The “Belarusian balcony” is strategically important for Russia.
Military observer Aliaksandr Alesin made this statement at the conference “Belarus in Transition. Problems, Challenges and Expectations”, which was held in Warsaw, a charter97.org correspondent reports.
“How does the military cooperation between Russia and Belarus look like today? Actually, as Lukashenka said, we and the Russians, in fact, have the common army. Russia and we have the common regional air defence system consisting of both Belarusian and Russian units, and the common command. The current formal commander is a Belarusian general, but commanders rotate, and a Russian general may head it tomorrow. We have the common group of land forces including the land forces of Belarus and Russia,” he noted.
The expert noted the “legislation describes the staying of Russian troops with weapons in Belarus: where they stay, how they are supplied and so on.”
“In fact, Russian troops in Belarus don't have a status of foreign troops. It's easy, for example, to send a group of fighter jets to Baranavichy. It will be easy to deploy a military base near the town of Lida. We have to understand it. The main thing is to take into account the importance of the 'Belarusian balcony' for Russia. It can threaten Ukraine from the north, threaten Poland to the west and the Baltic States to the north. Russia will never give the territory of Belarus. If democratic forces become active or if an undemocratic ruler, who won't seek cooperation with Russia, appears, we can say for sure Belarus will be occupied by the Russian troops,” Aliaksandr Alesin is confident.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said during a visit to Minsk on April 23, 2013, that Russia had plans to deploy an aviation regiment in Belarus by 2015.
Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev said on June 26, 2013, a Russian air base would be set in Lida (the Hrodna region) and become operational in 2013. Su-27SM3 fighter jets will be stationed there.
It was reported later that fighter jets would be stationed in Baranovichy on alert duty.