Ministry of Defense
Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, 180,000 Soviet troops were stationed in the Belorussian SSR; approximately half answered directly to the General Staff in Moscow rather than to Belorussian Military District commanders. This situation changed only in May 1992 when Belarus abolished the Belorussian Military District and subordinated all troops on its soil to its own Ministry of Defense.
The Belarusian armed forces officially came into existence on January 1, 1993, the day after all service personnel with Belarusian citizenship, which excluded the great majority of the officers, had taken an oath of loyalty to Belarus. Because there was no stipulation that only Belarusian citizens could serve in the armed forces, they were Belarusian forces in name only, and there was concern among groups such as the BPF that in time of crisis the loyalty of these forces might lie with Russia rather than with Belarus.
A component of this concern was the ethnic composition of the armed forces. At the end of 1992, ethnic Russians accounted for nearly half the Belarusian conscripts and some 80 percent of the officer corps. Since then, the ethnic composition of the officers has been changing gradually in favor of Belarusians as a result of legislative acts, but the process is slow. It will take years before the republic has its own Belarusian-led armed forces that are politically reliable and dedicated to Belarusian nationhood.
Another aspect of the nationality issue was that in 1993 some 40,000 Belarusian natives served as officers in the armed forces of other former Soviet republics. Many of them wished to return home for either patriotic or economic reasons, but such possibilities were limited because of the shortage of housing and the republic's scheduled military reductions in general. What concerned the Belarusian Ministry of Defense, which was dominated by Russians, was an announcement in the spring of 1992 by the Coordinating Council of the Union of Belarusian Soldiers that these officers were willing to fight against Russian military aggression in Belarus.
The decomposition of the USSR exerted serious influence on the fate of Belarus' and its armed forces. On 27 July 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR accepted declaration about the state sovereignty of republic, and on 25 August 1991, immediately after the August events in Moscow, passed the law "about giving of status of the constitutional law of the declaration of Supreme Soviet of Belorussian SSR about the state sovereignty of Belorussian Soviet socialist republic." On the basis of law of 19 September 1991, the BSSR began to be named as the "Republic of Belarus".
On 8 December, 1991, the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and the chairman of Supreme Soviet of republic Belarus, the head of the governments of these republics signed agreement about the creation of the Commonwealth the Independent States (CIS). The question about the creation of its own armed forces came up to the agenda in the republic.
Because of Belarus's geopolitical importance and its absorption of troops withdrawn from the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, it was the most militarized republic of the former Soviet Union. Even in 1993, it had a ratio of one soldier to forty-three civilians, compared with one to ninety-eight in Ukraine and one to 634 in Russia. In real numbers, this meant an estimated 243,000 troops. In addition, there was a serious imbalance in the officer-to-conscript ratio: three officers for every seven conscripts. For a republic with 10 million people, such excessively large armed forces were not necessary, and expenditure for their equipment was unacceptable. Moreover, their general number in accordance with the totals of the Helsinki agreement of 1992 should not have exceeded 100,000 soldiers. Thus between 1992 and 1996 more than 250 military formations, which went under the jurisdiction of Belarus, they ended their existence or were seriously reformed, and the number of soldiers decreased three-fold and in 1997 was stabilized on the mark into 83 thousand people.
On 20 March 1992 the decision of government "about the creation of the armed forces of republic Belarus'" was accepted. During the same day the parliament of the republic accepted the law " about the armed forces of republic Belarus' ", on the basis of which began their formation. During November 1992 Supreme Soviet accepted laws "about the defense", "about universal military duty and military service", and "about status of soldiers".
And on 6 December 1992, at 10-1 session of the twelfth convocation the parliamentarians of the republic accepted the military doctrine. Among the states of the CIS Belarus was the first that accepted such a document. Thus, the republic for the first time accepted the system of the basic views on averting of war, preservation of peace, defense building, preparation of the country and its armed forces for the repulsion of aggression, on the methods of conducting the armed combat on the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Belarus exercises overall control over the Armed Forces and is responsible for their development and preparation for fulfilling tasks of armed defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Belarus. The Ministry of Defence organises interaction of all governmental bodies on defence matters, carries out daily and combat service support of troops, works out conceptual documents and legal acts for building and development of the Armed Forces, and armaments programme. It also draws up well-grounded suggestions on the state defence order and funding of the Armed Forces.
The Belarusian military has not become involved in domestic repression (unlike the MVD and the BKGB).
