RUS
Search
Publications

The Defense Minister of the Belarus Republic visited Iran: the prerequisites and possible areas of bilateral cooperation in the military sphere

photo: www.mil.by
9 August 2023
Alexander Shpakovsky Alexander Shpakovsky

Alexander Shpakovsky |Minsk

CISS expert

In the beginning of 2023, the official visit of Victor Khrenin, Lieutenant General, the Defense Minister of the Belarus Republic, to the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the statement of the Press Relations of Belarus Defense Ministry, the objective of the visit was to have negotiations with the representatives of Iranian military and political leadership «on the relevant issues of bilateral cooperation in the military and political spheres». [1]

In this relation, it should be noted that during his visit the Belarus Defense Minister met with Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, the Brigadier General and Defense Minister of Iran, and with Mohammad Bagheri,  Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of Iran.

Based on the results of the negotiations, the Defense Ministry of the Republic of Belarus and the Defense and Armed Forces Support Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran signed the Memorandum of Understanding and the Bilateral Cooperation Plan for the current year.

Overall, it seems possible to state that within general energizing of Belarussian-Iranian contacts, Minsk and Teheran are consistently coming together in the military sphere as well. At the same time, official publications both in Belorussian and Iranian open sources do not contain any specific data about the areas of interaction, which allows for assuming high degree of secret for the potential bilateral projects and leaves a large scope for hypothetical analysis.

Political statements of Victor Khrenin and his opponentsТ reaction

It should be emphasized that based on the outcomes of the meetings with Iranian partners Victor Khrenin made a number of important political statements and noted that «Belarus and Iran are on common grounds with respect to many international issues». In particular, the Belarus Defense Minister stated that both countries «together uphold the international law inviolability principle», espouse «the unity of views on establishing fair world order based on development of multipolarity and on non-interference in domestic affairs».

At the same time, Khrenin especially emphasized that «starting from the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the coalition of Western states headed by the USA tried to prevent the development and prosperity of Iran. However, despite the imposed 8-year war, numerous terrorist attacks, unprecedented sanctions-related and political pressure, Iran was able to build strong independent state». [2] In the opinion of the Head of the Belarus Defense Ministry, the uncompromising struggle against the dictate of the collective West for the right to sovereignty and independency is a common feature of both Iranian and Belorussian state systems.

In our opinion, these statements were made not only for the sake to adhere to the mandatory routine pleasantry with respect to the receiving party, but also with the purpose of substantiating future rapprochement between Minsk and Teheran in the military sphere. They substantiate Belorussian Ц Iranian military collaboration from the ideological and political standpoint emphasizing the common interests of both countries in counteracting the global West and struggling for the right to sovereign development and building a fair multipolar world order.

In this relation, the evaluations of the bilateral negotiations by the opponents of Belarus and Iran, mainly by various think tanks in the US are of a certain interest. Thus, analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) closely connected with the CIA believe that the visit of Victor Khrenin, the Belarus Defense Minister, to Iran is closely connected with the plans to locate the plant manufacturing Shahed kamikaze-drones in the territory of Gomel Region. Such UAVs are widely used by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the course of the Special Military Operation (SMO) in the territory of Ukraine. American experts pay attention to the fact that Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, the Iranian Defense Minister, is in charge of military procurement and supplies, and based on that they make far-reaching conclusions about Belarus receiving the franchise for manufacturing Iranian UAVs. [3]

In its turn, the Polish government channel «Belsat» specializing in Belarussian situation (in Belarus it is qualified as an extremist resource) periodically pedals the issue of creating the manufacturing site for Iranian UAVs in the territory of Belarus. Thus, in one of the recent narratives of the above-mentioned channel there was information about Iranian military advisors working in Gomel Region to train the local military servicemen in the skills of controlling the Iranian UAVs Shahed.

