President of Belarus, Alexandr Lukashenko, stated that Belarus does not need a Russian Airbase. This may be interpreted as an objection towards the Russian plans, which assume that permanent infrastructure of the Russian Air Force would be established within the territory of the Poland’s eastern neighbour. In return, President of Belarus postulates that Russia should provide the BelarusianAir Force with new fighters.
According to the report published by the BBC, Lukashenko stated that the Moscow-Minsk negotiations related to establishment of the airbase, did not take place. President of Belarus added that his country has some well-trained pilots, and that it needs new aircraft, rather than the airbases. Lukashenko is skeptical, when it comes to the Russian plans.
In the second half of September, Vladimir Putin ordered the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs to begin talks with Belarus, in order to sign an agreement related to establishment of an airbase, within the territory of Belarus. Probably, a fighter regiment would be stationed at that base. The unit would be using the Su-27M3 jets.
After Putin ordered the relevant ministries to get involved the negotiations with Minsk, Belarusian opposition protested against the plans related to establishment of a Russian airbase, within the territory of the state. Currently, the presidential election is on the go in Belarus, however the way in which the procedure is being carried out may mean that the election could be treated only as a continued approval and legitimization of Lukashenko’s position of power.
According to the Belsat reports, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Kremlin, stated that “he is not ready” to make any comments on the statements made by the Belarusian president, regarding the airbase. We know though, that Lukashenko, earlier on, had been sceptical, when it comes to deployment of the Russian jets, complemented with establishment of a permanent airbase, within the territory of Belarus.
The plans related to deployment of a Russian Air Force jets in Belarus have been regularly mentioned in the media since 2013. After Poland decided to acquire the AGM-158A JASSM missiles, the initial potential location of the base was shifted from Baranoviche to Bobruysk, in order to get it further away from the Polish borders.
Recalling the above statement made by the Belarusian President may mean, that he perceives deployment of the combat units of the Russian forces as a potential threat for the national security. Lukashenko is a strong opponent of military cooperation with Russia. He confirmed the fact that there are plans assuming that Minsk would cooperate with the Russian Armed Forces, should a conflict break out. However, the President of Belarus is trying to become more independent, proposing that Russia delivers jets for his own forces, which – in turn – would make it possible for the Belarusian Air Force to enhance its capabilities, and to become more independent.
Meanwhile, it is hard to assess whether Moscow is going successfully complet the process of realizing the plans related to establishment of an airbase for an aviation regiment, within the territory of Belarus. We cannot rule out a situation in which Lukashenko fails to resist the Moscow-imposed pressure, despite his refusal. However, such outcome could be related to some additional costs for Moscow – e.g. Russia would be forced to provide some additional economic assistance for Belarus.