Lukashenka plays down Russian airbase plans

"As Commander-in-chief I lack two dozens modern warplanes. It is yet under discussion whether there will be a base or Russian fighter jets will be deployed at the existing airfields," said the head of the state.

"This is a PR move, which aims to mitigate the negative consequences of the statements [about plans to deploy a Russian fighter jets airbase," reckons military expert Aliaksandr Alesin.

The statement about the planned deployment of a Russian aviation regiments in Belarus was made by Russain defense minister Sergey Shoygu. In the view of Alesin, it was a statement by the politician but the military commander. It is not common for military commanders to announce something that is yet to occur.

Alesin: "They do not pronounce oudly something that is not yet finalized. Shoygu voiced the content of negotiations he had been into. Apparently, the issue is high on agenda; a preliminary decision was made. But statements about a Russian base in Belarus bring about image losses."

Lukashenka and his entourage seem to have realized the image losses after the statement. That's why he stated that warplanes could be procured, while the issue of an airbase is under discussion.

Alesin: "They did not understand it in the very beginning. But now they have analyzed the situation and decided it could be bargaining chip in the hands of the opposition and a weak point in talks with the West. Therefore, Lukashenka has suspended the deployment of an airbase. Attempts by the opposition look very helpless. This proves weakness of opposition experts who are failing to use this statement in order to launch a powerful propaganda campaign. Lukashenka has reacted faster."

In the viewа of Alesin, the problem with the lack of warplanes coukld be solved by two ways:

"Either we buy the warplanes at certain conditions, or they deploy an aviation regiment here. But there is no money for that in the budget. Russia could rent them out, but this is a very unlikely scenario."

If the airbase is deployed indeed, it will definitely be a Russian territory ruled by Russian laws and military statues. There will be no Belarusain sovereignty on the territory of the airbase. The population of Belarus is hardly to be happy about all this, reckons Alesin.

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