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21 Mar 2013

Between two armadas

The geopolitical location of Belarus makes it a field of confrontation of strategic interests of NATO and Russia

As the number of publications in the media, the Ministry of Defence of Lithuania urged Belarus and Russia for greater transparency in the implementation of planned for September of this year, the next large-scale Russian-Belarusian military exercises "West-2013".

Lithuanian party has been advised of their conduct, through the OSCE, but in addition to details, they expressed  hope that the NATO observers should be invited to. Such a proposal was reportedly made at the  meeting of Defence Minister Juozas Olyakasa with the ambassador of Belarus in Lithuania.

This is despite the fact that on February 19 at a press conference, the Minister of Defense of Belarus Lieutenant-General Yuri Zhadobin, highlighting the theme of upcoming training exercises, said that Belarus has no territorial claims to anyone and does not seek to undermine the domestic tranquility in any of the countries neighbors. "We are just preparing to defend our land," - he said.

Two days later, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko himself was trying to convince neighbors. Hearing the report about the plan of the forthcoming strategic exercises "West-2013", he stressed that it is not a threat to other states, "We have defense doctrine, and it is clearly defined by law."

Causes for concern
However, some caution about the military exercises still exists in number of neighboring countries. Moreover, the debate among politicians and in the international community of experts that erupted around the planned exercises has been simmering for over a month.

The immediate reason of this was a former Minister of National Defense of Poland Romuald Sheremetyev. In mid-January, he said that Belarus and Russia are preparing for an attack on Poland. The presence in Minsk and Moscow of such intentions, according to the ex-minister, this regular joint military exercises "West-2013" proves.

After a few days on the subject also spoke Polish Foreign Ministry director Radoslaw Sikorski, who expressed his belief that the current Belarusian-Russian military exercises, as well as the past - "West-2009",  are provocative towards Poland.

In the same mood commented exercises "West-2013" the Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas, who said that some elements of the planned military training  directed against neighbors. Four years ago, according to the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense, in their legend, in addition to the invasion of land forces of the Slavic allies into the Baltic countries, there was also a  pre-emptive nuclear attack on Warsaw comsidered.

According to the head of the Lithuanian Defense Ministry, such military activity of Russia and Belarus requires more attention to the Baltic Sea  - both in terms of modernizing armies of Lithuania and the other Baltic States, as well as working out of their interaction with NATO.

Note that the above concerns of Poland and the Baltic states to some experts seem to be quite reasonable. After all, even Belarus, taken by itself, seems very solid power across the region. According to analysts, its resources allow conscription if necessary, of a solid contingent - about half a million people. And equip them also have something. The arsenals of the Belarusian army includdes about 1,600 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles (IFVs and APCs), 1,490 artillery systems.

After all the cuts on the number of tanks, armored vehicles and guns, it still surpasses its closest, much larger, neighbors - Poland and Ukraine:  the absolute number of heavy weapons for ground troops: the tanks - 1.8 and 2.1 times, respectively, for armored vehicles - 1.6 and 1.2 times, on heavy artillery systems - in 2 and 1.3. For Lithuania, then there is nothing to compare, since this NATO outpost has no tanks and very few armored vehicles and guns.

Despite this fact  the structure and principles of the Armed Forces of Belarus are in general conform to Europe. On training, and training soldiers Belarusian army, according to experts, is also among the most combat-ready in the continent.

Modern military which the poor cannot afford
However, if we dig deeper, we find that the Belarusian army has some serious problems. One of the biggest - the aging military equipment and infrastructure. Almost all the weapons available to our military are of Soviet era. Over time, their condition worsens, and now it takes more effort and funds for repairs and upgrades.

But more money is needed to buy new equipment. Rather poor Belarusian state cannot afford such expenditure. As a result, the share of modern weapons and military equipment in the national army is unreasonably low. Even high-ranking military must recognize that the pace of re-sufficient. The situation is particularly acute with the onset of the economic crisis.

Thus, a large part of the armament of the Belarusian army - a thousand T-72, the main strike force of ground troops, are during the last 20 years  on the bases of conservation storage. During this time, they became obsolete and in its combat characteristics noticeably less effective than the one of their upgraded counterpart in the armies of several countries.

And, judging by the recent statements of the Minister of Defense of Belarus, the prospects for modernization of these once formidable fighting machines are very slim. According to it, it follows that the tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers - "for us today is secondary" because the Belarusian army does not have offensive purposes. And for conducting defensive fighting on own territory those performance characteristics are sufficient.

