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Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus is ready for constructive dialogue with NATO but will defend its national interests

Status and prospects of the Belarusian army. This was the main topic today at a meeting of Alexander Lukashenko with the command of the Armed Forces. The geopolitical situation in the world is different, and it affects Belarus.  

Just three months ago, Major-General Andrei Ravkov became head of the Defense Ministry of the country.  The President asked the new defense minister to outline the development of the armed forces. The state secretary of the Security Council and the Board of the Ministry bear responsibility for the army. They met the commander-in-chief's motorcade together.

Army is the most important link of the society. This is the first such conversation in four years.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
The army must adequately respond to current challenges and threats. However, we can invest in it only the money that we have. Therefore, further steps in the development of the army must be thoroughly weighed and calculated.

After the conversation, which was held behind closed doors before the main meeting, the Defense Minister enumerated the subjects.

Andrei Ravkov, Defense Minister of the Republic of Belarus:
We discussed the whole complex of problems. The Head of State agreed with our proposals. Questions relate to the purchase of aircraft, armored vehicles and off-road vehicles. Repair of existing aircraft and a number of other tasks for the purchase of equipment that provides intelligence, radar surveillance, communications and the like.

In this hall are the Command of the Armed Forces. Senior officers from military units and departments are sitting in the great hall of the Ministry of Defense. 

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President: 
Geopolitical contradictions between Russia and NATO member states are growing. The military confrontation in the south-east of the fraternal Ukraine continues. 
The US and its Western allies are still conducting systematic activities to consolidate their leading position in the military, political and economic spheres.
Today see a reduction in the effectiveness of the international security system. Organizations such as the UN and OSCE are influenced by the respective states. And we would not be wrong if we said that they are no more able to carry out functions relating to international security. New a state does not need an approval from the UN Security Council to use force against the other sovereign state.

In the context of a difficult international situation and economic difficulties, the domestic political situation in Belarus remains stable, the President said. Concepts such as safety and the state's care about a person become more important.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
Even in such difficult external conditions, we will not retreat from the pursuit of the foreign policy of peace; we will continue to defend our interests. Of course, we would like to continue to rely on the power of the brotherly Russia taking into account our interests relating to the sovereignty and independence of Belarus.
We also consider cooperation in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization as a guarantor of security and stability in Belarus on the Eurasian continent. However, this does not mean that Belarus refuses to interact with other countries and military-political organizations. As a sovereign state, we are open to a constructive dialogue, including with NATO, on the principles of parity and transparency. We have many common issues and collaboration in them fully meets the interests of Belarus.

Faced with the complicated international situation and the current economic difficulties, we can say with confidence: the internal political situation in Belarus remains stable. And, you know that earlier some said that Lukashenko was wasting money on modernization and improvement of the weapons for our army. But now, especially after the events in Ukraine, all understand that it is necessary to feed soldiers and the army must have sufficient in order to ensure their own interests. But the situation is calm in our country. It does not mean that we can afford to relax, especially ... after a series of events that took place, including in our brotherly Ukraine and Belarus. No one can think that everything is well today. That we are great peacemakers and mediators and someone will pay us. Do not be deceived. I emphasize again: no one can guarantee a quiet life. We will do everything to make this life calm, but we must have first of all an efficient army. If necessary, we should be able to protect the independence and sovereignty of our country. But we will never get involved in stupid mindless confrontation with someone else. We will conduct a reasonable and restrained policy. We do not need someone else's things but we will not give away ours.

Modernization of military equipment and retooling. Results of the exercises and international exhibitions confirm the high level of the Belarusian army.

Dmitry Poverennyi, Deputy Head of the International Department of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Belarus:
My work is connected with visits to other countries and I often see other armed forces. I will say that, indeed, our army is one of the efficient in Europe. This is noted by our foreign colleagues.

