Russia intends by 2015 to deploy in Belarus a military base and significantly strengthen the Belarusian air defence by means of new deliveries of the S-300 systems, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in Minsk on Tuesday at a meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. The first Russian fighters will be put on combat duty in Belarus this year.
According to the Kommersant daily, the RF Defence Ministry considers the area of ··the city of Baranovichi as the main site for the airbase. “There is not only an airport there, but also 558 Aircraft Repair Plant - if necessary, all types of repair will be possible there, the more so that the plant has enough capacity for that,” a source in the Russian Defence Ministry said. “In addition, our Belarusian colleagues have deployed in the area a large number of air defence systems, which will provide cover for our fighters.” He specified that it will be the Su-30 aircraft, and the deployment of an airbase in Belarus is dictated by Russia’s obligations within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the Union State to ensure defence of the west.
Shoigu himself explained the importance of Russian-Belarusian relations in the following way: “We have a joint program to create a unified air defence system, which should be reliable and thorough. Apart from this, there is a major program for military-technical cooperation. All this is done totally open-heartedly, as among friends and neighbours.”
According to military expert Viktor Litovkin, quoted by the Izvestia newspaper, the main goal of the creation of Russia’s military airbase in Belarus is the protection of the Union State from NATO forces in Europe.
“It is a very good decision within the framework of the Russia-Belarus Union State, taking into account that Belarus has airfields suitable for this and the reconstruction of which will not take too much money,” the expert said. “Moreover, we must remember that, in particular, the fourth-generation F-16 fighters, which can carry free-fall nuclear bombs, are deployed at NATO airbases in the countries bordering on Belarus.”
“Generally, no problems should arise, because two Russian military bases are already deployed in Belarus,” he concluded.
For the strengthening of the unified regional air defence system, according to Sergei Shoigu, in 2014, Russia will supply to Belarus four squadrons of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, and in 2015 the Russian Air Force will deploy in the territory of the allies a fighter aircraft regiment, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper writes. The creation of the command and control centre for this airbase will be started this year.
For Alexander Lukashenko, who is often called by Western countries “the last dictator in Europe,” now there is no need to fear the “Libyan scenario” for himself,” according to the newspaper.