Updated at 20:11,29-10-2020

Aliaksandr Alesin: Lukashenka sacrifices national defense for the sake of social stability

Aliaksei Jurych, EuroBelarus

The state allocates $ 800 million for defense – this is the money you can buy an anti-aircraft missile system S-400 for.

While the whole Europe increases military expenses in the face of a "great war", Belarus is reducing the funding of defense. The stand of the country located between the warring Russia and Ukraine is weird.

In 2015, Belarus has been sparingly funding defense sphere compared to all its neighbors: according to SIPRI, $76 per capita was spent on military needs. In Russia, this number amounted to $454, in Ukraine – to $84.8, in Poland – to $275, in Lithuania – to $162, in Latvia – to $141.

Why is Belarus reducing military expenses? What has caused such a delay in the untimely peacefulness of the state?

The military analyst Aliaksandr Alesin answered the questions of the "EuroBelarus» Information Service.

- According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the defense expenses are reducing in Belarus both in real numbers and as a proportion to the GDP. Why is that happening, if in 2015 the world's military spending rose by 1% compared to 2014?

- The Minister of Defense Raukou, presenting the Military Doctrine to the House of Representatives, assessed our military expenses at $800 million. If Russia sells an anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, depending on its configuration C-400 can cost up to $800 million. This is very little money.

Anticipating the question about the reasons, let me just say that a poor state can have no huge military budget. The state has taken upon itself enormous commitments: it is the major employer and it keeps loss-making enterprises afloat. Given that Lukashenka doesn’t believe in a big war with the West, he keeps the military expenses at an extremely low level. Lukashenka is afraid of the repetition of the Ukrainian scenario, so the main thing for him is to preserve social stability.

People won’t revolt against it, but they will never protect the authorities. And then even a small group of active people can change the situation in the country. I don’t believe that the revolt is likely; but a coup might happen. Hence the major desire to shut the holes in the social sphere and to keep employees within plants, so they don’t go into the streets. And to do this, one needs to give money to the producers, so that they produce something apart from nothing.

- How can we support the armed forces with $800 million?

- Little can be done. It is impossible to buy absolutely new weapons. Thus, the acquisition of the Su-30, which the Ministry of Defence aimed at in 2020, might cost up to $50 million.

The Belarusian army has a lot of other holes; we are still wearing out our Soviet legacy.

Enthusiasts and Belarusian defense industry are trying to improve the weapons that we have by enabling them with the "electronic brains" (electronics, optics). Systematic control system, fire control systems, electronic and radar warfare, and means of fighting high-precision weapons – these are the areas where we are strong and where we have our own production.

Besides, there is a Lukashenka’s guideline to increase the export of arms, to procure currency, and thereby develop Belarusian military production. We have no other choice but to develop our own defense industry and at our own costs. Our security is our own concern.

- In 2015, Belarus has spent $724 million dollars, even though in 2014 the military expenses amounted to 1 billion 11 million dollars (1.2% of GDP last year and 1.3% - in 2014). Such trend is quite strange, given that Belarus’ closeness to the warring Russia and Ukraine.

- As a pensioner I can say that my pension in dollars has decreased to scanty values. The country where half the population is already retired, where there are numerous state employees and a lot of state-owned enterprises, has to balance. To some degree Lukashenka sacrifices national defense, hoping to improve relations with the West and maintain strategic relations with Russia.

Social stability is more important for the government, so I don’t see why the expenses for defense should increase.