This paper is a comparative treatment of two ministries of defense of substantial strategic importance to the world, that of Russia and Belarus. Both countries have had strained relationships with the United States and the western world and have been actively pursuing activities with those countries hostile to western imperialism such as China and Venezuela.
This paper will, first, summarize the basic structure and relations of the two ministries, and then compare and contrast them. A conclusion will attempt to bring these insights together. The Ministry of Defense of Belarus:
Interestingly, the Defense Ministry of Belarus has its roots in the reaction to the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. This disaster is one of the main reasons the two republics it affected, Ukraine and Belarus (as the city is on their border) declared independence from the USSR several years later. In fact, the very first piece of legislation establishing this ministry (in 1992) was explicitly titled the “Reaction against the Affects of Chernobyl” and acted as a form of public mobilization against the tremendous health risks of the airborne radiation (“Legislative Basis,” 2009).
But in the era of 1991-1992, historic in that it was the era of the fall of the USSR and the independence of the Warsaw Pact nations and the former Soviet Republics, saw the Belorussian state declare independence from the defunct USSR and develop its own institutions, chief among them was the ministry of defense. Several issues presented themselves: first, about half of the Belarusian republican army was of Russian descent, and second, that thousands of Belarusian troops were serving the former USSR in countries abroad.
The newly formed independent Belarusian government then implemented programs that re-Belarussianized the armed forces and brought those expatriated soldiers home (Global Security, 2008). The structure of the Defense ministry is not civilian, and in fact, a major issue in Belarusian political culture is the means by which the purely military aspects of the Ministry and its civilian contacts could be regularized. But at the moment, the entire staff of the Ministry are uniformed officers. Currently, the Minister of Defense is Col. Gen.
Leonid Maltsyev (appointed 2001), and he is supported by a general staff that includes the following offices: the chief of staff of the armed forces of the republic, the deputy minister, a ministry dedicated to armaments and acquisitions, then Logistics, army command and lastly, the air command and the air defense. As Belarus is landlocked, there is no naval force. The structure of the Ministry in terms of a chain of command is that the Defense Ministry is a part of the Council of Ministers, itself directly under the President of the Republic, currently the wildly popular Alexander Luksahenko.
The General staff serves directly under the Defense Minister, and under him stand the land, air and support staffs in a position of equality. Finally, under the land forces stand logistics. Hence, the doctrine here is that Logistics and strategy stand under the land army, while the air corps follows orders. Hence, the equality between land and air forces is theoretical only. The tradition of the ministry is that land forces should predominate, and air forces act as an auxiliary to them. The mentality and culture of the Ministry follows a very specific doctrine. Its main points are the following:
a) that the ministry is dedicated to a “balanced” cooperation among states. There is to be strict neutrality in terms of “power blocs,” and cooperation will not follow and specific “ideological” bent, but what serves the mission of the ministry in terms of the defense of the republic. b) that this ministry will never seek to acquire nuclear weapons. c) that it operates in accordance with a strict equity with other states (“Military Doctrine,” 2009). In addition, the “Military Doctrine” of the Republic is an important source for the basic functioning of the Ministry.
The most interesting elements of this more or less bureaucratic document are the conditions that must prevail for the military services of the republic to respond if the republic is threatened. The document itself calls this the “political-military” situations that permit the usage of armed force in general, but are obviously applied to Belarus specifically. Hence it is a sort of a moral blueprint where force can be used, though it does not specify the amount of force in each case. These are: a) the lack of effective political mechanisms to solve political problems.
b) economic imperialism , that is, the desire for advanced countries to use their economic and political clout to exploit smaller and weaker states; c) the domination of a few major powers over the resources of the globe d) the development of new technologies that threaten the typical military balance in the world e) the use of propaganda to overthrow states (in other words, the use of a controlled media to manipulate public opinion over and above normal democratic channels) f) the manipulation of ethnic groups in order to create a volatile situation (“Bases,” 2009).
Needless to say, this official doctrine of the defense ministry makes perfect sense given the small size and vulnerability of the republic. Belarus is a part of the non-aligned movement, which brings the Ministry of Defense, Foreign Affairs and the Presidency into regular co-operation. Since Belarus has regular treaties with Venezuela, Russia, Vietnam and China, the policy here is to co-operate fully with the president and the foreign ministry in developing a “non-aligned” movement that seeks to alter the current “uni-polar” nature of global power.
Hence, the Defense Ministry is following directives placed by the presidency and the Foreign Ministry in developing a place in the world for smaller, weaker powers who seek to create a power balance with the west rather than have the west dominate them. Hence, the Defense Ministry has adopted a defense policy that is completely in line with that of the presidency, the council of ministers, the foreign ministry and the nature of being in charge of the defense of a small country. Lastly, since Belarus economically is one of the most dynamic countries in the world, the funding of the military forces has never been an issue (IMF, 2009).
