Russian air base in Belarus: big-time politics or restoration of power?

Russia plans to deploy a fighter jet regiment in Belarus by 2015, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said at the meeting with Aliaksandr Lukashenka on April 23.

According to him, the Kremlin is about to make such a step “to enhance the defense capability of our Belarusian colleagues and brothers”. Under an agreement between the presidents of the two countries four divisions of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems will be supplied to Belarus in 2014. Moreover, Russia and Belarus are establishing a Single Regional System of Air Defense to protect the airspace and borders of the Belarusian-Russian Union State. Finally, West 2013, a large-scale Belarusian-Russian military exercise is to be held in September.

All the decisions above have not come out of the blue for military expert Aliaksandr Alesin: last year he tried to call public attention to the combat degradation of the Belarusian air forces and predicted the establishment of a Russian air base in Belarus.

“Belarus is a forward defense line for Russians; it is the own self-interests which Russia acts in being concerned about Belarus’ defensive power. There is also a political moment: now Russia-NATO summit is being held. In my opinion this [the decision] is a message for the West demonstrating Russia’s discontent with NATO countries’ position on missile defense,” the expert stresses.

The Belarusian military air forces have been outmoded, Mr Alesin points out. After 50 Sukhoi-24 bombers had been discarded, the Belarusian Air Forces’ fighting power leaves much to be desired.


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