Along with the open invasion, the so-called "color" revolutions take a special place in the arsenal of modern opponents. New strategies are used in fighting. Alexander Lukashenko assured that Belarus has its own ways of responding to these challenges.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President: 
Important social and political processes in Belarus are traditionally accompanied by the intensification of attempts and the fifth column, and its foreign backers to shake the political situation in Belarus. We don't expect that their activity will decline in a presidential election year. These "leaders" have a special understanding of politics - instead of constructive alternative proposals, fair and open struggle for the sympathy of voters, they are engaged in provocations and all those things that we know.  We have effective tools to respond adequately. But only in the legal field. And we all need to understand that we will not let any Maidans happen in Belarus.

Economy and thriftiness is a priority not only for civilians, but also for people in uniform. Funds should be spent only if it is really necessary. But even with such diligent approach, Belarus will not spare money when it comes to soldiers.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President: 
I often say: we will have a normal economy and there will be no shocks. You are military men and you protect this economy... You will not argue that I have taken all the decisions, including personnel decisions, in order for the economy to function well today. There should be no deterioration in the economy. Economic indicators may not increase this year. If we keep these levels in this crisis year, which is due to an external influence on our economy, then we will have peace and quiet, no color revolutions.
The funds requested by the Ministry of Defense will be found. And if we realize what we want to, and the plan is up to 2020, we will have by 2035-the 2040s a decent army, on which will not have to spend so much because before 2020, we will carry out basic reforms and modernize our army so that it will be effective.

Recently, Belarus has taken measures to strengthen labor discipline. This is stipulated in Decree No.5. All this applies to the life of the army, too.  The President promised to personally check the level of training of people in uniform.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
We must understand that if we keep the officer corps as part of a well-trained army, we will have combat-capable armed forces. And just mountains of weapons, even the most modern, without real military professionals, are useless.

The maintaining of good physical shape should be the daily norm of each officer. And in this case, of course, the example of the commander is vital.

Alexander Lukashenko:
I will ask the Secretary of State to do study of the program so I can check our officers: how they run, jump, use transport, guns and so on.
This year we must look at our officer corps, from the central office to specific military units.

We have probably focused too much on joint exercises with the Russian Federation. We need to carry out our own exercises, according to the vision that we discussed today.  We will still cooperate with our brothers. That's good. But we should always rely on ourselves. If someone helps us, this is good. Therefore, we need to plan our drills so that we are able to use the concept we talked over today and carry out small mobile exercises.
If someone fights against us, these will be dispersed forces, these will be highly-equipped and mobile groups. We must respond causing unacceptable damage to the aggressor. So let's carry out such exercises to ensure that our soldiers are able to act in this situation.
I warned the leadership of the Ministry of Defense today and I warn you: do not rush to write off everything and throw away. Do everything in a businesslike way.
At the time of hostilities (God forbid), we will have to mobilize the territorial army of more than 100,000 people. It is necessary to train these people. It is necessary to keep them under control and carry out drills lasting from 2-3 days to a week.

The state will continue to build housing for officers.

Alexander Lukashenko:
Housing for military families and families is the main concern of our state. A soldier should not worry about the rear.
We have somewhere around 7,000-9,000 families who do not have their own separate homes.  We need to aim to build housing for them.

Despite the objectively existing economic difficulties and the need for austerity, the level of social protection of servicemen and their families will remain at the same level.

Alexander Lukashenko:
I will not promise mountains of gold, I cannot promise anything excessive. But if there is the slightest possibility for further support of the army, we will do it. And this is not due to some political events. It is caused by only one - the army should not live much better than other people but it should boast decent living conditions. 

The high level of support is a kind of compensation for risk and night shifts.

Oleg Belokonev, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces - First Deputy Minister of Defense of the Republic of Belarus:
We have the most socio-guaranteed segment of society - servicemen. They have access to preferential loan system, housing (about which the head of state said today), guaranteed wages, quite early retirement age. But the load experienced by servicemen is serious.