Belarus exercises rapid large-scale mobilization

February 27, 2017 12:40
Image: AFP

The Belarusian military authorities study and apply the experience from the recent armed conflicts, which allow parties to promptly organise and expand the force potential. Belarus is likely to continue the mobilisation exercises, inter alia, by drafting reservists from the Reserve Forces to deploy major formations (regiment, brigade).

A comprehensive combat readiness inspection in the Belarusian Armed Forces is nearing the end. A record high number of drafted reservists, circa 3,000 people, marked the exercise.

The mere fact that reservists were recalled for military service is not something new for Belarus. In previous years, from a few hundred up to more than 2000 people were recalled for the large-scale military exercises in Belarus.

In peacetime, a significant part of the Belarusian army units is downsized and is used as a training and mobilisation base for the deployment of a wartime army. Three of five Belarusian neighbouring states outnumber her in terms of population and military capacity. Theoretically, they are capable of starting a military action against Belarus without additional mobilisation. That said, it is critical for Belarus to be able to promptly recall additional conscripts from the reserve in order to deploy wartime sized military units.

International experience (Serbia, Ukraine) has shown that mobilisation is not an easy task. There are two major reasons for that: institutional, i.e. inability of the authorities to organize the recall and transport the reservists to the military units for military service; and low turnout of reservists at the assembly points. For instance, in some regions in Ukraine, the turnout among reservists subjected to the recall in 2014-2015 was only 43%.

Apparently, Belarus has made appropriate conclusions: during the combat readiness inspection in February 2017, the military authorities were recalling up to 900 reservists a day. The largest unit deployed by the recruitment from the reserve, was a battalion/division. In the near future, Belarus is likely to deploy larger formations (regiment, brigade) during the recall exercise. The organisational core of such formations could be the Joint Training Centre, the Military Academy or one of the weapon storages.

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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.