The fall of the USSR meant that many of the Russian forces in the Warsaw Pact countries were backed right into Belarus, leading to a situation where Belarus was one of the most militarized countries in the world. President Lukashenko sought to reduce the number of forces, end conscription, and hence, reduce the strain of the armed forces on the budget. Today, the armed forces are a fraction of what they cost in 1992, leading to a smooth relationship with the finance ministry and the presidency. Thus, in conclusion, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Belarus is a model for the developing world.
It seeks no political power, since it already is directly represented in the council of ministers and the ministry itself is run by uniformed officers appointed by the President. It cooperates fully with the foreign ministry in developing a military doctrine in line with the “non-aligned” movement. It seeks a balanced co-operation with the world and a reduction in the number of both nuclear and conventional weapons systems in world politics. It has been steadily reducing its cost to the ministry of finance, leading to–to say the least–a smooth working relationship. The Defense Ministry of Russia
The structure of the Russian Ministry of Defense is largely civilian. The Minister himself is Anatoly Serdyuvkov, who, significantly, was a former tax official under Putin. However, immediately under him is a uniformed officer, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, who was the former commander of the Siberian military district. This is significant for one major reason, it is the post that places the Russian armed forces in direct connection and communication with the Asian powers, especially China. Under the Minister and General Makarov, there is a First Deputy Minister and a States Secretary for Defense.
Under him is a woman, Lyubov Kudelina, who is in charge of the relationships between Finance and Defense. While the Minister himself is a former tax official, Mrs. Kudelina also worked at Finance and was deeply involved with tax collection. It would be noted that at the fall of the USSR between 1990 and 1993, tax collection almost completely bottomed out. The money and institutions for collection no longer functioned, and taxes were reduced to protection money from the local criminal gangs. Vladimir Putin, financed by oil money, reversed this trend.
Hence, there should be no surprise that two major figures in the defense ministry have little military experience, but were both close to the financial and taxing apparatus (“Senior Officials,” 2009). Under the Defense Ministry’s Finance representative lies, not surprisingly, the chief of armaments, the chief of Logistics and another deputy minister. Since logistics and armaments procurement are costly productions, their subordination to the finance representative is no surprise. This structure seems eminently rational. It builds in inter-agency cooperation within the Defense Ministry itself especially within the all-important financial end.
What is more important, however, is how the agency views itself, its mission and its role in the government. Like in the Belarussian case, the Russian Defense Ministry, in cooperation with the presidency and the ministry of finance, has developed a comprehensive understanding of itself in the world and in the Russian, and post-Soviet world. First and foremost, before any other consideration, the Ministry of Defense makes it clear that its number one priory in the defense of Russia is to maintain a high level of deterrence. It seeks to defend Russia by making any attack on it of painfully high cost.
After this, combat readiness is the next priority, and within this priority is the concept of high mobility. Speed and the efficient use of resources is a major part of the Russian defense strategy. It is cheaper and more efficient to maintain small numbers of infantry, but backed by the highest in technology in terms of missile defense, the air corps and intelligence (“Development,” 2009). After this, three elements come into play: first, the nature of high-technology weapons, the war on terror and the protection of the environment.
This latter even has its own office, under a General trained in economy, General Alevtin Yuruk in a rater unique arrangement where his office interfaces with the rest of the Russian government to loosen up funds and manpower to repair any environmental damage caused by the action of the armed forces, and most importantly, the safe keeping of the nuclear stockpile. After Chernobyl, the environment is more than just a saccharine slogan, it is a matter of life and death (“Environmental Protection,” 2009). But apart from the above strategic considerations, there is another, moral, sense of Russia’s defense ministry and its place in the world.
The fall of the USSR made it clear that the Russian Federation was to recreate its mission, its identity and its interaction with the outside world. Hence, the ministry has, in communication with the past three presidents of the post USSR world, created a moral sense of itself, one based on the following ideas: a) the creation of a democratic international order where a few major powers do not control the world’s resources; b) force can be used only with the express permission of the UN c) forces worldwide should be decreased to a minimum and used solely for defense d) to create the infrastructure for Russia’s new mission as a major power
e) international cooperation necessary for the war on terror, drugs and mafia activities f) co-operation, not confrontation wit the USA g) Asia is the future, and hence, building strong ties with China and Vietnam become of paramount importance (“Global Cooperation,” 2009). Several conclusions can be drawn from this. First, Russia clearly sees its defense role as a great power, not as a second tier force. Second, it seeks to create an international order based on equity, around the security council of the UN and its decisions where Russia has a veto. It sees China as central to its future security.
And, lastly, it sees China, or more specifically the Russia-China Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a means of balancing its relations with the US, NATO and the EU. Hence, balance and cooperation over confrontation seems to be the theoretical grounding (“Global Cooperation” 2009). The mission of the Defense Department in Russia is mirrored by the two other agencies (other than finance, which are intertwined deliberately), the Presidency and the Foreign Ministry. In a speech dated January 18, 2009, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov laid out the foreign policy goals of Russia, and these consist in the following ideas:
a) the rebuilding of the financial system fo the globe on a more democratic basis. The Russian government has made clear that it is the “imbalance” of the system that caused the meltdown,. Too much mon3y in too few hands, both in terms of stats and individuals is the cause of the meltdown. The post-World War II system needs to be dismantled and rebuilt on an equitable basis. b) The unilateral recognition of the “independence” of Kosovo and the US/Israeli support of Georgian aggression against the Ossetians prove the need for a real democratic world order, not one controlled by the US and its few allies.
