Belarus And Russia Prepare For The West-2013 Military Drill
The planned Belarusian-Russian joined military drill "West-2013" stirred up the NATO member countries. The armed forces of both countries will hold the drill in autumn, while some Polish and Lithuanian politicians already discuss the war threat.
Alexander Lukashenka said on 21 February that "Belarus and Russia are not going to threaten anyone". This time he tells the truth. A war in the centre of Europe stays beyond contemporary perception of the reality, while the mentioned military drills seems to be an attempt to satisfy Russia’s empire complex. The Belarusian regime uses intensive military cooperation as a pre-text for getting more financial aid from Kremlin.
Most likely, the "West-2013" will be similar to the previous drill in 2009. That one was grand from the point of view of the number of the military men and technical equipment involved.
The systems of defence of Belarus and Russia remain tightly interconnected. Precisely speaking, Kremlin is trying to make the Belarusian defence an integral part of the Russian one. Today, Russia has a great influence over the Belarusian air defence system and has two military bases on the territory of Belarus: the Volga radar station near Baranavichy and the Antey long-range radar centre near Vilejka.
War Rehearsal in the West
Last month, former Minister of National Defence of Poland Romuald Szeremietiew made a statement that Belarus and Russia were preparing for a future war with Poland, in connection with the upcoming drill.
In his opinion, "West-2013" will resemble the previous military drills, held back in 2009, in its scope. The "West-2009" became the greatest military drill since the downfall of the Soviet Union. 12,500 people took part in that drill, the Belarusian and the Russian side provided an approximately equal number of soldiers.
The armed forces involved 63 planes and 40 helicopters, 470 armoured vehicles, 228 tanks, 234 artillery cannons, mortars and multiple artillery rocket systems. Naturally, NATO got alerted by this drill. Neighbouring Lithuania does not have a single tank.
This autumn, Belarus plans to broadly use the territorial defence troops, while the Collective Forces of Operative Reaction of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation will take part in the military drill in Belarus for the first time. Kremlin created this organisation as a follower-up to the Warsaw Agreement and the contemporary Russian anti-NATO.
In 2009, Dmitri Medvedev and Alexander Lukashenka watched the drill, while the state propaganda used the mutual Russian-Belarusian preparation to show the might of the Belarusian military. From quite a different side, than the t eddy bear stunt showed several years later.
Unity or Russian Control over Belarusian Army
Despite the declarations of the military unity of the allies, Belarus and Russia have contradictory interests. On the one hand, Russia wants to get total control over the Belarusian army. On the other hand, Belarus is slowing down the process in order to preserve independence in the military sphere and use it to obtain Russian power resources for low prices.
The Russians achieved their goal: creating the United Regional System of Air Defence to fully control over the Belarusian system. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union Russia failed to create an effective air defence system at its Western border so Belarus becomes a very important asset.
Unofficially, Belarus has been under great influence in this sphere for quite a long time already, getting incomes from it. In 2006, the Belarusian regime got four long range surface-to-air missile systems S-300 for $ 13,000,000 each. The market price of such a rocket division is about 14 times bigger – approximately $ 180,000,000.
The importance of Russian military bases on the territory of Belarus deteriorates as the Russian authorities are building up their radars in Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions. However, the Russians will never leave their bases in Belarus voluntarily, even if it is only due to ideological reasons.
Belarus and Russia conduct common military drills, common sessions of the military headquarters, Belarusian military men often get education in Russia. During quite a long period of time, Belarus re-exported Russian weapons to Africa and Middle East. Belarus remains an outpost of defence for the Russian generals and they will hold on to it.
Contradictions in the Allies’ Camp
Vladimir Putin outlined the development of the Russian army as one of the priorities of his third presidential term. The military-industrial complex will benefit the most from such policy. The Belarusian weapons manufacturers would have been happy about this decision of Kremlin, if the Russian armed forces did not choose the path of independence from the Belarusian importers.
Starting from the year 2014, Russia refuses from Belarusian military trucks. The truck "Volat" transports mobile strategic rocket complexes "Jars" and "Avangard" today. Besides, the Russians, have no analogues of "Volat", this means, the case looks absolutely politically motivated. This seems a strong blow for the Belarusian military-industrial complex. The Russian authorities will strive for further control over the Belarusian army and its industrial complex.
For a long time, military cooperation remained the "sacred cow" of the Belarusian-Russian relationship. Despite the conflicts of political or economic character, military cooperation looked stable. However, now Russia is trying to show Belarus its proper place.
Kremlin ties Belarus with organisational and legal instruments in order to take away its sovereignty in the military sphere. Nevertheless, Lukashenka regime will never give up independence totally. Sovereignty remains its only good and guarantee before Russia at the same time. Ironically, Lukashenka is not only a danger for the Belarusian independence, but also its main defender.