Russian and Belarussian anti-aircraft forces are cooperating to create a joint anti-aircraft system. Joint exercises on the territories of the two countries have become a regular occurrence.

September 7 marked the beginning of command-staff exercise of CIS anti-aircraft forces. Representatives of the anti-aircraft forces of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine participated in the exercise. These countries have signed an agreement on the creation of a joint anti-aircraft system. Since that time, the agreement has carried the force of law; its period of validity is unlimited, and joint exercises are organized monthly. This exercise differs from previous ones, because battle planes of three Slavic countries will perform actual maneuvers. Lieutenant-General Valery Kostenko, Commander-in-Chief of the Belarussian Anti-Aircraft Force, explained on the eve of the exercise that the Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian Air Forces will participate in the exercise in battle mode “with nonstop flights over the territories of the exercise participants.”

This exercise is being conducted within the framework of preparing a joint Russian-Belarussian anti-aircraft system. The aims and tasks of the system are to be announced in October. According to plan, the system will consist of the forces of the Belarussian Anti-Aircraft Force, the anti-aircraft forces of the Baltic Fleet, and Russian frontier guard troops. Kostenko said that, “The possibility of the participation of Russian frontier guard troops must be considered by military specialists.” He noted that the creation of a joint system “does not run counter” to CIS agreements.

The creation of a joint system means a closer integration of the anti-aircraft systems of Moscow and Minsk. It is possible that Kazakhstan will join the Russian-Belarussian joint system, said Major-General Kopen Akhmadiev, Chief of the Main Staff of the Kazakh Anti-Aircraft Force. This means that Moscow has initiated a new way of integrating anti-aircraft systems of the former Soviet republics.

It is clear that Moscow and Minsk steps towards integration are connected with threats to the Union of the two Slavic countries. That is why they take in consideration problems connected with NATO. On August 9 – August 12, anti-aircraft forces of Russia and Belarus conducted an exercise in the Kaliningrad special region. This was the first such exercise in the history of Russian-Belarussian relations. In the past, Belarussian anti-aircraft forces trained on the Ashuluk firing range in the Astrakhan region. Now Belarussian forces will train in the Baltic region.

Colonel Alexander Pilyaev, Chief of the Joint System Department, said it was more advisable and cheaper to conduct exercises in the Baltic region. However, Ashuluk still remains the main field for combat training. August 21 – August 26 seven members of the CIS anti-aircraft system conducted an exercise on this firing range. During this exercise Belarussian anti-aircraft troops destroyed planes without pilots (cruise missiles). The scenario of the exercise resembles the situation during NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia. Belarussian divisions acted competently; all targets were destroyed. The Belarussian Air Force cooperated with anti-aircraft troops during the exercise.

The Joint System also consists of a strategic missile component. In 2000, Russia began to use a radar station near Baranovichy (a settlement in the south-west of the republic). In addition Belarussian forces guard empty missile silos in order to preserve the republic’s military infrastructure. The Belarussian Defense Ministry has suspended the dismantling of military firing ranges. The total area of military firing ranges in the republic is no less than 1% of the territory of Belarus.

Cooperation between Russian and Belarussian ground forces is also developing. Last year more than 60 command-staff exercises were conducted.

The leaders of the two Slavic countries note that Russian-Belarussian contacts are long-term. The General Staffs of the two republics exchange their plans connected with NATO’s aggression in the Balkans. According to official sources, military departments of Russia and Belarus are working on creating a joint system of regional security, which will include the anti-aircraft system. Military integration of Russia and Belarus is gathering steam. The fact that Moscow and Minsk see threats to Russian and Belarussian security forms the basis of the successful integration.