The upcoming unprecedented NATO exercises clearly showed there is no sense in the tales of Russian supposed Union State with Belarus.
In just five months, most of the highways in Eastern Europe will be filled with endless convoys of military trucks and tractors with American armored vehicles. They, as well as about 90 military train echelons, will simultaneously move from the German cities of Bremerhaven and Nuremberg, from Belgian Antwerp, as well as from the US Air Force base Ramstein (Germany). There is only one direction – to the western borders of Poland with Belarus and with our Kaliningrad region. So, in the coming April, within the framework of the previously unprecedented in scale NATO exercises Defender 2020, the American 1st Cavalry Division will be transferred to our continent from Fort Hood in Texas. One of the six heavy divisions of the US Army, armed with Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
Together with the 20 thousand “old iron-sided”, as the soldiers of the 1st Cavalry were called in the United States, the basis of the formed shock group under the very side near Belarus and near the walls of Kaliningrad will be several units of the Polish Army: the 12th mechanized brigade named after General Armor Jozef Haller (Szczecin), 9th Armored Cavalry Brigade (Braniewo), 6th Pomeranian Airborne Brigade and one of the rear support brigades. In total, 37 thousand soldiers and officers of the alliance will take part in the multinational exercises. In addition to Americans and Poles – Germans, French, Dutch, Belgians, Baltic states.
The time scale of the maneuvers is impressive from April to May. At the same time, the transfer of troops and weapons across the Atlantic will take place from February to July 2020. Little of. Defender 2020 maneuvers are united by a single strategic design with five more U.S. Army exercises, simultaneously launching in the region: Allied Spirit XI, Dynamic Front 2020, Joint Warfighting Assessment 2020, Saber Strike and Swift Response. All of them are aimed at the deployment of US troops in Eastern Europe, as well as the organization of their offensive operations. It’s clear – against whom.
We repeat: NATO has never decided to carry out anything like this at Russian and Belarusian borders. Naturally, both in Moscow and Minsk, about the long-announced Defender 2020, there is a serious political nervousness. Echoes of this nervousness were voiced at the just concluded CIS summit in Ashgabat. There, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who in recent years has been speaking with increasing sympathy about the NATO bloc and its role in ensuring peace in Europe, suddenly almost fell into hysteria: “For some reason, NATO decided to conduct large-scale exercises near our borders and involve as many thousands as never used. These are Poland and the Baltic countries. It is not normal. This does not mean that the peace has come to the territory of Europe and such centers will not arise in the future. These are obscure teachings. Probably, the President of Russia and I will have to think about how to protect ourselves during this period. Because there will be about 30 thousand participants. This is a lot. We will have to answer somehow.”
Everything is completely fair here. Except for one thing: “to think how to protect yourself during this period”, the presidents of Russia and Belarus are likely to be apart. Despite the long existence of their own countries within the framework of the so-called Union State (the corresponding agreement was signed on April 2, 1997). Despite the uniform regional air defense system of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation formally created back in 2016 in the East European region of collective security. Despite, finally, many years ago, the formed united regional grouping of troops, the combat use plan of which was approved by the decision of the Supreme State Council of the Union State on June 27, 2000.
Alas, all this practically does not work for Russian-Belarus common defense. Or it doesn’t work at all like the generals in Moscow and Minsk planned. Nothing came of the military. Because politicians have grossly interfered in their professional affairs.
To make it clearer how and why this happened, let us consider at least the history of the aforementioned Unified Regional Air Defense System. It is clear that in our country a similar military structure (but operational, and not the one now) in the western strategic direction is necessary as air.
Because it would allow pushing the boundaries of interception of enemy air attack means many hundreds of kilometers from Moscow, Tula, Belgorod, Bryansk, Smolensk, Voronezh. And, therefore, in the event of the beginning of an increasingly probable war with NATO, to receive an invaluable gain in time.
For the first time, the conversation turned to the need for a unified air defense system on November 30, 1994 at a scientific and practical conference with the participation of defense ministers of the CIS countries. Only four years later, it seemed, it was possible to lay the first brick: to conduct a joint military exercise, “Combat Commonwealth-98,” of a mixed group of Russian and Belarusian anti-aircraft missile and radio-technical forces, as well as fighter aircraft.
For its part, Moscow included almost everything that it itself has in this area in the Northwest in the planned grouping. Then, Russia practically at its own expense began to supply its neighbors with modern air defense systems. In 2005 and 2006, two contracts were concluded for the supply to Minsk of four divisions (a total of 48 launchers) of S-300PS. The payment was made by barter – the supply to our country of Minsk-made MZKT-79221 wheeled chassis for the Russian strategic missile systems RS-12M1 Topol-M made in Russia.
Following them, the Tor-2M short-range anti-aircraft missile systems manufactured in Izhevsk went to Belarus. The first battery is at the end of 2011. In 2014, it was decided to give away to the neighbors four more S-300 air defense missile divisions removed from combat duty in the Moscow Region after more modern S-400 Triumphs took up combat duty there. Finally, as announced, in November 2019, the first four brand new S-30SM fighters (of 12 such aircraft already contracted in Russia) should fly to Belarus.
