Minsk set to strengthen military cooperation with China
Belarus is developing military cooperation with China due to rational considerations. Moscow is unwilling and in some ways is unable to meet all Belarus’ needs in the arms. The expansion of cooperation between the military-industrial complex of Belarus and China is only natural, and Belarus is likely to increase domestic military production, thanks to Chinese assistance.
During Lukashenka’s visit to China, the two states signed a number of agreements on bilateral cooperation. For instance, Belarus’ State Committee for Military Production signed an agreement (the roadmap) with the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) on bilateral cooperation. CASC is the largest manufacturer of communications satellites, heavy multiple rocket launchers, air defence systems, unmanned aerial vehicles and precision-guided munitions. The last four items are among the priorities for the Belarusian defence industry.
That said, Belarus already has significant results from cooperating with China in the defence industry field. With the CASC assistance, Belarus launched Belintersat-1, a communications satellite, which laid the grounds for the national military digital communications system. In addition, there is a Chinese "trace" in the MLRS Polonaise. Yet current cooperation with Russia in the security field is much more elaborate than that with China, but the dynamics of Sino-Belarusian cooperation may soon change this state of affairs.
While Belarus needs to upgrade and update her weapons, she is extremely short of funds. Russia is reluctant to transfer technology, and Russian-produced weapons are becoming more expensive. In addition, Russia does not manufacture some types of equipment (for example, single-engine fighter aircrafts). Moscow is prone to self-isolation and seeks to ensure import substitution, including Belarusian defence products. Meanwhile, China is interested in expanding its presence on the arms market; it is ready to transfer technology and offers attractive financial terms. The quality of Chinese products is improving.
Belarus is likely to expand military cooperation with China and to increase domestic military production with Chinese assistance, in particular, regarding wheeled armoured vehicles, medium-range air defence systems, precision-guided munitions of various purpose, and heavy UAV. That said, Russia will remain an important ally / partner for Belarus on regional security issues and the main source of financial support in the near future. The situation is not unique: Pakistan, which cooperates with the United States in the securing field and receives financial assistance from them, relies on the technological assistance from China in the defence industry.
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.