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22 February 2023, 17:04

Maximum response to threats and challenges. Why does Lukashenko keep the army in shape?

To ensure the country's military security and transform the army. This was the task set by Aleksandr Lukashenko from the first days after his election as president. On 1 November 1994 the Defense Ministry switched to a new personnel structure. A plan for military reform was developed in 1996. In 2001 the Concept of the Construction of the Armed Forces was elaborated. Since 2007 emphasis has been placed on innovations. The year 2015 prioritized maximum response to possible challenges and threats. And finally, 2019 saw the Defense Plan for the next five-year period and a concept to guide the development of the Armed Forces till 2030. What has changed over so many years? Certainly, the combat strength, personnel numbers, weapons... But the military policy priorities are probably unchanged. What will be the Belarusian army's response to aggression? Will our R&D products be able to sober up a potential enemy? And why won't Belarus build plants worth billions of U.S. dollars to arm itself? Find it out in the new episode of BelTA's YouTube-project After the Fact: Lukashenko's Decisions.

At a session of the Security Council in December 2019 Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko once again underlined that the Belarusian army has never threatened anyone, it does not threaten anyone and is not going to threaten anyone. “It is an instrument to prevent war, and in the event of aggression it has to be able to not only repel it, but also to inflict unacceptable damage on the enemy. The main purpose of the Armed Forces is to defend the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the country,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

The Belarus president approved decisions on the protection of the state border in 2023. It was a planned event that traditionally takes place at the beginning of the year. Only this time for the first time we are talking about protection of the airspace. The Armed Forces took care of this task before, but taking into account the military and political situation the responsibility is several times bigger now. In the history of sovereign Belarus, the army has never had to protect the state border with a country where armed hostilities are taking place.

What Belarusian enterprises make weapons?

We are used to evaluating achievements of the domestic defense industry at military parades: on 9 May or 3 July. A festive capital city, thousands of spectators and a beautiful column of vehicles. Accompanied by a detailed commentary on the main technical characteristics of each model. The last time such an event took place was in 2020. From now on, parades will only take place on anniversary dates, so the next military show is scheduled to take place in a year to mark the 80th anniversary of independence. Remember the skeptics who said: "Why do we need these tanks? Who is interested in it? It would be better to give away the wasted money.” I wonder what they are thinking now while armed hostilities are taking place literally across our doorstep.

The military-industrial complex is one of the most important high-tech sectors of the Belarusian economy. The decision of the president is, first of all, to rely on domestic arms manufacturers. Our famous brands are AGAT with automated solutions for troops control and weapon control, Peleng and BelOMO with optical products, and MZKT with unique tractor trucks. By the way, the famous missile system Iskander is carried by a Belarusian chassis. But more about this later. There is also the production of radio warfare solutions and anti-drone weapons. We talked in detail about drones in one of the previous episodes.

The commander-in-chief has stated more than once: Belarusians are peaceful people and our opponents should not even try to talk to us from the position of force. Belarus' Armed Forces are ready to defend independence and territorial integrity. Personnel of the Belarusian army are well-trained, and the army is armed with cutting-edge weapons.

How Belarusian specialists modernize military hardware?

“You raised the matter of manufacturing cooperation in aircraft production within the framework of EurAsEC back in the day. I can tell you that Belarusians now make up to 1,000 components for [the Russian medium-haul narrow-body passenger aircraft] MC-21 and [the Russian short-haul narrow-body passenger aircraft] Sukhoi Superjet 100. We have three plants. Two military ones and one civilian plant. They used to do repairs in the past. Now they are making components. As I was informed by the government, they are ready for the production of the Su-25 attack aircraft that have proved to be efficient in Ukraine. A workhorse. We are even ready to produce them in Belarus if the Russian Federation provides a little bit of technological support,” the Belarus president told his Russian counterpart during a meeting in Moscow in February.