But the moral and physical deterioration of the equipment - it is a headache not only armored and infantry units. September 21, 2012 Alexander Lukashenko, sharing details with reporters meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, said that there is an urgent need to update the aircraft of Belarusian Air Force and Air Defense. The fact that many of the aircraft in their composition expired or end of flight hours. (However, the Russian president has promised to deliver to replace them new fighting machine.)

There is nothing unexpected in this statement is not the head of state. Senior Belarusian military before repeatedly raised the issue of acquisition of new aircraft to maintain a capacity Air Force and Air Defense, primarily because of the critical wear and tear much of Soviet-made military aircraft. This resulted in increased incidence of air accidents, including those with severe consequences.

This was, incidentally, the head of the military department of Belarus Yuri Zhadobin at a press conference on February 19. According to him, due to the complete exhaustion of the resource with the Air Force and Air Defense Forces has taken frontline bombers Su-24. The reason for decommissioning in the fact that "this is an offensive weapon," and there is no need for it because of the defensive orientation of military doctrine Belarus. Today, considering the possibility of writing off heavy Su-27, and from them, probably also have to give. But that's about what will be replaced by more than fifty combat aircraft, nothing was said.

If properly counted
According to experts, Russia could help to accelerate the modernization of the Armed Forces of Belarus, disposing immeasurable potential of military science and the defense industry. However, the loss of a number of technologies and the lack of capacity at the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex, along with a permanent increase of military equipment and weapons are a serious obstacle to the realization of these plans.

But even if the Belarusian military managed to improve or replace the new all of their tanks, planes and artillery systems, and even then comparing the capabilities of its aircraft with neighboring countries should be recognized as speculative. In any case neither Poland or Lithuania or other Baltic States do not have alone against Belarus on their side, all the military capabilities of NATO, of which they are part. Then the outcome of a hypothetical war with conventional weapons in favor of NATO decided. Even if one "trenches" with Belarus will be brotherly Russia.

After comparing the CFE quotas agreed between Russia and NATO on conventional weapons is 1 to 3-4 in favor of the alliance. And the potential of the Belarusian Armed Forces can not any significant influence on this alignment.

In reality the situation is much worse. In the West, the grouping NATO's force exceeds the grouping of the Russian Armed Forces at the tanks by 9 times, the aircraft - 5 times, and (maybe most importantly) has absolute superiority on the long-range cruise missiles of various home and in the whole precision weapons.
But, according to the North Atlantic alliance, is more important is that NATO than Russia on quality indicators of the Armed Forces. According to estimates by Western analysts, released in time WikiLeaks, Russian-Belarusian exercises "West-2009" demonstrated that Russia has a very limited capacity, as based on the obsolete and outdated weapons. Its army lacks strategic vehicles, and it can not operate in all weather conditions.

Romuald the non-believer
Obviously, all these arguments and gave a basis to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen state on February 2 in Vilnius on the teachings of the "West-2013" that the alliance "does not see Russia as a threat." But shake confidence in the inevitability of Romuald Sheremetyevo Russian aggression, judging by his article on 2/19/2013 in the Polish edition Uwazam Rze, they could not. The latter believes that information about the weakness of the Russian army spread from giving Moscow itself, which thus wants to increase its capacity to disguise.

As proof of this thesis, he cites the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), according to which Russia with its defense spending (61 billion USD) in 2009, ranked fourth in the world, behind the U.S., China, Britain and France. Russians spent on the army to 3.5% of GDP, while the Chinese, English and French - 2%, and Poland - 1.95%. And, according to the RIA Novosti reports, in 2013-2015. Russian Defense Ministry budget will grow by 60% to reach 97 billion USD (3,7% of GDP).

It should be noted that in 2006, Moscow took the state arms procurement program, in which up to 2015 should be spent up to 182 billion USD. All these costs must withdraw the Russian army in its power to second in the world after the United States. This can not be interpreted otherwise than as Russia's intention to create a counterweight to the quantitative and technological superiority of NATO states in the western strategic direction, as well as maintain its military dominance in Eastern Europe.

As for Poland and its neighbors in the south and in the north, they will not be able to do to counter this threat. It is very difficult to find the required number of divisions in the event of armed conflict, to hold the eastern frontier of the alliance before the arrival of reinforcements from the U.S. and other NATO countries.

In summary, it must be noted that Belarus is still a field for geopolitical games of its western and eastern neighbors, which, as before, its interests into account in the least


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