Visit to Belarus’ Defense Ministry

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The Belarusian army should properly respond to modern challenges and threats, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he visited the Defense Ministry on 19 February.

Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested discussing major avenues of the Armed Forces’ development in present conditions. “We regularly address this issue. However, today the conditions around our country have changed and the situation is very complicated. The main objective is to adjust the Armed Forces, first of all, our army in a way that it could respond to the situation which can emerge tomorrow, the day after tomorrow,” the head of state said.

“Although the conditions are not changing dramatically, we see what is going on in the so-called theater of operations in connection with numerous conflicts. We study these conflicts and, of course, cannot but respond to the situation. We have to adjust to the situation, alter the methods of armed struggle to protect the country,” the Belarusian leader noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that when appointing the defense minister he instructed him to consider the prospects of creating the efficient mobile army and the Armed Forces in general. According to the President, the task has been fulfilled.

“Our army should properly respond to modern challenges and threats. However, we need to make investments in it taking into account the present-day situation. Therefore, further efforts to develop the army should be well-considered and coordinated,” the head of state underlined.

Defense minister informed the head of state about the state of affairs and development prospects in the Armed Forces. The head of state was also informed about the stock of weapons and military hardware, their combat readiness. In his opinion, it is important from the economic and organizational points of view.

The Chief of General Staff reported on the plans of special operations, the readiness of the Armed Forces to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country in order to prevent anyone from attempts to impose military pressure on Belarus.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that he supported all the proposals of the defense minister regarding the modernization of the Armed Forces, military hardware, and purchase of new weapons. “We will definitely find the funds that are requested by the Defense Ministry. If we fulfill our plans before 2020, we will have the efficient army by 2035-2040. We will not have to invest these sums of money in it like we do today,” the head of state said.

“We will complete the main events to upgrade our army by 2020, we will do our best to create the efficient army in accordance with present-day realities,” the President emphasized.

After that the President met with the command personnel of the Armed Forces.

The President pointed out that due to its geographical position and openness Belarus is in full measure subject to the majority of the geopolitical processes going on in the world.

“Unfortunately, the situation in the world and around Belarus is unstable. Geopolitical contradictions between Russia and NATO member states are on the rise. The military conflict in the southeast of the brotherly country of Ukraine continues. Falling global prices for oil have painfully affected our closest allies,” the President stated. “The situation remains tense in such crisis regions of the world like the Middle East, Northern and Central Africa. Operations of the so-called Islamic State, events in France and a number of other European countries have led to another surge of international terrorism. Separatist sentiments are on the rise in at least 16 regions of Europe and the former USSR,” he added.

According to the head of state, the United States and its Western European allies still put persistent efforts into securing their leadership in military, political, and economic sectors. Vigorous work on the transatlantic partnership agreement continues simultaneously with the progressive reinforcement of NATO’s military component. “In the immediate proximity to our borders NATO’s military exercises are staged as an incessant sequence. NATO is also building up its rapid response forces in the Baltic states and Poland,” the Belarusian leader said.

He stressed that the effectiveness of the international security system has been reduced.

“Organizations such as the UN and OSCE are obviously influenced by relevant countries. Frankly speaking, they are now unable to discharge any international security functions. They demonstrate their inability to effectively maintain security in the world, deal with global problems and present-day tasks,” the President noted.

“Sanctions of the UN Security Council are no longer required for using force against sovereign nations. In order to deliver a strike against Damascus, Tripoli or some other capital city, members of a military and political bloc or a spontaneous coalition of countries just have to make an accommodation with each other. The state of affairs is now regarded as the norm within the framework of the new world order,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that apart from open military invasion, the global superpowers make use of colored revolutions. “They are underpinned by the dramatic transformation of people’s way of thinking, the substitution of fundamental values by misleading ideas and pseudo-values,” the Belarusian leader believes.

“Wars are no longer declared and once they start, they no longer follow a conventional scenario. The experience of contemporary military conflicts has revealed that over the span of just several months a rather trouble-free country can turn into an arena of hostilities and fall victim to foreign intervention, plunge into chaos, humanitarian catastrophe and civil war,” the head of state said.

The President emphasized that economic sanctions and discriminatory measures of political nature are used against Belarus. “We still see open attempts to make us accept certain terms of economic cooperation and trade. Military activity near our borders is intensifying,” the Belarusian leader noted. He believes that these and other external factors have a negative impact on the state of the national security of the country.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that even in such complicated external conditions Belarus will not abandon its peace-loving foreign policy and will continue safeguarding its interests.

“Certainly, we would like to continue relying on the power of brotherly Russia provided our interests with regard to Belarus’ sovereignty and independence are naturally taken into account,” the President said.

The head of state stressed that Belarus also considers cooperation within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization as a guarantee of the country’s security and stability on the Eurasian continent.

