Azerbaijani experts and mass media are actively discussing the rumors that Baku is planning to buy Polonez multiple launch rocket systems from Belarus.
This possibility was one of the key topics during the last visit of Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov to Minsk. But it is not known if the sides have reached any agreement. During his meeting with Hasanov, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that he was not going to apologize to anybody for his close military-technical cooperation with Baku.
Since then this has been the key topic in Azerbaijan. Haqqin.az quotes the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as saying that Azerbaijan has already bought the systems and has even prepaid for them.
But there is no such news on SIPRI’s website. The source just says that over the last 15 years, the total amount of Azerbaijan’s military purchases from Belarus has reached $170 million. Since 2002, the Azerbaijanis have bought 153 T-72 tanks (out of 271 exported tanks), 120 D-30 122-mm artillery systems, 12 2S7 Pion 203-mm self-propelled guns, 60 BTR-70s wheeled armored personnel carriers and 11 Su-25 attack planes.
So as to prove its words, haqqin.az refers to Naviny.by. It says that “according to SIPRI, Azerbaijan has signed the deal to buy Polonaise systems from Belarus and Naviny.by has confirmed this news.” But the website of Naviny.by just says: “In order to increase its export earnings, Belarus is ready to sell its modern weapons. Its main requirement is that the buyer should be solvent. Azerbaijan is.”
As one may see, the source does not confirm anything.
Such manipulations are easy to understand. Azerbaijan is trying to find an appropriate answer to Armenia, who has bought Iskander missile systems from Russia. The Armenians paraded the systems during their Independence Day on Sept 21, 2016. The Armenian authorities consider Iskanders as an efficient means to restrain Azerbaijan and warn that they will use them if needed.
This is urging the Azerbaijanis to find their own “vengeance weapon.” The Israeli Iron Domes and the Pakistani ballistic missiles are not efficient enough. So, now the Azerbaijanis are looking at the Polonaise system. Experts believe that the deal may be signed as Azerbaijan is solvent and Belarus is eager to get a share in the global arms market. We should admit that Polonez is quite good for ushering the Belarusians into that market.
It is much better than all of its Russian analogues. It can shoot as far as 200 kilometers, while Russian Smerch can shoot just 90 kilometers long. The only Belarusian thing that system has is its chassis. All the rest is made in China. Some Belarusian experts say that not only Chia but also Ukraine helped Belarus to organize own production of Polonezes. The system can hit both multipoint and pinpoint targets.
According to Deputy Director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis Alexander Khramchikhin, Polonezes can become an appropriate response to Armenia’s Iskanders. But Belarus will hardly sell them to Azerbaijan now, at least, because it does not have enough for own needs and is just testing them. “I have no information confirming that Belarus has sold any Polonezes to Azerbaijan. In future, this is possible but not today,” Khramchikhin said in an interview to EADaily.
The sale of such a powerful weapon to Azerbaijan will certainly upset both Armenia and Russia as formally, Belarus is Armenia’s ally in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union. And even though Lukashenko is not going to apologize to anybody for his friendship with Azerbaijan, he will still have to account for his decision as it may certainly break the balance of forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Russia also sells arms to Azerbaijan, but it sells arms to Armenia as well. By doing this, the Russians are trying to keep balance in the region. If Belarus sells its Polonezes to Azerbaijan, it will break that balance and will undermine Russia’s efforts.