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New Russian Air Base In Belarus

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  • New Russian Air Base In Belarus

    Negotiations Begin Over New Russian Air Base In Belarus
    January 11, 2014

    Russia has taken the first steps toward establishing its first air base in Belarus, but questions remain over how much Moscow will have to pay for the privilege. Last month, four Russian Su-27 fighter jets and their support personnel arrived at the Baranovichi air base, near Belarus's borders with Poland and Lithuania (both NATO members). The move is part of a plan to set up a Russian fighter jet regiment, likely at another base in Belarus, by 2015. RIA Novosti writes that the new base would be "Russia’s first on Belorussian territory in modern times." The terms of the base agreement, however, are yet to be worked out, which holds the promise of some interesting times ahead in Russia-Belarus relations. At the end of December, Russia's ambassador to Minsk said that the two sides would work out the terms together, saying that "these things don't happen for free."

    As I understand it, Russian technicians and military personnel will control the air base. Most air bases in Belarus have been deactivated (lack of funding) and its fighter jets are obsolete. Last year Belarus allocated just 1.2% of GDP to defense spending. Russia has guaranteed a discounted oil price for only the first six months of 2014. One of the reasons for this could be to provide Russia with leverage concerning the negotiated fees for the air base.

    Putin has agreed to lend Belarus $2 billion dollars (10 year payback window) in 2014, but this is far too little. The Belarus ruble (BYR) will probably be devalued again. Currently ~9600 BYR = $1.