However, according to Aleksandr Lukashenko, it does not mean that Belarus will forfeit cooperation with other countries and military political organizations.

“As a sovereign state we are open to a constructive dialogue with NATO on the basis of parity and transparency. We have a lot of common matters to take care of. The joint work to take care of these matters fully meets Belarus’ interests,” the head of state noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that in conditions of the complicated international situation and present economic difficulties the domestic political situation in Belarus remains stable. “Let me tell you frankly that our people treasure it. Notions like security and the government’s care for people are now more highly valued by the society. There are reasons to believe that accomplishments of the current government will be duly appreciated by the Belarusians,” the President noted.

At the same time, in his words, it is not the time to relax. “Nowadays nobody should think that everything is okay, that we are great peacemakers and mediators and someone will pay us for it and that we are going to enjoy peace and tranquility down the road. Don’t fool yourselves. I cannot stress it enough: nobody guarantees that we will live a calm life. We will do everything to live a calm life but we should have a combat-effective army,” the head of state stressed

“If necessary, we should be able to protect the independence and sovereignty of our country but we will never get entangled in mindless confrontations with anyone. We will pursue a wise and restrained policy: we don’t need yours but we will not give away ours. It is the core of our policy. If we have to die for it, we will,” the head of state said.

“While some people used to say that Lukashenko whips up tensions, while some said five or seven years ago that we waste money on modernizing the weapons and improving our army, today particularly in view of Ukrainian events everyone understands that we have to feed our own soldiers and have to have a sufficient army in order to secure our own interests,” the head of state said.

“Belarusians are peaceful people. It is no accident that the fact is stated in the first line of our national anthem. However, seeing the events going on in CIS and non-CIS states it is advisable to remember the timeworn truth about the need to keep powder dry,” the President noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that when Belarus is going through important social and political processes, the fifth column and its foreign patrons intensify their attempts to rock the boat. "We should not expect that their activity will decline during the year of the presidential election. These "personalities” have their own understanding of politics: instead of offering constructive alternatives, fair and open competition for voters, they engage in provocations and all those things that we know about,” the President said. “We have been there. And we have effective tools to respond adequately, within the framework of the law. Everyone should understand that we will not play with anyone and will not hesitate if someone wants to stage a maidan here or even something worse,” he noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the government should ensure economic stability as this is important for all walks of life of the state.

“Any turmoil is a challenge and a threat to national security. If we have a stable economy then no shocks will be a threat,” the President remarked. He stressed that the country has taken all necessary decisions, including personnel ones, for the economy to function. "I have recently told the prime minister and the new government: no one hampers you, go ahead and act! Be proactive! We should not allow any deterioration of the situation in the economy. We do not necessarily need to aim for growth this year. If we survive these difficult times associated with the external pressure on our economy, then we will have peace and quiet, and no colored revolution will turn things upside down here,” the head of state is convinced.

In view of the negative impact of external factors, the country has taken measures to stabilize the situation in the economy and foreign exchange market, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. "Today we need a particularly frugal approach to budget spending. It should be used strictly for the intended purpose. Savings and thrift should be a priority for every government official,” the President said.

"No matter how hard it may be for us, we will not retreat one iota from our social obligations. Moreover, this year we have initiated a number of ambitious projects aimed at the social support for families and the demographic security,” the head of state emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the enhancement of Belarus’ defense capacity becomes particularly important in the current difficult situation.

“We can note that the efforts of our Defense Ministry in this area deserve praise. This is evident from the analysis of the 2011-2014 plan of action to reinforce and develop the Belarusian army. The ministry has ensured a high level of morale, combat readiness, and mobilization preparedness of the military. As soon as we get rid of the red tape that is still there, everything will be almost perfect,” the head of state said.

“Even our ill-wishers recognize that the Belarusian army remains one of the most efficient in the region of Eastern Europe and Asia. However, we should not rest on our laurels. The last-year inspection of the Armed Forces revealed that there are still some shortcomings. I have made a number of relevant decisions. Today we are working to eliminate these drawbacks and make sure similar things do not happen in the future. I cannot promise you an easy life in terms of snap inspections,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also remarked that the Defense Ministry has developed an important state military planning document, Belarus' Defense Plan. A number of events of national importance were held at the highest level. Many efforts were made to develop Belarusian military towns and improve the storage conditions of ammunition and military vehicles. “In a word, quite a lot has been done, and we have made certain achievements,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Today the Defense Minister and the Chief of General Staff have announced the development priorities of the Armed Forces in the coming years. The main objective is to improve and gradually enhance the military potential. The development of the army will be facilitated through the retirement of the excessive stock of weapons and military hardware on the one hand, and additional budget financing on the other hand. We will modernize our equipment and optimize the personnel numbers and the combat strength of our army. A major part of these events, especially optimization efforts, have been fulfilled already. Now we have to polish these areas. On the whole, I have supported the proposals of the Defense Minister,” the head of state said.

