MINSK, 3 February (BelTA) – There is no need to establish a Russian military air base in Belarus. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko made the relevant statement as he met with representatives of the general public, Belarusian and foreign mass media on 3 February, BelTA has learned.
“People keep talking about some military base. What difference will the ten aircraft Russia wanted to base in Bobruisk make?” said Alexander Lukashenko. “I told Putin that the airfield needs to be restored. Half of the runway is gone now. I said we could use 20 aircraft. We have excellent pilots, an excellent school, you know we can fly military aircraft because we have a common military force. But no. [Russian Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu wanted to do it differently.”
The Belarus President noted he did not see a clear goal the establishment of such an air base would serve. “What can an aircraft do in a modern war, let's say, against NATO? Ten minutes of combat. It takes off and it's gone for good. Wars are different these days. Aircraft can fly freely in Syria because there is no air defense system there. Over here everything is visible even if the aircraft takes off as far as 200km away from here,” noted the Belarusian leader.
“And then, what do you think an airfield at the frontline of a theater of war is?” continued the head of state. “If a war begins, two missiles can destroy the runway and no aircraft will be able to take off. Why would we need them here? Then Putin said that it takes four minutes for aircraft from Smolensk to fly here. Then I doubted the advisability of setting up such an air base in Belarus again. The president of Russia agreed that Belarus does not need such an air base.”
The Belarus President stressed that if ten or twenty Russian aircraft were deployed in Belarus, they would not be seen as a full-scale military base but a demonstration, the kind of which Belarus does not need. Alexander Lukashenko reminded that prior to the ice hockey world championship in 2014 Russia was invited to deploy a wing of fighters in Belarus to take care of air defense together. Four aircraft were deployed in Baranovichi then. “Once they did their job, I thought they will stay here. They didn't. Then the matter of the air base establishment was raised again. Why? The Belarusian and Russian military have already come up with the necessary routines. There is no need to change anything. Back then I concluded that the proposal was not a military one,” said Alexander Lukashenko.