Rapprochement between Minsk and Kyiv – Belarus Security Digest
Belarusian authorities sided openly with Kyiv in its conflict with Moscow by be willing to help Ukraine in bypassing a possible economic blockade by Russia.
The establishment of joint Belarusian – Ukrainian manufacturing companies in Belarus will neutralise to a large extent the threat of any blocked access to Ukrainian engineering products, including military and dual-use products, to the Customs Union's market.
Russia's economic problems are being projected on the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), while Belarus cannot even count on Russia's support in re-equipping its national army in the coming years. One can still expect supplies of small quantities of new weapons and transfers of used weapons from Russia's stockpiles. Naturally, there is no question of them supplying any new combat-ready aircraft, something that has been repeatedly announced by Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
Moreover, Moscow's behaviour assumes that Russia, taking advantage of Minsk's financial difficulties, could try and bring the Belarusian military under its own control. This reinforces the regime's opinion all the more that Russia is not a reliable partner.
Cooperation between Belarus and Ukraine in the military industrial sector intensifies
The month of October saw the founding of an alliance between Belarus and Ukraine in the military-technological sector. In many aspects, the rapprochement between Minsk and Kyiv has been determined by Moscow's behaviour which has taken its time to meet the expectations of the Belarusian authorities in terms of supplies of weapons and tries to exert pressure on Ukraine in the military industrial sector as well.
On 7 October 2013, Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defence Arturo Babenko conducted negotiations with the Chairman of the State Military and Industrial Committee of Belarus, Siarhei Huruliou, on the development of bilateral cooperation in designing weapons and military equipment.
In October, the plans of the JSC Orsha Aircraft Repair Plant, which forms part of the Ukrainian corporation Motor-Sich, to launch batch manufacturing of MSB-2 helicopters (a heavy upgrade of Mi-2 helicopter) in 2015 became public. The plant already has a relevant working programme, the key element of which is the replacement of engines in the Mi-2 helicopters with the AI-450M Motor-Sich engines and some other design solutions including those which involve the body of the helicopter.
The promising directions for military and technical cooperation between Belarus and Ukraine include the creation of new anti-tank weapons' models, short range air defence systems, radar detection and helicopter engineering. Belarus is also interested in an Ukrainian programme for the development of a tactical missile complex which, if successfully completed, can become an alternative to the Russian Iskander-E.
In addition, Ukrainian industrial potential would allow for the implementation of a missile programme practically without using any foreign-made components. Belarus can contribute to the missile project with its guidance systems and chassis. If the programme receives inter-state status, it will allow for the bypassing of restrictions from the missile technology control regime and provide for the acquisition of missiles by Belarus that have a range of 500 km instead of 300 km.
Re-equipment of the CSTO forces is postponed indefinitely
Issues of outfitting the detachments of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (hereinafter the CRRF) were discussed on 22 October 2013 in Moscow. No specific decisions were made. The reason for this is the financial limitations of the participating countries and the inability of Russia to provide them with material support to the extent necessary.
Generally, the alliance's management reaffirmed its commitment to re-equip the CRRF; however, taking into account the immensity of this task, the term for the finalisation of this program remains uncertain. Moreover, the Russian budget does not provide for significant support for international military and technical assistance (there are plans to spend about USD 180,000,000 annually during the next three years for these purposes). And no provision is made for expenses for peacekeeping activities or the maintenance of collective security.
The collective defence in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) exists mostly on paper. The plans for the re-equipment of the CRRF were drawn up already in 2009. However, Belarus has not seen any real financial support for them, aside from insignificant quantities of small arms and communication equipment. Even the military uniform manufactured for the CSTO peacekeepers, funded by Russia's budget, is kept in warehouses and distributed to servicemen for joint military exercises only.
Russia is not interested in building up of Minsk's military capacity
In October, Angola and Russia signed a contract for weapons and military equipment. The package includes 18 fighters Su-30K which were earlier used by the Indian Air Force and kept on the airfield of JSC 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranavichy. The Belarusian Air Force had long expected to receive these planes. However, Russia asked them to pay for them, and Minsk was willing to acquire them only on a gratis basis, citing financial difficulties and the allied spirit of the Union State of Belarus and Russia.