In November 2022, Ukrainian media disseminated information about the plans to organize the assembly of the Iranian UAVs at aviation plant No. 558 in Baranovichi (Brest Region). In early May 2023, with a reference to some «Belorussian underground» it was stated that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) and the Committee of State Security of Belarus (KGB) organized a visit of «Iranian military engineers» to OJSC Gomel Radio Manufacturing Plant to evaluate «the potential cooperation prospects». 

On top of that, Yuri Ignat, the speaker of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, talked about the possible relocation of manufacturing or the organization of assembly of UAVs in the territory of Belarus. According to the Ukrainian military propagandist, «Iran is striving to relocate the UAVs manufacturing to Belarus in order to avoid Western sanctions and pressure on behalf of other countries».

It should be noted that all the above-mentioned insinuations of the Ukrainian and Western sources on the topic of collaboration between Minsk and Teheran in the sphere of organizing manufacturing of Iranian UAVs at the Belorussian  defense industry plants may not be viewed as credible information, because the authors of these publications did not provide any specific verifiable facts. In our opinion, such accusations fit into one common scheme of the Western propaganda about making Belarus the «co-aggressor» state allegedly to blame for initiating the armed conflict in the territory of Ukraine.

In addition, the assumptions of the American think tank ISW about the main topic of negotiations between V.G. Khrenin and M.R. Ashtiani being the discussion of setting up the Iranian UAVs manufacturing in Belarus, just demonstrates that the American experts do not have sufficient knowledge of the specifics of the Belorussian government machinery. It is important to emphasize here that in Belarus the issues of manufacturing arms and machines belong to the sphere of competence of the State Defense Industry Committee, not the Defense Ministry. Respectively, practical formalization of any agreements with foreign states in this sphere is not the responsibility of Victor Khrenin, the Defense Minister, but of Dmitry Pantus, the Chair of the State Defense Industry Committee.

On some aspects of potential cooperation

In the light of the above-described circumstances, it should be noted that the  Chair of the State Defense Industry Committee visited the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Belarus Government delegation headed by R. Golovchenko, the Prime-Minister, in November 2022. Journalists and experts paid attention to this fact concluding that the Belorussian party was interested in the Iranian military technologies. [4]

Further on, the Iranian defense industry representatives took part in the International Arms and Military Machinery Exhibition MILEX-2023 held in Minsk on 17-20 May. The observers noted that the Iranian part of the exhibition was the most substantial and attracted attention of both the military circles of Belarus and of foreign delegations.

In particular, the Iranians demonstrated unmanned aerial vehicles Shahin and Mohajer-6, 155-mm missile Basir, anti-tank missile systems Almas-1 and Toophan-5, four-barreled machine gun of 12.7х108 mm caliber, assault rifle KL-133 of 7.62 mm caliber.

According to the available information, all the exhibited samples of Iranian armament featured excellent operating characteristics and were highly appraised by Belorussian commanders of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies. In particular, V.G. Khrenin, the Defense Minister, A.G. Volfovich, the State Secretary of the Security Council, N.N. Karpenko, the Commander of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited the Iranian part of the exhibition.

This is an evidence of high potential for cooperation between Minsk and Teheran in the military and technical sphere. This is not only about organizing the manufacturing of Iranian UAVs at the defense industry plants of Belarus, on which the Western and Ukrainian commentators are hung up, but also about technology exchange, conducting joint R&D resulting in the development of the advanced armaments and machinery.

Another high-potential area is mutually beneficial cooperation in military training: both countries has vast experience in joint training of the command staff of partners in the Military Academy of Belarus and in the Command and General Staff Academy of Iran, as well as other universities of both countries specializing in the military issues.

With account of the broad spectrum of common threats coming from the collective West, it seems feasible to collaborate in military intelligence, i.e., between the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of Belarus and intelligence agencies of the Armed Forces of Iran along with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The potential area of cooperation is collecting information and exchange of such intelligence data interesting from the standpoint of the context of national security of both countries and their allies, counteracting the «color revolutions» techniques, the coordinated activities of secret services to build the multipolar world order, which is the common goal of Teheran and Minsk.

