Belarus has announced that it tested its new rocket-launcher system in China, the latest sign of an increasing military partnership between the two countries. And Belarus’s president Aleksandr Lukashenko took the opportunity to take swipes at both Russia and NATO countries, suggesting Minsk may be more comfortable with Beijing than with any of its neighbors in Europe.
The Polonez multiple-launch rocket system is Belarus’s highest-profile defense industry innovation, and took the spotlight at the country’s May 9 Victory Day parade this year. Many analysts have suggested that it bears traces of Chinese origin and may use rockets (which Belarus doesn’t produce) from China. So the fact that it was tested in China certainly gives credence to that speculation.
But the press release announcing the test, which featured comments from Lukashenko, was unusually feisty for the genre. «Our ally, Russia, is not so active in supporting our aspirations. We will talk about that separately with the Russian president,» Lukashenko said, without citing which aspirations were not being supported. «But we thank the People’s Republic of China and its leadership for this support.»
Lukashenko also took aim at NATO, though he was a bit more understanding to his western neighbors: «They constantly publicly demonstrate their activities, especially on our borders,» he said. «This activity can not but alarm us. But this isn’t really an issue. We understand the propaganda aspect of these acts. You need to keep your powder dry. We have always said this.»
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Minsk in May (just after attending Victory Day celebrations in Moscow) and signed a «treaty of friendship and cooperation» with Lukashenko, which includes security cooperation. “The parties to the treaty take the joint efforts to preserve and strengthen peace and stability in Eurasia, to turn the region into a zone of peace, security and sustainable development, joint wellbeing and harmony,” the document says.
If confirmed, the Chinese role in the Polonez and the use of Chinese rockets would take military cooperation between the two countries «to a new level,» wrote the Belarus Security Blog, suggesting that this could open the door for more advance equipment sales, such as China’s J-10 fighter jet as a replacement for Belarus’s ageing MiG-29s.