General Staff of the Armed Forces is the central command and control body, which performs operational functions relating to the Armed Forces management; provides their high combat capability; organises cooperation and coordinates activity of structural elements of the state military organisation in fulfilment of tasks in the defence sphere. The Armed Forces commands are bodies of operational management of subordinated troops (forces). They elaborate and realise plans of development and use of the Armed Forces services, organise mobilisation and operational training, technical and combat service support of subordinate units' (forces') daily and combat activity.
The first step of the final stage of the reformation of the armed forces was the differentiation of the authorities of the ministry of defense and General Staff. To the ministry of defense as the organ of state control, went the responsibility of implementation of state policy on questions of defense. Exercising the general leadership of the armed forces, the ministry of defense bears full weight of responsibility for their building and development, and also preparation for the accomplishment of the objectives of the armed protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity of state. The General Staff, as the central organ of military control, will accomplish operational control of the armed forces. Furthermore, in its scope are located questions of the organization of interaction and coordination of the activity of the armed forces with other military formations in the sphere of the guarantee of defense of state.
By 2001 the new Minister of Defense was experiencing success in the area of military reform. Planned changes include combining the Air and Air defense Forces, downsizing the force structure about 30% from 83,000 to 60,000, transitioning from a conscript to a contract force, and modernizing the command and control structure by creating a Ground Forces Command between the Ministry of Defense and the units in the field. Implementation of these reforms will take an unspecified amount of time.
In December 2001 the transition of the armed forces to the two-fold structure - Ground Forces, and the Air Force (VVS) and Troops of Air Defense (PVO) -- was completed.
International military cooperation of the Republic of Belarus is carried out on the basis of State principles with taking into account national interests. It is viewed as the main direction of the state's foreign policy and is considered to be one of the ways of strengthening its defense capability. Since 1992 the Head of the state and Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Belarus have signed more than 100 different international-legal acts in the sphere of international security, military cooperation, reduce and control over armament.
Collaboration of the Republic of Belarus in technical-military sphere is normatively fixed by a range of international and intergovernmental agreements with Russia, the Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Kirgizstan, Vietnam, Laos, China and Syria. The Republic of Belarus Ministry of Defense's activities are performed according to the international obligations of the state. During this period of time the agreement on collaboration were signed with Defense ministries of the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, the USA and Germany.
One of the directions of international collaboration for Ministry of Defense is the cooperation with military departments of other states in the framework of the "Partnership for Peace" program. Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Belarus takes part in this activity in accordance with the aims and targets stated in the presentational document and the Individual partnership program of the Republic of Belarus and NATO.
The Belarusian-Russian army exercise Union Shield 2011 that took place at the end of September 2011 demonstrated high combat readiness and morale of the Belarusian Armed Forces, said Belarusian Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin at the annual seminar held on 13 October for heads of nationwide coverage mass media. The Minister pointed out that the readiness of Belarusian military personnel had been praised by top-ranking Russian army officers. “Many tasks accomplished by Belarusian and Russian units together are a vivid example of professionalism and smooth actions of the armed forces of the two countries,” he said. It was the first time so many troops and materiel had been redeployed thousands of kilometers away. About 5,000 military personnel, over 1,200 vehicles, 21 aircraft and helicopters were shipped to the Russian firing ranges Ashuluk and Gorokhovetsky. The Russian firing ranges allowed the Belarusian army units to practice long-distance armaments such as air defense missile systems S-300, Buk, and Osa, the multiple launch rocket system Smerch.
The next large-scale Belarusian-Russian army exercise Zapad 2013 will be held in Belarus in 2013, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told media on 26 October 2011 after a joint session of the boards of the Belarusian and Russian defense ministries. Results of the Belarusian-Russian army exercise Union Shield 2011 were discussed at the session. Belarusian Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin said that the exercise is the largest post-Soviet exercise in the modern history.
The heads of the Belarusian and Russian defense ministries mentioned the Union Shield 2011 exercise was the logical continuation of the Zapad 2009 exercise. This year’s exercise has allowed improving operative compatibility, interaction between military administration bodies of the two countries. The combat control system of the Belarusian army proved to be highly effective. It employed a brand new modular computerized control center that was connected to control centers of the Russian army. The Belarusian combat control system also used video conferencing tools and systems to share information in Belarus and Russia. The synergy has allowed improving the operational efficiency of troops control by five times.
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