The sale of former Indian fighters Su-30K to Angola means that prospects of getting new or relatively new combat planes with Russia's support are postponed for an indefinite term. Taking into account the constant appreciation of Russian aircraft, the attractiveness of Chinese fighters will steadily increase in the future. Especially when taking into account that the People's Republic of China has mastered the manufacturing process of creating what are essentially improved clones of the fighters Su-27 (J-11B), aircraft that is well known by the Belarusian Air Force.
Minsk is getting ready to take advantage of the continued aggravation of differences between Ukraine and Russia, derived from Ukraine's future association with the European Union Read more
On 29 October 2013, a joint meeting of the boards of the defence ministries of Belarus and Russia took place, after which Russia's Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu made a number of statements. Thus, he said that the parties are finalising a draft agreement on the deployment of a Russian air force base in Belarus. In the nearest future, it was noted, Moscow would transfer four antiaircraft missile systems S-300 to Belarus. Also, Russia would continue to support the maintenance and development of Belarus' military infrastructure.
A Russian representative once more raised the issue of establishment of the Russian air base. The Belarusian authorities are painstakingly careful to avoid this issue. Drafting of the agreement on establishment of the Russian air force base may take quite a while.
Then, there will be the issue of getting it approved and agreeing on the start date of its implementation. This is evidenced by the situation with the establishment of a unified regional air defence system of the two countries (three years have passed between the signing of the agreement and its ratification by the Belarusian side). In any case, Minsk is getting ready for some fierce bargaining and to take advantage of the continued aggravation of differences between Ukraine and Russia, derived from Ukraine's future association with the European Union.
Speaking about the prospects of supplying the anti-aircraft missile S-300 system, the question of the modification of the weaponry remains open. Earlier, it was announced that it would be done in accordance with the PMU-1 modification.
Russia's assistance in maintaining the military infrastructure will likely be limited only to those sites which are of interest to the Russian military: airfields, arsenals and warehouses and, possibly, air defence, communication and command sites. Russia is more interested in exploiting the Belarusian military's potential than in building up Minsk's military capacity.
Andrei is the head of “Belarus Security Blog” analytical project.
BўRoom, Vendors Against Certification, Alternative Service – Belarus Civil Society Digest
Perspektyva gathered over 400 vendors for a forum to address new regulations. Apart from the vendors, the official representatives from the authorities also attended the event.
All about Belarus during the Vilnius Summit: BўROOM expands its creative space and will bring together the most interesting civil society activities in Belarus. Minsk will host an international conference on transformation processes unfolding in countries such as Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
The Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility brought together over 70 participants. Among them were representatives of Belarusian business, non-governmental organisations and international experts on social responsibility.
Register for BўROOM now. BўROOM is a creative open space, designed to present some of the most interesting civil society activities implemented inside Belarus. BўROOM will host photo exhibitions, presentations from different sectors, informal roundtables and a press room. It will be open to anyone interested in visiting it or using it on 28-29 November at the Novotel Hotel in Vilnius. To register for ByROOM send a request to email@example.com.
Conference on transformation processes. On 22 November Minsk will host an international conference "Belarusization: Whether it is Possible to Complete the Process of Institution Building of an Independent State?" The conference is organised by the Centre for European Transformation with the support of the Consortium "EuroBelarus" and the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Germany). The event will bring together experts on transformation processes from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
Inclusion can become mainstream. On 11-12 November the UNDP office in Minsk hosted a workshop "An inclusive development agenda after 2015: the practical prospects for people with disabilities in Belarus" that was attended by representatives of national and international organisations, people with disabilities and foreign experts. On 14 November the Association for Life Long Education (ALLE) together with the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities conducted a roundtable "Inclusion in non-formal education" aimed to develop practical recommendations for CSOs to adopt an inclusion principle in their educational programmes.
How to get a foreign assistance. On 5 November in Homel, the Office of European Expertise and Communications (OEEC) conducted a training "How to write and implement a successful international project." The training apparently caught the attention of local governmental and non-governmental organisations – with 30 out of 60 applicants having a chance for participation.
