As Russia’s ally, Belarus has been behaving quite strange recently. In particular, Minsk’s military cooperation and exchange of military technologies with Kiev continues even after the start of the military punitive operation in Donbass. Furthermore, Belarus has managed to benefit from the situation in Ukraine, said Sergey Ischenko, a military expert, talking to EADaily on June 21.
Ischenko said Ukraine and Belarus have joint military projects. One of the results of that cooperation is the STILET Short Range Air Defense System. The sides started developing it yet long before the Maidan. With its target destruction effectiveness, STILET is compared with the Russian-made Pantsir-S1 Mobile Air Defense Missile & Gun System.
Recently, Ukrainian media have published pictures of a railway echelon with MZKT-6922 (6x6) special wheeled chassis for air defense systems. This may mean that the cooperation in the given field will be continued and Kiev is looking to launch production of STILET systems with the help of Minsk.
“STILET too was developed before the Maidan. However, as launching platforms have been delivered to Ukraine, one can suppose that the given air defense system will be assembled on their basis,” Ischenko said.
Joint developments of Belarus and Ukraine have increased the defense capacities of Ukraine significantly, the expert said. “STILET is an advanced weapon, though short-range. Ukraine is keen to obtain it, as its air defense system is absolutely destroyed. Ukraine can produce nothing in the field on its own, while together with Belarus, they proved able to produce short-range systems,” Ischenko said.
It is not the only project of the two countries. For instance, the Belarusian and Ukrainian enterprises jointly developed Stugna-P, the modified version of Skif portable anti-tank missile system, which Ukraine is now using in the war against Donbass.
Ischenko recalled the agreement for the supply of trucks for the Ukrainian army. Leader of the Radical Party of Ukraine Oleg Lyashko said about it in May. He said the Defense Procurement Agency of Ukraine made a deal with Belarus on the supply of 120 MAZ-6315 trucks to Kiev.
“I do not know if they will be supplied to Donbass or not. It is quite possible. Within 2016, 120 MAZ trucks will be delivered from Belarus for the Ukrainian army. It is not a weapon, but it is equipment that may be used on the frontline, the expert said.
It is hard to assess the current military cooperation of Ukraine and Belarus, as it is a secret information. “It is hard to say what they are working on now. This information is not made public. When they complete a project and exhibit it at the arms expositions, we see it and can assess. However, we do not know what they are doing now,” he explained.
At the beginning of the developments on the Maidan in the winter of 2013, Belarus suspended the joint work with the Ukrainians on the STILET. Ischenko believes that Alexander Lukashenko’s attitude to Crimea and Donbass has changed later.
“Lukashenko did not recognize Crimean’s union with Russia. Quite the contrary, in December, six months after those events, he travelled to Kiev, met with Poroshenko and promised a comprehensive assistance to him. Probably, in March-April of 2014 much was unclear to him, but later he decided something that has promoted his rapprochement with Ukraine and Poroshenko in the military-technical cooperation,” he said.
In addition, Lukashenko looks to use Ukraine’s intellectual potential for the development of Belarusian military projects.
Ischenko believes that Lukashenko pays much attention to Ukraine’s military industry that is collapsing and many qualified specialists (there are such from the Soviet Union school of armored vehicles and missile equipment) are jobless now, as their plants are idling, for instance, the Dnipropetrovsk-based Yuzhmash plant. “So, Lukashenko offers them jobs at his enterprises,” Ischenko said.
In his words, the successful testing of Polonez multiple launch rocket system – Lukashenko has announced this recently – could be the result of cooperation with Ukrainian specialists too.
Expert calls at least strange such interaction of Russia’s ally Belarus and Ukraine having neither friendly nor even neutral relations with Russia.
“I think it is quite strange a behavior for the ally state. Moscow probably has questions to Lukashenko. As for the further steps, I think it is necessary for Russia to draw Belarus over to its side. We have not only military and technical cooperation, but also economic and political levers. It is necessary to work with Lukashenko. We should not refuse from such ally as Belarus. It is necessary to correct its stance,” Sergey Ischenko said.
He commented on the statements by the Belarusian oppositionist (and some pro-governmental) experts saying that the Russian military build-up on its western borders threatens the security of Belarus. “Nonsense! What’s the use of threatening Belarus, when it is bound with a range of obligations with us? We are deploying troops on the western border because of the threat coming from NATO. Belarus poses no threat to us, and I hope it will never do. This is an artificially created problem that looks to increase tensions,” he said.
As EADaily reported earlier, Alexander Lukashenko announced a successful testing of Polonez (Polonaise) systems. Belarusian experts say Kiev helped Minsk to establish its own production of missiles. “But articles by some Ukrainian, Belorussian, Russian and Polish authors say that missile technologies came to Belarus from Ukraine after the start of the war in Donbass: the new Ukrainian authorities neglected some of their international obligations and used Belarus for selling Russia the weapons they were not allowed to sell,” political analyst Artur Grigoryev told EADaily earlier.