Conclusion

It is obvious that Belorussian-Iranian relations have entered into the stage of dynamic development, and the intensification of contacts at the higher levels of Government proves that. According to Ebrahim Raisi, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, «over the recent two years we are observing an breakthrough in the development of bilateral relations». [5]

However, the military component of the cooperation between Minsk and Teheran is not a topic for a broad public discussion due to a certain secrecy order. In our opinion, such approach is completely justified, because Belarus and Iran for decades have been subject to aggressive external pressure of the collective global West, which underpins the confidentiality of bilateral contacts in the sphere of defense and military and technical cooperation because it is absolutely undesirable to make the potential enemy aware of the joint plans and probable projects.

At the same time, despite the toxic external environment, Belarus and Iran were successful in achieving substantial progress in the state-building sphere, including the development of the defense industry technologies. Based on the above, the interaction in this sphere seems feasible and ambitious.

Besides, we believe that Belorussian-Iranian collaboration in the military and technical sphere will be of interest for the allies, i.e., the PeopleТs Republic of China and the Russian Federation. It seems that the geopolitical quadrangle Beijing Ц Moscow Ц Minsk Ц Teheran is capable of efficient generation of joint projects  in the military and technical sphere subject to availability of certain political will.

It is also necessary to emphasize the importance of expanding the cooperation between Iran and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is especially relevant in the context of Belarus presiding in this organization. It seems possible to propose to Teheran the plan of joint military training exercises with CSTO on a regular basis, of expanding the training programs, as well as other solutions for military integration. In this context, the important fact is participation of Iranian delegation in the meeting of CSTO Parliamentary Assembly Council in Minsk. Based on the results of such participation, Aziz Ibrahim, the representative of the Iranian Parliamentary Security and Foreign Policy Commission, stated that «CSTO should play a meaningful role in the new system of international relations». [6]

Hence, Belorussian-Iranian relations in the military sphere may have both local (bilateral) and global (multilateral) aspects. In our opinion, currently there are the prerequisites for successful development of collaboration between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Belarus in the sphere of defense and security, of military and technical cooperation. The Belorussian-Iranian rapprochement in these spheres seems to have high potential and to be mutually beneficial, it will strengthen the positions of both countries and their main partners in the international arena.

1. Official visit of the Defense Minister of Belarus to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Defense Ministry of the Republic of Belarus. Military information portal, 01.08.2023. https://www.mil.by/ru/news/162070/

2. Khrenin: Belarus and Iran have close positions on many current international issues. BELTA, 31.07.2023. https://www.belta.by/society/view/hrenin-belarus-i-iran-sblizhaet-obschnost-pozitsij-po-mnogim-aktualnym-mezhdunarodnym-voprosam-579636-2023/?utm_source=belta&utm_medium=news&utm_campaign=accent

3. Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment. Institute for the study of war (ISW), 31.07.2023. https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-31-2023

4. The rhythm of Eurasia. The breakthrough in the relations between Belarus and Iran is possible and desirable. 27.02.2023. https://www.ritmeurasia.org/news--2023-02-27--proryv-v-otnoshenijah-belorussii-i-irana-vozmozhen-i-zhelatelen-64898

5. Raisi stated the breakthrough in the relations between Minsk and Teheran during the recent two years. TASS, 13.03.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17248449

6. Member of Iranian Parliament: CSTO should play a meaningful role in the new system of international relations. BELTA, 18.05.2023. https://www.belta.by/society/view/iranskij-parlamentarij-odkb-dolzhna-sygrat-ogromnuju-rol-v-novoj-sisteme-mezhdunarodnyh-otnoshenij-567266-2023/

16+
4 office, XXIVd premise , 5 floor, 2 Novodmitrovskaya Str., 2 bldg., Moscow, Russia 127015.
Savyolovsky City Business Center, Davis Tower
Ph. +7 (495) 767-81-36
Ph./Fax: +7 (495) 783-68-27
E-mail: info@caspian.institute
Legal footer
All the rights for the materials published on this website reside with the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. Reprint of materials and their use in any form including in digital media is permissible strictly subject to exclusive reference to CISS.
© 2022-2023, Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
top
Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