Civil society activities
Vendors address GOB through forum in Minsk: On 4 November Perspektyva held a large Forum in Minsk as a reaction to statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Prokopovich that beginning on 1 December small vendors would not be able to sell light manufacturing products without a certification of quality. More than 400 entrepreneurs attended the forum, as well as a representative of the Trade Ministry. Forum participants signed a finalised document at the forum, in which they resolved to invite Lukashenka for an exchange of ideas at one of Belarus' many markets, and also to file a lawsuit against the proposed measures with the Eurasian Court. Vendors argue that the proposed measures would effectively put out them out of their jobs.
Meetings on public participation in government programmes are held in the regions. The Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities is conducting a series of regional meetings to discuss how people with disabilities can influence the content and format of government programmes. Meetings have already taken place in Minsk, Brest, Vitebsk and Mohiliou.
Forum on rural development. On 28 November the Forum "Rural Areas – Opportunities for Business Development and Youth Creativity" is to take place in Smorgon, Hrodna oblast. The organiser is a local CSO "Selchanka" together with the Smorgon local authorities. The Forum aims to discuss the development of business and the creative potential of young people in the Smorgon region as well as the public's role in the implementation of local strategies for the sustainable development of the region. Source: BD contact
Corporate Social Responsibility Forum gathers 70 participants. On 15 November an annual Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility took place in Minsk. The agenda included 15 presentations made by representatives of business, non-profit organisations and international experts in the field of social responsibility. The Forum was conducted within the framework of a long-term project, implemented by the Foundation of Ideas in partnership with the Pontis Foundation (Slovakia) and supported by the European Commission.
Platform Conference: On 4 November the Belarusian National Platform of EaP Civil Society Forum held a conference in Minsk, focusing on the future of the civil society forum. Conference participants drew on conclusions from the EaP Civil Society Forum meeting in Chisinau, expressing dissatisfaction with the dynamism of the Forum’s development. Additionally, conference participants also made comments to the 2014-2016 Strategy of the EaP Civil Society Forum, noting concerns about “expertisation” of the Forum and a decreasing role of civil society on the policy-making level. Finally, the conference adopted a resolution with a message to the EU to not decrease the attention afforded to Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia after the Vilnius Summit.
SYMPA announces the fifth round. The School of Young Managers in Public Administration (SYMPA) aims to create a community of young people in Belarus that are competent in the field of public administration and carrying it out at different levels. The Organisers invite participants who are motivated Belarusians of ages 25-40 years old, with higher education, who speak English, work in the fields of public administration, as well as in business, civil and political organisations. The program consists of four full-time training sessions held in Belarus, Lithuania, Georgia and Sweden, and inter-sessional work with the fellows.
Interaction between state and civil society
Citizens of Mahiliou to get construction of additional parking places. To do this, the residents from one of Mahiliou streets collected 177 signatures. The residents’ initiative was facilitated by activists of the local CSO "Impulse", which is addressing the issues for improving conditions surrouding backyards and public spaces.
Wheelchair user is suing the National Airport "Minsk". On 31 October the Minsk court held a hearing regarding a lawsuit of Eugenij Sheuko, the chairman of the Association of Wheelchair Users against the National Airport "Minsk". Sheuko states that he suffered terrible treatment when boarding a plane during his working visit to Estonia in May 2013.
Bill on Alternative Civil Service is ready: Minister of Labour says the Council of Ministers is ready to submit the Bill on Alternative Civil Service to the parliament. The Alternative Civil Service campaign (AGS) reposted this news without comments. This should not come as a surprise as the bill was originally included in the legislative drafting plan for 2013. It is not clear whether the AGS can attribute this news to their success, but can surely claim their own contribution.
Is there a role for CSOs in Belarusian healthcare? Oleg Eremin, Chairman of the Belarusian Anti-Aids Network Association, suggests that civil society organizations could help ease the workload on Belarusian medical professionals by implementing preventative and other, more complex, programmes. Such programmes could include pre- and post-HIV/AIDS testing consultations, as well as the testing itself. Eremin contends that the Belarusian government could partner more with CSOs in dealing with healthcare services to vulnerable groups and announces that at the end of November two pilot HIV-prevention offices will be opened in Minsk and Gomel under a UNESCO project.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.