Lieutenant-General Valery Kostenko, commander of Belarusan air defense forces, and an accompanying military delegation conferred in Russia’s Kaliningrad Region on May 26-28 with General Anatoly Kornukov and Admiral Vladimir Yermolov, commanders, respectively, of Russia’s air defense forces and of Russian naval, land and air forces in the Kaliningrad Region. The commanders finalized plans for creating a unified air defense system of Belarus, the Kaliningrad-based Russian forces and the Moscow military district, under a single command in Moscow. The system will involve joint air patrols of Russian and Belarusan planes and real-time data transmission from Belarusan air defense units to Russia’s central air defense headquarters in the Moscow region. The latter part of the arrangement resembles that between Russia and Armenia, as part of their unified air defense system under single command, which went into operation last year.
Russian and Belarusan commanders will take turns heading the unified system. Belarusan units will conduct fire practice with the S-300 surface-to-air missiles of Russian forces in the Kaliningrad Region, pending delivery of an undisclosed number of those Russian missiles to Belarus. The first such exercise is scheduled for August as part of an annual series of bilateral Russian-Belarusan exercises, distinct from the multilateral CIS air defense exercise “Combat Brotherhood” which is being conducted annually at Ashuluk in Russia’s Astrakhan Region.
In a closely related development, the Defense Ministry of Belarus has finished drafting the country’s new military doctrine, intended to supersede the document which has been in effect from 1992 to date. Ministry officials describe that document as “hopelessly overtaken” by recent developments, such as the formation of the Russia-Belarus Union with its “common defense space,” the nascent “joint regional group of forces,” the unification of air defense systems, and the decision to unify Russian and Belarusan weapons procurement programs. Cumulatively, these developments–and the new military doctrine which purports to legitimize them–signify the conclusive abandonment of Belarus’ official status of neutrality. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka inherited that status from Stanislau Shushkevich, his predecessor as head of state, only to proceed to destroy it after seizing dictatorial powers with the Kremlin’s support (Itar-Tass, May 28; Agentstvo voyennykh novostey, May 25-26, 29; BNS, May 27).
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