by Seymur Mammadov
- Armenia and Belarus have recently signed a cooperation plan in defence. Which Belorussian armaments, do you think, could interest Armenia?
- To be honest, the relations between these two countries in the field of defence can be evaluated as above average – both in the volume (money, which the parties allocate for military cooperation) and the level of technologies that the parties exchange. I would say the cooperation is rather little here. In due time applied for participating in the projects of the “Defence System” Interstate Financial and Industrial Group (IFIG) on developing, producing and modernizing air defence facilities, which included Russian and Belorussian core enterprises. Armenia wanted to yield results from this cooperation, but they could not.
They managed to modernize the S-125 “Neva” (export variant – “Pechora”) midrange anti-aircraft missile system to reach the “Pechora-2M” version under the “Defence System” IFIG, which can be considered the trademark of the Russian-Belorussian cooperation in the field. They have many orders, some from Egypt, and Armenia was going to participate in the delegation of work.
When it comes to other examples of military work delegation, I can make assumptions on which systems could potentially interest Armenia. Firstly, it is the radiolocation system. Lately, Minsk has authored great achievements in producing and developing radar stations, and volumetric ones at that. I do not exclude that these systems might be delivered to Armenia, as a range of countries, including Vietnam and Pakistan, have shown great interest for them. You are probably aware that Iran had used Belorussian radars to intercept American drones. These are system of great quality.
Moving on, these might be means for electronic warfare. What kind of means you would ask. These are means for combating UAVs.
Belorussian company “Radar” produces facilities, which allows breaching the positioning system and interrupting signal with drones. If interfered, the drones either land or fall. Considering the fact that Azerbaijan is building cooperation with Israel in the field of UAVs including combat drones, I do not exclude the fact that Armenia might also request such systems.
Besides, Belarus has developed systems of transmission interruption. We have facilities, which allow interrupting cellular communication, satellite communication and other types of communication.
Belarus has also built systems, which allow tricking antiaircraft defence. Which means that radar locators are sent wrong signals, which means that the radar operators receive distorted information about the whereabouts of the aircraft in the air and while they see an object, they start opening fire at a spot where there is no aircraft.
There is another complex, called the “Kondor”. It allows a small UAV to portray a situation in the air, as if there is a big aerial attack. It serves to “wake up” air defence facilities, they start working, the UAV later detects them and transmits data to its control station.
The abovementioned air defence means, which are meant for defence, so I do not exclude that Belarus will deliver them to Armenia. But I do not believe that Minsk will supply airborne weapons to Yerevan.
- Can Belarus supply the “Polonez” multiple launch rocket system to Belarus?
- I do not think so. When Russia supplied the “Iskander” to Armenia, President Lukoshenko was offended. And since then the offence is still there, he is a very simple person, but does not forget an offence. Lukashenko thinks that the situation with NATO became strained after Armenia was supplied with a powerful strategic weapon.
The NATO troops are concentrated at our borders. Poland is acquiring the newest types of weapons. Lukashenko believes that the Iskanders should have been primarily delivered to Belarus. I do not think that he will supply Armenia with a lethal arms of such grade as a multiple launch rocket system, especially if it is a long-range one.
But besides the offence factor, there is also the moral obligation so to speak. It might not even be written on paper before Azerbaijan. And I think that the Belorussian leader will not mar his relations with a traditional partner in order to build closer cooperation with one partner.
- You mentioned that Belarus should have received the “Iskanders” first, not Armenia. When did Minsk request these rocket complexes from Moscow?
- In 2005 I was taking part in military exercises and the guided missile unit commander told me that there were plans to replace all the missile brigades in Belarus with “Iskander” complexes by 2020. Besides, these plans have existed since 2002 and Belarus has been requesting these complexes from Russia ever since. We even included them in our re-equipment plan, but you can see that these rockets have still not been delivered into the inventory of the Belorussian army. At the same time, Armenia is not richer than Belarus.
- So what is the reason? Why did Moscow refuse to supply “Iskanders” to Minsk?
- As far as I know, the Russian security services acted against it. They are scared that their developments in the field of the rocket complex will leak outside the country. At first they said that the Russian army has not been fully reequipped with “Iskanders”, so they were first directing these rockets for internal consumption. Based on the information I have, they have one more guided missile brigade to reequip. There are 11 guided missile brigades in the Russian army and only one of them has not been reequipped with the “Iskanders” yet.
Lukashenko and Putin discussed the supply of the “Iskanders” in the back rooms at the latest CSTO session, as the relations between Russia and NATO have gone downhill. Poland is planning to acquire “Patriot” and “HIMARS” rocket systems.
I think should the relations between Russia and NATO worsen even more, Lukashenko will insist on receiving the “Iskanders”. And although he says that we have the “Polonez”s and we do not need anything else from Russia, he will not refuse those missiles.
Moreover, President Lukashenko wants to export the “Polonez”. He has traveled to Pakistan and the Near East and has likely promised them the “Polonez”.
- In the recent years Armenia has been taking a passive part in the military exercises with the participation of Russia and Belarus. Yerevan seems to prefer participating in NATO exercises…
- These exercises have nothing to do with Armenia within the borders of the common state. Russia and Belarus have united groups within the framework of the common state – there is a united air defence group and a united regional group of ground troops. This means that should there be an attack on Belarus, Russia will have to send a reinforcement for or army from its Western Military District shortly. All these exercises are designed for an opportunity to adequately react to potential threats on our borders. Armenia has nothing to do with it. Armenia is not a part of the CSTO. It has its own treaties. This comes to a meaning that in a certain sense Russia and we have a single army.
- Armenia has increased its military expenses by almost 20%. Can this mean that Yerevan is getting ready for a new war with Azerbaijan?
- Well, that is by no means a little number. But I do not believe that there will be a great war. What is the war for? It is meant to defeat the enemy and dictate one’s own conditions, in other words it should be offensive-dominated. Well, being offensive firstly requires a strong aviation, secondly a modern artillery system, and thirdly a contemporary missile defence system. As far as I know Armenia does not have any of it. And Armenia will not be able to acquire all of these armaments for 100 million dollars, which Russia has allocated them as credit.
Differently from Armenia, Azerbaijan is equipped with more modern types of armaments. This means from a technological superiority point of view, Azerbaijan has a stronger hand. And I think Armenia will try to reduce that inequality even for a little and modernize its defence equipment it already has in arsenal.
- Constant military presence of the USA in the Southeastern Europe, reconciliation with Serbia… Such theses are included in the report about the new strategy of the US in the Balkans “Balkans Forward: A New US Strategy for the Region”, recently published on the website of the Atlantic Council. If Trump administration approves this project, what will be the consequences for the region?
- First of all, adversarial position between Russia and the USA will deepen. The thing is that there is a struggle for Serbia and Serbia is demonstrating a dual position – on the one hand they want to join the EU, but do not want to become a member of NATO, because they fear their relations with Russia will mar. And it is unlikely that Serbia will manage to occupy both seats at once. One argument that speaks in favor of the Serbians never running towards NATO is that they will never come to terms with losing Kosovo. They are told that in order to join the EU they have to recognize Kosovo and reconcile with the Albanians. I think that will never happen. By the way, Serbia also participates in the joint exercises by Russia and Belarus. Moreover, Russia pledged to help Serbia with aircrafts and tanks. Belarus also pledged to help supply the modernized MIG-29 fighter aircrafts.
Of course the main confrontation goes on between Russia and the USA. But if there is a war, it will also touch Belarus.