Training Counterinsurgency, Modernising Pakistani Weapons – Belarus Security Digest
Official media has celebrated new contracts to buy Russian-made military equipment. Belarus plans to decommission another advanced military aircraft the Su-25, which the newly acquired Yak-130 aircraft with it's limited capacities will fail to replace.
Minsk has succeeded in developing defence ties with Pakistan, while its arms designing projects with China may convince Moscow to offer Minsk better options to improve Belarusian defence.
The government is also preparing for possible destabilisations linked to the October elections and the conflict in Ukraine. As Belarusian special forces participate in counterinsurgency exercises, the police train personnel in riot control and increase security measures around police stations in Minsk.
On 25 August the Belarusian Defence Ministry signed a contract with Rosboronexport to buy five Tor-M2K short-range surface-to-air missile systems. This time, Minsk bought modified Tors which were installed on the wheeled chassis produced by the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT). Earlier in 2011-2013, Russia supplied Belarus with 12 Tor-M2E systems on caterpillar chassis.
On 26 August, the Belarusian military signed with a contract with Russia's Irkut Corporation for four Yak-130 trainer aircraft. Apparently, the Belarusian Air Force will deploy more of these trainer and light attack aircrafts and loose further combat capacities. This results in further failures to the Belarusian and Russian Regional System. All this makes the establishment of a Russian airbase probable.
The Belarusian armed forces decommissioned completely in the early 2010s two more advanced types of aircrafts: the Su-24 bomber and the Su-27 fighter, as well as many planes of other types. In the most recent development, on 29 August the Commander of the Belarus Air Force and Air Defence, Major General Aleh Dvihalyou said that the army “is currently considering the possibility” of replacing the Su-25 close air support aircraft with the Yak-130.
Minsk has failed to acquire advanced aircraft from Moscow and has attempted to overhaul and upgrade its Soviet era planes. The government has made many claims to the success of this refit recently. In September 2013, specialised periodicals like The Aviationist reported that the Baranavichy 558th Works have upgraded MiG-29 fighter jets to MiG-29BM standard. It reportedly got “laser-guided bomb [deployment] capability […] with the use of a targeting pod.»
On 15 August, however, the Vo Slavu Rodine, army official daily, reported that for the first time in the national army's history, it had used guided bombs deploying them from Yak-130. This raises serious doubts about the success in upgrading MiG-29s. Moreover, these doubts concern a major aspect of the upgrade, which is the ability to deploy modern ammunition.
Russia Responds to Chinese Cooperation with Belarus
Deputy Defence Minister Major General Ihar Lotsenkau confirmed to the Russian RIA Novosti news agency that Belarusian and Russian specialists were designing a replacement for the Strela-10 short-range vehicle-mounted surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The information about such a project first appeared in May.
The timing reveals the background of this story. Moscow might have decided on this joint project responding to the conclusion of Minsk's agreement with China on the joint development of SAM systems. IHS Jane's 360 in June reported about such an agreement signed in 2012.
Russia may have paid even more attention to Belarus-Chinese collaboration after the Belarusian Army presented in the military parade of 9 May 2015 a new multiple launch rocket (MLR) system called Palanez. It had been developed with Chinese involvement under another 2013 Belarus-Chinese agreement on MLR development. President Lukashenka himself has repeatedly linked the cooperation with China to Russia's refusals to help in defence field.
Exercises with Russia and Serbia
On 15 August, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia, Serbia and Belarus would conduct joint military exercises this autumn on Russia's territory. It later became known that the exercises will take place near Novorossiysk in September. Given the urgent announcement, the exercises will likely serve Russia's internal political considerations, rather than any serious military aims.
On 23-28 August, Belarusian special forces participated in the exercises Vzaimodeistvie-2015 near Pskov. These were held to train the Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Belarus sent an operative group of the Defence Ministry and a company of Belarus' Special Operations Forces to the exercises.
A counter-terrorism unit of the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) and the Emergency Response Ministry also participated in the exercises. They trained in counterinsurgency measures, guarding important facilities and emergency response.
Although the new exercises represent Russia's new tendency to increase the number and scale of exercises to demonstrate its military capacities, the Belarusian government is genuinely interested in training its counterinsurgency units.
Minsk fears possible destabilisation of the country's situation in relation to elections and developments in Ukraine. So, the counterinsurgency exercises coincide with many additional Belarusian police personnel being trained for riot control, and increasing security measures around police stations in Minsk.
Minsk Close to a Major Deal with Pakistan?
During a recent visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Lukashenka emphasised the importance of defence cooperation with Pakistan. On 5-12 August, the Pakistani delegation headed by the Federal Minister for Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain visited Belarus. They participated in the 1st Meeting of the Joint Belarus-Pakistani Commission on Military Technical Cooperation.
Belarus-Pakistani defence cooperation has progressed for at least two years. The parties signed an intergovernmental agreement on military technical cooperation in Islamabad on 29 May 2015.
Tanveer Hussain visited Belarus for the first time in July 2014, and after that contacts between Belarusian and Pakistani defence officials continued. The two countries undoubtedly are working on some major deal, which is very likely to involve Pakistan's ability to modernise mechanised armour.
Pakistan bought a large quantity of Soviet tanks from Ukraine in the 1990s. Belarus provides sophisticated electronic and optic components for similar Russian tanks, so Pakistan may turn to Minsk for them. Another possibility is Minsk providing a comprehensive upgrade program for the Pakistani tanks now as their Ukrainian manufacturers have collapsed.
Social Advertising in Belarus: Healthy Life Style and Patriotism
The billboards in Belarus tell an interesting story about the country. Before 1991, these advertisements were sponsored by the communist authorities and focused on both social and political propaganda.
Even today the majority of billboards throughout Belarusian cities promote healthy and safe lifestyles, or patriotic themes rather than sell products and services. It is therefore not surprising that without advertisements selling products the Belarusian economy remains in a dire situation.
Some billboards raise awareness about the risks of smoking, drinking, and taking drugs. Despite these efforts, the country ranks 140th in the world in terms of life expectancy and 15th in mortality rates. Alcoholism is perhaps the most poignant social problem in Belarus, as Belarus was named the heaviest drinking nation in the world by the World Health Organisation this year. Belarus also has the highest levels of female obesity in Europe and the former Soviet space.
Other billboards which are often in the Belarusian language, inculcate patriotism by featuring beautiful Belarusian natural scenes. Patriotic billboards also praise young soldiers who guard the nation’s independence and they also applaud police for protecting law and order.
The market for commercial advertising which was up by 8 percent last year, is now shrinking rapidly due to the economic turmoil caused by the events in Russia and Ukraine. Many billboards stand empty or only target potential advertisers with the message “your ad could be here.” These economic troubles may further increase the share of state-sponsored social advertising in Belarus.
“Simple Things,” a poster promoting agritourism in Belarus. The ad was created with the help of the USAID “Local Entrepreneurship and Economic Development" Project, in partnership with the Belarusian Ministry of Sports and Tourism.
An installation in Minsk reminding Belarusians about the approaching presidential election.
About the photographer: Siarhei Leskiec is a freelance photographer whose work focuses on everyday life, folk traditions, and rituals in the Belarusian countryside. Originally from Maladzeczna region, he received a history degree from Belarusian State Pedagogical University.