It is perfectly clear that Minsk is also vitally interested in such military-technical cooperation, which otherwise would simply have nothing to protect its sky from military aviation ever closer to the crawling armada of NATO. That’s all right, but the neighbors ratified the agreement on the creation of a joint air defense group in 1999 only in 2016. Why pulled so long?
Everything came up against the main question: who will be empowered to press the “red button” in case of hostilities? In other words: who is authorized to give the command to open fire on violators of the airspace of the Union State? Russian or Belarusian general? But in case of the start of a large-scale aerospace operation against us by the North Atlantic Alliance, there simply will not be time for coordination. Air battles are now fleeting and destructive.
It would seem that all the control threads should converge in the main command post of the Airspace Forces of the Russian Federation, since in the event of a major war in Europe, it will be up to them to bear the brunt of the confrontation in the sky and over Russia, and over Belarus. But such logic did not and does not suit Alexander Lukashenko at all. Therefore, after a long hassle, the decision was compromised. Since 2018, the parties have been conducting joint exercises at the Ashuluk Russian training ground, developing common operational documents for combat use and exchanging information on the air situation on an ongoing basis. But the main thing in any air defense system – the command to open fire – everyone can get exclusively from their own capital. This, of course, greatly devalues the idea of a unified air defense system, but nothing else remains for the military.
Therefore, what joint measures can Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin take in response to the upcoming NATO Defender 2020 exercises? By April next year, put a couple of Russian fighter regiments at Belarusian airfields? Alexander Grigorievich will definitely not allow this. Since the idea of creating our air base in Bobruisk has been discussed for a long time since 2015, it has long acquired a simply scandalous character and, apparently, is completely closed today. Lukashenko is well aware that such a move would be an open challenge to the West and would again close too many doors for him. But suppose even the temporary appearance of combat aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces – at the airport in Bobruisk in Brussels would probably be regarded as the first step to the already half-forgotten confrontation between Belarus and NATO. And again they would begin to insultingly call Daddy Lukashenko “the last dictator of Europe.” With all the ensuing political consequences.
On the contrary, in recent days there has been new evidence that in fact the West, in its rapidly escalating confrontation with Russia, expects at least neutrality. And even as if they winked to Daddy: “You can even continue your favorite game in Russia’s main ally with Moscow. Just really do not go into the heat before us.”
And here – just like Russians say about the egg for an Easter. Egg is good in time for a Christ s Day.
So, the other day, a very curious, frank and significant document has been published in the United States – the Jamestown Foundation, known for its sharply anti-Russian position, presented the report of its president Glen E. Howard, “The growing importance of Belarus on NATO’s Baltic flank.” This report, if you look, does not leave stone unturned from Lukashenko’s many years of tales about his readiness in which case to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in front of a common enemy.
Since the report is very extensive, I will give only some of its provisions:
– Remaining free from Russian ground forces and remaining de facto non-aligned, Belarus serves NATO’s goals without even joining the North Atlantic Alliance. The deployment of Russian troops in Belarus significantly reduces the readiness and warning time for NATO forces deployed in the Baltic states. If Belarus serves the interests of NATO, remaining de facto neutral and non-aligned, then its state de jure in allied military relations with Russia does not matter;
– geopolitically, the position of Belarus is very similar to the situation with Yugoslavia and Broz Tito. The gap in relations between Tito and Stalin ultimately allowed the West to resist Soviet efforts to advance into the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Sea. Belarus may take a similar position in relation to the Baltic states. Given the growing tensions between Minsk and Moscow, Lukashenko could become another Tito;
– The key issue for Moscow is a clear hole in the Russian air defense system, associated with the absence of Russian air bases in Belarus. Until this gap is filled, Moscow will continue to feel vulnerable to defending the Russian capital in the event of any potential NATO attack;
– The absence of a Russian air base in Belarus, of course, complicates the operational planning of Russia in its air defense. In accordance with the terms of the “union state” agreement with Moscow, Belarus does not allow Russian aircraft to remain in their space for more than 24 hours.
Once again: this is not “malicious Putin propaganda” aimed at destroying the age-old union of fraternal Slavic peoples. This is a dry statement by Russian frank enemies of the state of the joint defense policy of Moscow and Minsk. Rather, the almost complete absence of such a policy in fact. The West knows and understands everything. And therefore, the rumble of caterpillars at NATO’s largest exercises in recent decades will sound especially ominous. Both for us and for Belarusians. So they failed to dig a common trench for a quarter of a century.
And personally, it would be useful for Alexander Grigoryevich to recall how the case ended with Yugoslavia, which was once headed by the Josip Broz Tito mentioned in the report of the Jamestown Foundation. For a long time there is no mentioned country on the world map. And it was NATO that had a hand in its destruction.