concerning, unknown military challenges.

Lukashenka is Riding on the Kremlin's Coattails

The Belarusian leader made an offer to Moscow to help coordinate its policy towards Ukraine. In this case, it means that Moscow would need to inform its formal allies about its plans regarding Kyiv.

Alexander Lukashenka's proposal, voiced during the summit of CSTO member states, about becoming the coordinating force with regards to its policy towards Ukraine should be considered in light of his April conversation with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. 

Through coordination (i.e. getting information about the Kremlin's plans with Ukraine) Alexander Lukashenka will try and influence Vladimir Putin in order to stabilise the situation in Ukraine and to improve, inter alia, his chances to resume a dialogue with the West for his own sake. It can include the exchange of information regarding the Ukrainian crisis.

Russian Nukes in Belarus: A Provocation or Warning?

One of the most high-profile events in May was the declaration made by Frants Klintsevich, Deputy Chairman of the Defence Committee of the State Duma, on 7 May 2014. According to the Russian parliamentarian, Russia may start "moving our weapons closer to its borders" including the border between Belarus and the EU in retaliation to the permanent deployment of NATO troops in Eastern Europe. 

There was a hint that there is a possibility of deploying Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus to be used against NATO sites. This statement has received no further development. It remains an open question remains who precisely dictated Mr Klintsevich's statements: was it a gaff expressing the mood of a segment of the Russian elite (most likely, it was) or was it a deliberate statement designed to probe public opinion?

The statement of Russian MP Frants Klintsevich sheds some light on the chauvinist hysteria that has seized Russian society and its political elite as of late. This is particularly disconcerting for Belarus. It should be noted that, while it may seem paradoxical, Russia was the main source of 'Westernisation' of Belarus, including through its mass media outlets. Now even this is under jeopardy.

Cooperation Between Belarus and Russia in Space Exploration

Cooperation between Belarus and Russia in space exploration has the potential to expand. The cooperation between the Federal Space Agency of Russia and the National Academy of Science of Belarus marches on. The first meeting of the joint working group on drafting space exploration programmes took place in Minsk. In total, the Russian delegation suggested 12 new areas of cooperation. 

The remote sensing of Earth has been, and will remain, one of the key areas of cooperation. Since 2012, there has been a joint space team dedicated to carrying out the remote sensing of Earth that utilises Russian and one Belarusian satellite.

Although Belarus is not among the world's leading forces in space exploration, Russia remains interested in their cooperation. If the West imposes sanctions involving the restriction of exports of goods related to space exploration to Russia, the importance of Belarus for the Russian space industry will increase significantly.

If for no other reason than currently the share of components of Russia's own production in the Russian spacecraft accounts for only 27% of its manufactured goods and they account for about 96% of all of their space programmes' failures.

Cooperation with China Growing

On 13 May, a Chinese military delegation met Siarhiej Huruliou, Chairman of the State Military Industrial Committee. The parties noted that the military and industrial cooperation remained an important factor of the comprehensive strategic relations of our countries. They also discussed several promising areas of cooperation and expressed their interest in further strengthening their cooperation in this field.

The meeting took place in the framework of a 'road map', which defined the main areas of cooperation, including the military and industrial sphere for 2014 – 2018. On the same day, a meeting between the Belarusian Minister of Defence Yuryj Zhadobin and the Chinese delegation took place. According to the press service of the Ministry of Defence, the parties discussed issues related to the development and strengthening of the bilateral military cooperation.

Staff Shortage Escalates in Security Agencies

The authorities acknowledged the fiasco surrounding last year's admission campaign to the Military Academy. As it was publicly announced only in May, during a meeting on improvement on the system and admission work to universities and colleges held on 11 March and chaired by Alexander Lukashenka, Major General Siarhiej Bobrykau, Head of the Military Academy, noted that admissions had only taken in 65% of the number of students necessary in 2013.

Even in the 1990s competition for admission to the nation's military schools was more than two heads for everyone one available spot, and for some specific fields it was over 15 people for a single place. Last year, the Military Academy had to enrol students from among those applicants who had failed their entry exams. As a result, many among them were later expelled because their poor academic record.

The Belarusian Interior Ministry is still trying to find a long-term solution to the problem of their ongoing shortages and to increase the quality of how it goes about selecting its applicants who enter its schools. They hope to attract only those who seriously intend on dedicating their life to a career in law enforcement. They even plan to create legal studies courses in secondary schools. As envisioned by its initiators, this will raise the number of students who are motivated to choose a path working with the law.

However, it is not so clean-cut in practise. There are already 58 schools that have specific courses in law and they are attended by 3,900 students. The Brest region leads the country with 40 courses in law and 823 students attending them. However, only one third of the students choose the legal profession upon leaving secondary school. 

Andrei Parotnikau

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

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