Belarus Defence and Security Report 2010 - New Market Analysis Released

Belarus Defence and Security Report 2010 - a new market research report on

Belarus’ place in the post-Cold War world is defined by its dependence on Russia. However, increasing problems with its ally, including import bans, threatens the Belarusian economy – which is already in recession – and may stall recovery. Russian demands continue for full international prices for previously heavily subsidised Gazprom gas imports, and Moscow has excluded Belarus from a new
oil pipeline crossing its territory. This is in danger of threatening Belarus’ reputation as a reliable nation for energy transit.

Belarus’ self-isolation, particularly from Europe, is also increasingly seen as an anomaly. In May 2009 Belarus was invited to join the EU Eastern Partnership programme to initiate and improve economic and political relations. In the long-run President Victar Lukashenka will have to bring in a more liberalised and privatised economy to tempt inward investors and, hence, convince the EU to import Belarusian products. Improved relations with Europe could afford the country more international influence in the future. However, it is not clear, in this rather closed society dominated by its leader, how far these reforms will go towards fulfilling European demands.

Belarus joined the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) rapid-reaction force in October 2009. This is a marked policy change for Lukashenka, who had previously refused to sign up at the Moscow summit in June 2009. A joint military exercise, Exercise Zapad, held in western Belarus in late September 2009 was the Russian army’s most extensive for almost 30 years. The aim of the exercise was to counter the specific threat faced by Russia and Belarus in their western strategic direction, most likely replicating a NATO response to the Georgian-Russian confrontation over South Ossetia.

There is growing Belarusian co-operation with Latin American countries, most notably Venezuela, to sell weapons systems, including the modernising of Venezuela’s anti-aircraft defence systems. The furthering of relations with Venezuela is seen as a means of alternative fuel supplies and, thereby, reducing near total dependence on Russia. There is also evidence of sales to states of concern, such as Iran and Syria. Sales of advanced Russian Iskander-M cruise missiles to Iran have been reported by Moscow and Minsk sources in May 2009 as having taken place via Belarus, as Russia has agreed not to sell such systems to Iran and Syria. These and other sales to Iran and Syria could mar relations with Europe and other regions. These trends illustrate the lack of transparency in Belarusian arms deals. Therefore, Belarus’ arms trade continues to be scrutinised by the international community, which still regards Belarus as a prominent conduit for illegal arms trading.

The Belarusian defence industry continues to be dominated by state-run defence enterprises such as Beltechexport and Belvneshpromservis. The latter is a significant player in Belarusian arms exports and modernisation.