Asian policy direction may help to develop Belarusian defence industry
Last week, Turkmen President Berdimuhamedov visited Minsk, which was another link in the chain of Belarus developing relations with the Asian countries. As Belarus develops political relations with the Asian counties, she may also develop scientific and industrial cooperation with them in the defence industry.
It should be recalled, that in mid April the Belarusian defence delegation visited Pakistan and in late April, Defence Minister of Indonesia Riamizard Riakudu visited Minsk. That said, Belarusian defence officials discussed the prospects for industrial cooperation in the defence industry with representatives of the three countries.
During the Belarusian-Turkmen summit, Berdumukhamedov made a statement about the strategic nature of bilateral relations, which, according to him, were free from external influences. Both countries committed to developing cooperation on the principles of equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The political cooperation between the two countries has been quite good, they have usually supported each other on international fora.
Reportedly, Belarus and Turkmenistan are implementing a high-tech project in Turkmenistan on creating unmanned aircraft systems. Yet during his visit to Turkmenistan on December 10th-12th, 2015, President Lukashenka announced, that Belarusian drones with 50 km range were assembled there (eg "Busel-M"). In addition, Belarusian producers offered ‘Burevestnik’ drones with 290 km range with a possibility to equip with a combat load.
To some extent, Belarusian-Turkmen relations are exemplary from the Belarusian authorities’ viewpoint:
- there is a complete understanding between the leaders of both countries
- there is no value component in the bilateral relations, eg the statement about the respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs is exactly about this (eg do not teach us life)
- there is effective demand for Belarusian products, no barriers in mutual trade, Belarus is more technologically advanced than her counterpart
- foreign partners are willing to invest in Belarusian technologies in exchange for access to them.
The latter is particularly important for the domestic defence industry. The international arms market is highly competitive and extremely politicized. National security issues are sensitive for any country and when purchasing arms, the international relations factor is often decisive. Sometimes so that it overshadows the quality and price of the acquired technology.
Asia is a rapidly growing arms market. Modern military systems are packed with electronics, which creates the threat of the so-called producer ‘bugs’, i.e. various software and hardware means, which may disable the equipment. Asian countries, having own geopolitical ambitions are seeking to protect themselves against such surprises while purchasing the necessary technology. The Belarusian military industry has some technological potential, but not always the funds to develop the work in progress. By establishing joint production enterprises, Belarus gains access to local markets and obtains required finds to carry out research and development work.
The warming in Belarus-EU relations has its limits. The Belarusian authorities do not regard the EU and the US as potential strategic partners. The divide is in the value plane: Western values pose an eventual threat to the absolute rule in Belarus. The Belarusian regime is archaic by nature and cannot be integrated in the modern Western world. Minsk understands this very well and therefore carefully chooses the like strategic partners.
Overall, Belarus’ politically motivated strategy to build strategic relations with Asian countries contributes to the development of the national defence industry, which currently is the most successful industrial sector in Belarus. As Belarus develops political relations with the Asian counties, she may also develop scientific and industrial cooperation with them in the defence industry. Due to isolationist sentiments in Russia (the main customer of the Belarusian defence) focusing on substituting all imports, Belarus’ access to Asian markets not only means development for the domestic defence industry, but also guarantees its survival.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.