Addressing the command personnel of the Armed Forces, the President pointed out their responsibility in the process of improving the mechanism of military security. “No country is absolutely safe from external and internal threats today. You know that they begin with the destabilization of the situation in the state. Many armed conflicts have similar development scenarios. Our eastern and western partners are revising their approaches to the use of army in peaceful and war time,” he said.

“We need to continue studying the options of armed response to modern threats. It is a serious task and we need to consider it in detail. It is essential to study these options and use them in practice. By looking into the history of fights and conflicts, including the Ukrainian conflict, we should see what kind of army we need and address these issues immediately. I expect that the Defense Ministry will submit concrete, well-considered proposals in the new version of the military doctrine,” the Belarusian leader stated.

The head of state spoke at length about the provision of the army with weapons and military hardware. He said: “Our army is an heir of the once powerful and up-to-date Belarusian military district. Therefore, the bulk of the weapons are remnants of the Soviet time. We need a systemic renewal of the arsenal. We have decided on the volumes and the plans to modernize the armaments and military hardware”.

“Rearmament is a costly process. It is particularly true for the air force and air defense units. But, understanding their special importance, last year we sent a number of fighter jets and attack aircraft for repairs. We also decided to buy new combat and training aircraft Yak-130,” the President said.

In his words, taking into account the present conditions spending the allocated resources wisely should be the primary concern. “I’ve backed the expenses suggested today. But I told the government I want the spending of every ruble, euro and dollar verified. No corruption, lack of discipline, no excess expenditure can be tolerated. You know in what situation the world and we are now due to what is going on in Russia, on our main markets. We have never had an excessive supply of money and we surely don’t now,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

“The money saved by optimizing the combat composition and personnel numbers of the army should also be used only for rearming the troops. Spending it on homes [for the military] is an option as well as on projects, which are crucial for the development of the Armed Forces,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The head of state stressed that it is necessary to support the existing combat potential of the Belarusian army as much as possible. “The durability of the military hardware is far from being exhausted except for some types of armaments,” said the President. “As far as the preservation of military hardware and weapons is concerned, we should stay up-to-date and more actively use the potential of our defense enterprises. You should get rid of the vehicles and assets that are past their service life in a businesslike manner, with top profits secured. Don’t rush to throw away your assets,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that securing the leading role of the officer corps in the Belarusian army, enhancing its professional skills, improving managerial, legal, and pedagogical standards must be prioritized.

“If we preserve the officer corps as a well-trained part of the army, we will have combat-effective armed forces. Nobody needs piles of weapons, even state-of-the-art ones, without true professional military,” the President noted.

The head of state reminded that decisive measures to improve manufacturing discipline and decision implementation had been taken in Belarus some time before. Belarus president decree No. 5 is designed to secure these goals. “All of that should be transferred into the army. Execution and iron discipline are number one matters for the army,” the Belarusian leader said.

The President stressed that legality and discipline, care for lives and health of the military must be observed in the army.

Aleksandr Lukashenko urged the Defense Ministry to pay close attention to the formation and preservation of high morale in the army. “It is necessary to continue bolstering discipline and rule of law in the army. Fortunately, it is no longer such a big problem. Direct participation in nurturing the feeling of responsibility for protecting the fatherland among our citizens is the key task of the entire officer corps. Personal example is required on the part of officers,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

“The penetration of the power-wielding agencies by such dangerous phenomena as corruption, abuse of office and particularly dereliction of duty is a special reason for concern. These factors are the reason for the lengthy conflict in Ukraine. Crime control in the army and the state of military discipline raise some concerns. I closely monitor these matters. Discipline failures in the army will be punished severely,” the head of state stressed.

The President also pointed out that the 70th anniversary of the Soviet nation’s victory in the Great Patriotic War will be celebrated this year. Various celebrations, including the army parade on 9 May, will be timed to the anniversary. “I would like the event properly organized and the veterans honored at the level of army units. Not many veterans are left now. Use the event for the military patriotic education of young Belarusians. We don’t want to face the processes Ukraine faces when people dodge the draft and don’t want to protect their land,” the Belarusian leader added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that being President and the Commander-in-Chief, he is responsible for the state of the Belarusian Army in line with the constitution. “It is a most important task of mine. I do not promise you everything under the sun, nothing extraordinary. However, if we have even a smallest opportunity to provide extra support to the army, we will do it,” the head of state noted.

“This has nothing to do with any political developments. There is only one reason why we should do it: the army should not be overprivileged, but it should be able to live a decent life,” the President noted.

A Kalashnikov assault rifle in a special gun case was given to the head of state by Belarusian Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov.

"You should know: I will never draw you in reckless undertakings unnecessary for the country. But if we have to defend our land and stand back to back, side by side, you can be sure you will see me at the forefront,” the Belarusian leader concluded.