Last year's Tank Biathlon held as part of the International Army Games resulted in a silver medal for the Belarusian team. Crews from about 20 countries competed for the victory. Our team drove T-72 tanks. Their batch modernization will start this year. The Soviet fighting vehicle has been noticeably updated. Even in the first video from the trials journalists noticed a new reactive armor system, special counter-HEAT grating on the hull. The T-72 upgrades were made by specialists of the 140th Repair Plant. Why reinvent the wheel when you can take time-tested equipment as a basis?

The Centurion also known as Lord of Fire is a testament to the fact that everything new is a well-forgotten old. The complex is equipped with modern means of communication and data transfer, reconnaissance, navigation, autonomous power supply and air conditioning systems. All of them were made by domestic enterprises. They continue improving the system.

Demand for Belarusian military hardware abroad

Enterprises run by the State Authority for Military Industry of Belarus exported products to 57 countries last year. And they did it amid maximum external pressure. Sanctions came at the Belarusian defense industry as a burst of rifle fire. Yes, 11 partner countries were lost, but considering the overall geography of sales it was not fatal. We reoriented logistics, satisfied the domestic demand. The state defense order has been fulfilled. The Armed Forces received more than 500 new samples of various types of weapons, military and special equipment.

Chairman of the State Authority for Military Industry of Belarus Dmitry Pantus told media during a session of the agency's board: “At the end of 2020 we approved an import substitution program for the State Authority for Military Industry. For instance, in 2022 we substituted imported parts, nodes, services, and work worth $43.5 million. In 2023 we intend to reach $62-64 million. Those are parts and components that we have developed on our own and already use in our equipment.”

In December 2022 Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin noted: “We are well aware that if we now get involved in an arms race, as some states are doing, we could certainly cause trouble for our economy and certain social problems. This is why the principle of reasonable sufficiency, of the bare necessity is the main one. There should never be any excesses or anything unnecessary. First of all, in this situation we must rely on our own strength, on our readiness to defend our country on our own.”

What missile systems has Russia handed over to Belarus?

At the end of 2022 Russia handed over a tactical missile system Iskander to Belarus. It has no analogues in the world. It has an off-road speed of up to 70kmph, can fire ballistic and cruise missiles, and hit command posts, bases, underground bunkers and other enemy installations with the utmost precision. The missile is controlled throughout the flight. And what's encouraging: the complex has a Belarusian component - MZKT chassis.

Aleksandr Lukashenko told Vladimir Putin in December 2022: “Today we've commissioned an S-400 complex that you have handed over to Belarus. And most importantly the Iskander complex, which you've also handed over to us after promising it half a year ago. You've just touched upon a very sensitive matter (we are not its authors) concerning the training of our crews [for the aircraft] capable of carrying special weapons and special ammunition. I have to tell you that we've prepared the aircraft. It turned out we've had such aircraft since the Soviet times. We tested them in the Russian Federation. We are now working with Russians to train the crews able to fly these aircraft that carry special ammunition. It is not a threat for someone. When I met with you in St Petersburg, in Moscow, in Sochi, I told you several times that we are greatly concerned, as you've said, about tensions along the border perimeter of the Union State. Primarily in the west. And we had to safeguard the Belarusian state. You made a decisive and very important step in support for Belarus. I am once again hugely grateful to you.”

The Belarusian MLRS Polonez is ready to play along with Iskander if necessary. They are even sometimes called competitors, although they are different types of weapons. Our Russian colleague Vladimir Solovyov spoke about this destructive tandem in one of his shows. The TV host visited Belarusian army units, talked to the crews and called such military cooperation “mutual enrichment” rather than rivalry.

“Laying low” under the cover of the big brother seems like a good idea. We have the Union State of Belarus and Russia after all… But the president is focused on domestic production. Reasonable and profitable.

