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Belarus Defence and Security Report 2013

Belarus defence market: New market research published

For 2013, we expect Belarusian defence expenditure to be at US$1.28bn, a 29.22% increase on the US$992.87mn invested in 2012 when government cuts were implemented as a result of broader economic pressures. This will account for 1.65% of GDP, up from 1.63% in 2012. The country remains dependent on neighbouring Russia for raw material trading and political support, with Russia receiving almost 50 %of Belarusian exports. However, bilateral relations were thought to have soured between Minsk and Moscow in 2009 over conflicting attitudes towards the disputed South Caucasus territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia imperilling Belarus economy by rejecting imports when the latter refused to endorse its position. Matters improved enough in 2012 for the pair to resume oil supply negotiations, with Russian ambassador Alexander Surikov expressing his confidence that future arrangements would be in place before the end of 2012.

The reason for Belaruss reliance on Russia is its isolation as a result of Western disapproval of its unreconstructed Soviet strongman president, Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994 and authoritarian by his own admission. Lukashenko has continued to pursue Soviet policies such as stateownership of the countrys economy and has in the past expressed his enthusiasm for reforming the old Soviet bloc. His reign has been described as a dictatorship in the past and accusations of unfair presidential elections in 2006 and 2010 have led to Belaruss condemnation by the US and exclusion from the EU. However, Lukashenko visited China in 2005 and has openly courted collaboration with the Chinese in a bid to escape its dependence on Vladimir Putins Russian Federation. Indeed, Belarus received a US$1bn soft loan from China in September 2011 to relieve its current account deficit crisis and the relationship could blossom. Ambassador Andrei Molchan also met with Hifikepunye Pohamba, the President of Namibia, in October 2012 to sound out the prospect of future collaborations, while Lukashenko himself met with Marino Murillo, Deputy Chairman of Cubas Council of Ministers, for similar reasons.

Of its 9.45mn population, Belarus has 4.74mn men and women aged between 16 and 49 available for military service in 2012, approximately 49.74%. Lukashenko has described his countrys conscripted armed forces as a human shield guarding Russias western front, emphasising the importance the Belarusian president places on the alliance as he seeks additional military funding and affordably priced gas and crude oil in exchange. Lukashenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on September 15 2012 to discuss a range of issues including military co-operation and subsequently told reporters: I asked for support and Ive got it. In the near future we will get modern airplanes for to carry out duty services on the border. It has been suggested in the past that the Belarusian military could be integrated into Russias as part of the Union State confederation, a proposition that would see Belarus receive a wealth of new resources and enhanced professionalism but surrender a great deal of power and autonomy.

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