Minsk will not engage in conflicts in Post-Soviet space
The escalation in Karabakh has once again raised issues of the CSTO capacity, Belarus’ involvement in the conflicts in the Post-Soviet space and her priorities in the South Caucasus. Belarusian policy in the South Caucasus is determined by financial and economic interests and not by commitments within post-Soviet associations. Minsk has neither recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, nor introduced a visa regime with Georgia. Belarus has consistently supported peaceful reintegration of Karabakh with Azerbaijan. Then again, she would side with the non-peaceful one too.
The escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijani has somewhat revived Minsk’s political activity, as it seeks to consolidate its ‘peacemaker’ status in the post-Soviet space. Moreover, Azerbaijan is Belarus’ partner number one in the South Caucasus. In addition, the Belarusian authorities are interested in developing comprehensive cooperation with Turkey, Baku’s ally.
Alexander Lukashenka and Ilham Aliyev are close friends. Baku has repeatedly acted as a safety-cushion for Minsk by providing urgent loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars to help Belarus to maintain her financial stability.
Minsk’s pro-Azerbaijani position therefore is natural. And the fact that Armenia is the CSTO member, makes Belarus’ position most diplomatic. And there are no reasons for this to change in the future.
Armenia does not recognise the independence of Karabakh, and is not formally a party to the incident escalation as its territory is not subject to aggression. In its current form, the conflict does not affect any commitments of Belarus within the CSTO framework.
It is worth noting that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was created for quite pragmatic reasons: to train staff and maintain equipment and defence systems left over from the Soviet Union. Initially, the CSTO did not have any ideological or value-based framework. Russia’s subsequent attempts to transform the CSTO into a NATO analogue came to nothing.
The cooperation within the CSTO splits into two "dimensions":
- Practical matters (military-technical, education, communication, defence industry, etc.)
- Regional defence alliances (Eastern European, Caucasian and Central Asian)
That said, only Russia has vital interests in all three regions. Other CSTO regions are "linked" together through Moscow.
The CSTO member states have committed to assist each other in case of aggression against one of them. However, potential assistance is not limited to military measures and includes a range of responses: political, diplomatic, informational, logistical, financial, etc. In addition, all decisions within the CSTO require a consensus.
The CSTO does not envisage a mechanism, which could prompt Belarus to enter the war in the Central Asian and Trans-Caucasian regions. None of the CSTO member states is eager to fight for other CSTO members. Russia’s attempts to set CSTO against NATO have failed due to the efforts of the "junior partners": Moscow is simply unable to cope with all its allies at once.
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).