Minsk seeks to reduce military-technical dependence on Russia
The diversification of the military-technical cooperation between Belarus and foreign states is a long-term trend. In addition, Belarus aims to start producing some weapons and military equipment crucial for national defence.
Last week, Kazakhstan hosted the VIII meeting of the Sub-Commission for military-technical cooperation of the intergovernmental Kazakh-Belarusian commission for trade and economic cooperation. For obvious reasons, details have not been disclosed, however, the Belarusian delegation visited Kazakh defence enterprises Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering and Kazakhstan Aselsan Engineering, which was indicative. The first enterprise, a joint venture with the South African Paramount Group specialises in the production of wheeled armoured vehicles. The second, with the participation of the Turkish Aselsan, among other things, produces secure communication systems, reconnaissance and target designation systems. These products are among the priority for the Belarusian military-industrial complex.
Earlier it was reported that the contract signed in 2015 for the delivery of Russian wheeled armoured vehicles to Belarus remained unperformed. President Lukashenka demanded that the national army gave priority to domestic products. In addition, the Belarusian military industrial complex had previously showed the ambition to establish the production of gun-type wheeled armoured vehicles.
In addition to Kazakh products, Belarus could be interested in Kazakhstan’s experience in organising joint production in the military-industrial complex. Such interest was stated at the highest level.
In the last decade, Minsk was consistently expanding the geography of the military-industrial cooperation. Simultaneously, it sought to reduce the dependence on defence supplies from Russia when it made economic and technological sense. In addition, the very fact of having partners other than Russia in such a sensitive sphere as the production of weapons is politically important.
Minsk has the incentive to seek new partners and deploy own defence production due to the problematic nature of Belarusian-Russian relations and Moscow's refusal to supply weapons and military technologies, which has prompted Belarus to producing own missile weapons (for example, the MLRS Polonaise).
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.