Cuts in the Belarusian defence budget in 2021
By Andrei Parotnikau
The 2021 budget proposals envisage reductions in expenditure on weapons for the conventional defence sector with no corresponding cuts for internal security forces. This implies that the Belarusian leadership considers external threats less significant than internal ones.
Published data regarding the draft state budget for 2021 revealed that Belarus aims to increase expenditure on national defence and law enforcement by circa 12% as compared to 2020. Meanwhile, inflation in 2020 is likely to surpass the 7% threshold and the Belarusian rouble has already devalued by 16%.
It is noteworthy that previously, the Belarusian authorities announced the 2021 defence budget expenses to increase by 31%. Belarus aimed major arms purchases in 2021, mostly Russian aircrafts budgeted in US dollars.
As it stands, the announced defence budget for 2021 will allow law enforcement to operate at the 2020 standard, nothing more, given that it mostly avoids expensive imports.
That said, the draft 2021 budget does not envisage a significant reserve to invest in the army’s rearmament. In 2020, national defence spending in dollar terms has reduced significantly. The Defense Ministry’s plans to purchase four additional Su-30SM fighters have been put on hold.
In 2021, in the best-case scenario, the defence sector’s purchasing power will remain at the level of 2020, which is significantly less than in 2019, when Belarus purchased the first batch of Su-30SMs.
Simultaneously, the authorities are not optimistic about being able to improve the economic situation in the coming year since the current spending standard will be ensured only by a noticeable increase in the tax burden.
Given the domestic political situation, should the Belarusian regime find further funds to finance the security bloc, it will prioritise spending on wages and additional staff, rather than on imports of expensive and non-critical military equipment.