- - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

TASS, the Russian news agency, reported today that the Belarusian defense minister, Gen. Lt. Andrey Ravkov, has stated that a Russian airbase in the eastern city of Babruysk, Belarus, is in the political stage of discussion.

“The timeframe and place of stationing a Russian aviation base on the territory of Belarus is currently in the political dimension of consideration,” he said. “It is too early to talk about transfer of Su-27 aircraft and Mi-8 helicopters from the Russian Federation. However, our defense ministry is ready to undertake all necessary measures to practically fulfill this.”

Belarus has walked a tightrope between the European Union and Russia since the Ukraine conflict started early last year, wary of Russian expansionist goals and Belarus’ place in a Russian-controlled political or economic union. However, this announcement could herald a new military cooperation between the two former Soviet countries.

The defense forces of Belarus are also in discussions regarding the sale of Russian S-400 missile systems, which would provide a powerful obstacle to NATO attack aircraft and guided missiles.

The Baltics and Poland have been especially vocal about NATO permanently stationing forces in Eastern Europe to counter the perceived Russian threat. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be pulling some force structure and basing options out of the hat on his own.

Mr. Ravkov went on to say, “Along with strengthening the aviation component of NATO member-countries in the Baltics States and Poland that perform the functions of hoarding the airspace, the Alliance is gradually concentrating additional military contingents equipped with heavy weaponry near the Belarusian borders. Regardless of geopolitical prerequisites for such decisions made by our foreign partners, Belarus cannot ignore changes in the military-political situation in the region, that bear additional risks, challenges and threats to the country’s military security.”

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