Lukashenka promises to discuss issue of possible Russian airbase in Belarus with Putin

”I swear I have not discussed this issue with Putin,” the Belarusian leader said at a polling station in Minsk after casting his ballot in the presidential election.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka promised Sunday that he would discuss the issue of Russia’s possible airbase in Belarus with Vladimir Putin.

”I swear I have not discussed this issue with Putin,” the Belarusian leader said at a polling station in Minsk after casting his ballot in the presidential election. “This information was produced by the media, which probably took it from a meeting of the Russian government and gave it out for an unknown reason,” he said.

“If Russia sees what we cannot see – although we are closer to the West than Russia, and we can see more than Russia – then Russia will tell us,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “We may be wrong about some things. If the issue is about the air force, it will be raised unambiguously: ‘Please give us these [24] aircraft. If you don`t want to give them, sell them or rent them to us and we will use them at our bases.’”

Mr. Lukashenka expressed doubt that Russia was going to establish an airbase in Belarus because this would cost “huge money.” “We have enough bases of our own,” he said.

“I do not understand why you got so excited about that,” Mr. Lukashenka said, speaking to a reporter from a Latvian television network. “If a [Russian] air base existed in Belarus, what purposes would it serve? It makes no difference for a Su fighter jet whether to take off from an airfield in Babruysk or Pskov, Smolensk, or even Moscow. There is absolutely no difference! Five hundred kilometers is not a long distance for this interceptor fighter aircraft. Reporters just picked up this piece of news and started to play it up, scaring people. There is no reason for you to fear.”

There is no sense in establishing a Russian airbase in Belarus, Mr. Lukashenka noted. “We don`t need any bases,” he said.

Belarus and Russia form a union state and are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and have different sectors of responsibility, he noted. “We are located in the west, in direct contact with NATO units,” he said. “We do not want to wage war against anyone – we have always said so – but we have to keep our powder dry. Bearing this in mind and since you [the West] are ahead of us in the process, we shape some adequate military-political policy. That is why we have signed an agreement with Russia within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Union State, as well as a bunch of other agreements in addition to the initial one for the purpose of ensuring our economic, political, and military-political stability. Belarus and the Russian Federation have created an appropriate military grouping here, in the western sector. The Belarusian army is at its core, having 70,000 troops at present. The army is being constantly modernized and improved. We keep an eye on the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and other places. …We draw appropriate conclusions and adjust our armed forces on the basis of those conflicts.”

“If, God forbid, a conflict starts here, the Belarusian army will try to deal with it primarily on its own, but the Russian army will give us support within a few days,” Mr. Lukashenka said, asking reporters not to take his words out of context.

“Bases are not the point,” he said. “The point is that we will stand to the last man here in Belarus together with Russian people and everyone else who is willing to support us. Tell me whether we need some base, some air force unit to accomplish this here. What can aircraft do if, let`s say, they are relocated from Russia to some Belarusian airfield?”

Belarus does not need a Russian airbase, but it does need to beef up its air defenses, Mr. Lukashenka noted.

Belarus is developing systems that will make a war against it impossible, he said “An air force regiment will not be able to cool hot heads at NATO, but missiles will,” he said. “That is why anti-aircraft missile systems will be used to defend Belarus and Russia because this is our sector of responsibility. If you tell us that you want to wage war against Russia from your territory – thinking that Belarus will stand aloof of it – you should know that we will join in the fight right away. We have an agreement with Russia to this effect. We will defend Russia here, in Belarus, not in Ukraine, Syria or some other southern places. We have to defend Russian lands here. A few days later we will be reinforced by Russian aircraft, guided missiles and so on.”

According to Mr. Lukashenka, if Russia agrees to hand over the requested 24 military aircraft to Belarus, they will be flown by Belarusian pilots. Belarus has excellent pilots, he stressed.