Critical dependence on Russian weapons will remain
By Andrei Parotnikau
Belarus is expected to continue to depend on Russia regarding key future armament plans, calling into question the otherwise promising development of the domestic military-industrial complex.
The Air Force and Air Defense forces commenced training on January 14, 2021 with new equipment designed to defend against high-precision weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles, with revised air defence development plans announced in connection with operational readiness tests. The most ambitious steps relate to acquiring new S-400 and Pantsir-S, anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia to replace the ageing S-300 anti-aircraft weapon system.
The cost of one S-400 division is comparable to the Ministry of Defense of Belarus's total annual budget. According to the "Concept of Сonstruction and Development of the Belarusian Army by 2030", military spending is planned to increase to 1.5% of GDP over the coming decade. A uniform budgetary increase in line with this will only result in an additional $ 24 million per year; therefore, the purchase of the S-400 would be contingent upon credit support from Russia.
Plans for large-scale purchases of air defence systems from Russia by the Belarusian Defense Ministry call into question the future of the Belarusian Buk-MB3K medium-range air defence system.
It is worth recalling Lukashenka's announcement on June 24, 2014 concerning the need to develop a domestic anti-aircraft missile system comparable to the S-300 medium-range air defence system. This project remained a priority for the Belarusian military-industrial complex and the country's political leadership due to the potential to develop the export prospects of the Belarusian defence industry, save the national economy significant financial resources allocated to updating domestic air defence systems and foster technological autonomy, reducing technical dependence on Russia in critical areas.