The Defense Minister of the Belarus Republic visited Iran: the prerequisites and possible areas of bilateral cooperation in the military sphere

photo: www.mil.by
9 августа 2023
Alexander Shpakovsky

Alexander Shpakovsky | Minsk

CISS expert

In the beginning of 2023, the official visit of Victor Khrenin, Lieutenant General, the Defense Minister of the Belarus Republic, to the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the statement of the Press Relations of Belarus Defense Ministry, the objective of the visit was to have negotiations with the representatives of Iranian military and political leadership «on the relevant issues of bilateral cooperation in the military and political spheres». [1]

In this relation, it should be noted that during his visit the Belarus Defense Minister met with Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, the Brigadier General and Defense Minister of Iran, and with Mohammad Bagheri,  Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of Iran.

Based on the results of the negotiations, the Defense Ministry of the Republic of Belarus and the Defense and Armed Forces Support Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran signed the Memorandum of Understanding and the Bilateral Cooperation Plan for the current year.

Overall, it seems possible to state that within general energizing of Belarussian-Iranian contacts, Minsk and Teheran are consistently coming together in the military sphere as well. At the same time, official publications both in Belorussian and Iranian open sources do not contain any specific data about the areas of interaction, which allows for assuming high degree of secret for the potential bilateral projects and leaves a large scope for hypothetical analysis.

Political statements of Victor Khrenin and his opponentsТ reaction

It should be emphasized that based on the outcomes of the meetings with Iranian partners Victor Khrenin made a number of important political statements and noted that «Belarus and Iran are on common grounds with respect to many international issues». In particular, the Belarus Defense Minister stated that both countries «together uphold the international law inviolability principle», espouse «the unity of views on establishing fair world order based on development of multipolarity and on non-interference in domestic affairs».

At the same time, Khrenin especially emphasized that «starting from the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the coalition of Western states headed by the USA tried to prevent the development and prosperity of Iran. However, despite the imposed 8-year war, numerous terrorist attacks, unprecedented sanctions-related and political pressure, Iran was able to build strong independent state». [2] In the opinion of the Head of the Belarus Defense Ministry, the uncompromising struggle against the dictate of the collective West for the right to sovereignty and independency is a common feature of both Iranian and Belorussian state systems.

In our opinion, these statements were made not only for the sake to adhere to the mandatory routine pleasantry with respect to the receiving party, but also with the purpose of substantiating future rapprochement between Minsk and Teheran in the military sphere. They substantiate Belorussian Ц Iranian military collaboration from the ideological and political standpoint emphasizing the common interests of both countries in counteracting the global West and struggling for the right to sovereign development and building a fair multipolar world order.

In this relation, the evaluations of the bilateral negotiations by the opponents of Belarus and Iran, mainly by various think tanks in the US are of a certain interest. Thus, analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) closely connected with the CIA believe that the visit of Victor Khrenin, the Belarus Defense Minister, to Iran is closely connected with the plans to locate the plant manufacturing Shahed kamikaze-drones in the territory of Gomel Region. Such UAVs are widely used by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the course of the Special Military Operation (SMO) in the territory of Ukraine. American experts pay attention to the fact that Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, the Iranian Defense Minister, is in charge of military procurement and supplies, and based on that they make far-reaching conclusions about Belarus receiving the franchise for manufacturing Iranian UAVs. [3]

In its turn, the Polish government channel «Belsat» specializing in Belarussian situation (in Belarus it is qualified as an extremist resource) periodically pedals the issue of creating the manufacturing site for Iranian UAVs in the territory of Belarus. Thus, in one of the recent narratives of the above-mentioned channel there was information about Iranian military advisors working in Gomel Region to train the local military servicemen in the skills of controlling the Iranian UAVs Shahed.