During a government conference held in June 2022 to discuss the state and development of the microelectronics industry the Belarus president said: “The domestic potential is clearly illustrated first of all by achievements of the military-industrial complex. Belarusian radar systems created for various purposes are capable of giving precise targeting instructions for any attack instruments, even the most advertised ones. And in any weather and at any altitude.

In his words, Belarus is among the world leaders in the sphere of radio electronic warfare. Much has been done in the sphere of production of Belarusian smart unmanned vehicles. “Our R&D products can surprise and, most importantly, sober up people who nurture aggressive plans with regard to Belarus and Russia and the Union State as a whole. But even in the defense sector we are still dependent on imported components, especially those which we will never manufacture in Belarus by virtue of the fact that we need only a handful of them, singular units, and only an idiot would set up huge factories worth billions of dollars to satisfy domestic demand. It is simply unprofitable.”

What support does the Belarusian government provide to people in uniform?

The modernization of the Armed Forces as well as support for men in uniform represent a constant policy of the state. As of this year social security of military personnel will be enhanced. For example, the president signed a decree to allow military personnel to acquire the rental housing they live in. Specialists have already estimated that about 10,000 servicemen will solve their housing problem this way.

During a government conference held in December 2022 to discuss the provision of housing to military personnel and people with an equivalent status Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Military personnel as well as civil servants, to some extent medics, teachers, are public sector employees who perform the most important functions for the country. And they are entitled to the state support. Such careers are chosen not because of high salaries, but because of the call of the heart by people who are guided by high moral principles and patriotism. At least we should proceed from that. It is impossible for young specialists who have chosen this career path to save up for their own home.”

“In other words, the housing problem is the most important one. This is why provision of housing for state employees and especially people who defend Belarus, especially now, will always be a priority of the state housing policy. I have repeatedly emphasized that people with many children and people in uniform are our priorities, even super-priorities,” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out.

What is the military and political situation at Belarusian borders?

Our neighbors are separating themselves from us with five-meter high steel fences, they plant corpses of refugees, artificially create queues at the border, blackmail Belarus with sanctions, and actively rearm their armies and concentrate massive troop formations. For example, this year Poland intends to allocate 4% of its GDP for military needs. Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki openly speaks about plans to make the country a leader among all NATO member states in terms of military spending. Does anyone still doubt that gunpowder must be kept dry?

During a government conference held in October 2022 to discuss military security Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Poland is most active in this regard. A new mechanized division is being set up in the south of the Belarusian direction. Cadre brigades of territorial defense of Poland are being set up in the north and the east of the country. The geography of weapon purchases is growing larger. South Korea has been added to traditional USA and Germany. Instead of supporting their population amid a complicated social and economic situation the Poland government intends to increase its military spending.”

The president stressed that in turn, Ukraine has deployed up to 15,000 men near the Belarusian border. “Roadblocks and firing positions are being set up near the border. Barriers have been erected on the roads. In short, it is not just barricading itself, it has built a wall. Ukraine is constantly conducting optical, electronic and radio reconnaissance of our territory, army units and facilities. Its drones often violate the state border. And at the same time, Ukrainians are worried and stress out about ‘Belarus' possible involvement in the war'.”

Belarus does not intend to get involved in the war, although our country does have everything it needs to bring an enemy to its senses. But Belarusian peacefulness is not synonymous with sacrifice, the president warned earlier this week at a meeting of the Security Council. In case of any aggression, the response will be swift, harsh and adequate. I wonder how many times the Belarusian leader has to repeat himself before he is finally heard: our nation has long exhausted the limit of wars and revolutions. Peace can be achieved only at the negotiating table, and Belarus has always been and will remain this peaceful platform.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the peacetime strength of the Belarusian army is 75,000. The number of personnel can be increased up to 500,000 if necessary in war conditions. “Nobody needs war. While there is no expansion of the hostilities today, let's negotiate peace. The eastern side is ready for it,” the Belarusian leader noted during a meeting with reporters on 16 February.

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