Russian intervention to repel the Georgian invasion of Ossetia (who voted for independence and union with Russia) was meant to help create the infrastructure for a new international order, since Georgia would not have invaded had the US guaranteed diplomatic support. c) Lavrov states “the era of national egoism is over. ” d) he seeks what he calls a “polycentric world order. ” e) and, as seen above, cooperation with the EU is as important as cooperation with China. China is not mentioned in Lavrov’s speech, which is significant (Lavarov, 2008).
On the other hand, the foreign policy concept of the Russian Presidency stresses China far more than the EU. Medvedev makes the claim that China is a major, if not the major, priority of Russian foreign policy. Polycentrism is again stressed, and again, that the imbalance of the world financial system–too much money in too few hands–is the cause of the recent meltdown. Lastly, the foreign policy ideas of the new president seek to establish strong environmental standards, energy security and a price structure that is fair and steady and that all economic growth be environmentally sustainable (Medvedev, 2008).
Several things derive from this comparison: there may be a coalition of defense and Presidency against the foreign ministry over the issue of China. While it remains that President Medvedev and the Defense Ministry treat China as the number one priority (and several recent summits between Peking and Moscow over military matters reflects this), Lavarov seems to think that the EU should have this role. However, these agencies seem to have more in common than anything else, and these commonalities should be taken as basic ministerial policy: Russia as a great power, polycentricity, economic democracy and basic international equality.
Conclusion: Comparison of Belarus and Russia in Defense Policy It does not take a genius to figure out that both Belarus and Russia are responding to American pressure and military adventurism. Both countries are threatened by American expansionism in both the economic and military spheres. Hence, their defense ministries reflect this. And of course, since Russia and Belarus are politically and ethnically connected, as well as vulnerable to American pressure, their defense policies will overlap in several areas.
However, the size differences of Russia and Belarus will also be the cause of some differences in policy, especially since Belarus makes no claim to great power status, but in fact, would like to see the concept of “great powers” disappear. The main similarities of the two defense departments are their stress on international equity and polycentricity. The world order should reflect diversity in nations and interests, not the domination of the US and its allies in world politics and finance. Both ministries would like to see drastic reductions in the arms of the world, and arms to be used solely for defense, not for offense.
Both ministries see a balanced foreign policy as central: that Asia should be used to balance Europe and Europe to balance the US. Both Belarus and Russian military brass are visiting China and Venezuela on a regular basis, and both countries have signed arms deals with Peking and Caracas. Needless to say, this is a means of balancing US hegemony and the US involvement in Iraq, Africa and the Balkans. It might be surmised that the Belarusian ministry is purely military because Belarus is small and very vulnerable. Hence, the military forces must have direct access to state power in order to act quickly.
This was made especially important when threats of invasion came from the McCain presidential camp. The Russians, less vulnerable to assault and attack, can afford some space between civilian and military personnel, though the second in command of the ministry in Russia is the chief of staff. It is curious that the Minister of Defense for Russia has little military experience, but much financial experience. This suggests that the ministry really is designed to interface with the rest of the government to create an integral policy, while actual military decisions are in the hands of the second in command, General Makarov.
This sort of interfacing is certainly a good beginning for further research in this field. References: This paper used mostly primary sources in its construction. The most important were: On Belarus: (www. mod. mil. by) Ministry of Defense. “Administrative Board. ” Belarusian Defense Ministry Portal. 2009 Ministry of Defense. “Legislative Basis. ” Belarusian Defense Ministry Portal. 2009 Ministry of Defense. “Military Doctrine of the Republic of Belarus. ” Belarusian Defense Ministry Portal. 2009 Ministry of Defense. “The Bases of the Military Policy of the Republic of Belarus. ” Belarusian Defense Ministry Portal.
2009 International Monetary Fund. “The Republic of Belarus and the IMF. ” Executive Board Consultation, 2009 One Secondary Source: Global Security. “Ministry of Defense [of Belarus]. ” In Defense Policy and Programs, 2008. (Globalsecurity. org) On Russia: Ministry of Defense. “Development. ” In Military Insight. Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense, 2009 Ministry of Defense. “War on Terrorism. ” In Military Insight. Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense, 2009 Ministry of Defense. “Global Cooperation” In Military Insight. Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense, 2009 Ministry of Defense.
“Environmental Protection” In Military Insight. Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense, 2009 Medvedev, Dimitri. “Strengthening Dynamic Partnership with the Asia-Pacific Region. ” In Articles of the President of Russia. (Kremlin. ru), 2008 Lavarov, Sergei. “Transcript of Remarks and Response to Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Press Conference on 2008 Foreign Policy Outcomes. ” MFA, January 16, 2009 Ministry of Defense. “Deputy Minister of Defense for Financial and economic Issues” In Senior Officials. Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense, 2009
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