In November 2022, Ukrainian media disseminated information about the plans to organize the assembly of the Iranian UAVs at aviation plant No. 558 in Baranovichi (Brest Region). In early May 2023, with a reference to some «Belorussian underground» it was stated that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) and the Committee of State Security of Belarus (KGB) organized a visit of «Iranian military engineers» to OJSC Gomel Radio Manufacturing Plant to evaluate «the potential cooperation prospects». 

On top of that, Yuri Ignat, the speaker of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, talked about the possible relocation of manufacturing or the organization of assembly of UAVs in the territory of Belarus. According to the Ukrainian military propagandist, «Iran is striving to relocate the UAVs manufacturing to Belarus in order to avoid Western sanctions and pressure on behalf of other countries».

It should be noted that all the above-mentioned insinuations of the Ukrainian and Western sources on the topic of collaboration between Minsk and Teheran in the sphere of organizing manufacturing of Iranian UAVs at the Belorussian  defense industry plants may not be viewed as credible information, because the authors of these publications did not provide any specific verifiable facts. In our opinion, such accusations fit into one common scheme of the Western propaganda about making Belarus the «co-aggressor» state allegedly to blame for initiating the armed conflict in the territory of Ukraine.

In addition, the assumptions of the American think tank ISW about the main topic of negotiations between V.G. Khrenin and M.R. Ashtiani being the discussion of setting up the Iranian UAVs manufacturing in Belarus, just demonstrates that the American experts do not have sufficient knowledge of the specifics of the Belorussian government machinery. It is important to emphasize here that in Belarus the issues of manufacturing arms and machines belong to the sphere of competence of the State Defense Industry Committee, not the Defense Ministry. Respectively, practical formalization of any agreements with foreign states in this sphere is not the responsibility of Victor Khrenin, the Defense Minister, but of Dmitry Pantus, the Chair of the State Defense Industry Committee.

On some aspects of potential cooperation

In the light of the above-described circumstances, it should be noted that the  Chair of the State Defense Industry Committee visited the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Belarus Government delegation headed by R. Golovchenko, the Prime-Minister, in November 2022. Journalists and experts paid attention to this fact concluding that the Belorussian party was interested in the Iranian military technologies. [4]

Further on, the Iranian defense industry representatives took part in the International Arms and Military Machinery Exhibition MILEX-2023 held in Minsk on 17-20 May. The observers noted that the Iranian part of the exhibition was the most substantial and attracted attention of both the military circles of Belarus and of foreign delegations.

In particular, the Iranians demonstrated unmanned aerial vehicles Shahin and Mohajer-6, 155-mm missile Basir, anti-tank missile systems Almas-1 and Toophan-5, four-barreled machine gun of 12.7х108 mm caliber, assault rifle KL-133 of 7.62 mm caliber.

According to the available information, all the exhibited samples of Iranian armament featured excellent operating characteristics and were highly appraised by Belorussian commanders of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies. In particular, V.G. Khrenin, the Defense Minister, A.G. Volfovich, the State Secretary of the Security Council, N.N. Karpenko, the Commander of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited the Iranian part of the exhibition.

This is an evidence of high potential for cooperation between Minsk and Teheran in the military and technical sphere. This is not only about organizing the manufacturing of Iranian UAVs at the defense industry plants of Belarus, on which the Western and Ukrainian commentators are hung up, but also about technology exchange, conducting joint R&D resulting in the development of the advanced armaments and machinery.

Another high-potential area is mutually beneficial cooperation in military training: both countries has vast experience in joint training of the command staff of partners in the Military Academy of Belarus and in the Command and General Staff Academy of Iran, as well as other universities of both countries specializing in the military issues.

With account of the broad spectrum of common threats coming from the collective West, it seems feasible to collaborate in military intelligence, i.e., between the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of Belarus and intelligence agencies of the Armed Forces of Iran along with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The potential area of cooperation is collecting information and exchange of such intelligence data interesting from the standpoint of the context of national security of both countries and their allies, counteracting the «color revolutions» techniques, the coordinated activities of secret services to build the multipolar world order, which is the common goal of Teheran and Minsk.

Conclusion

It is obvious that Belorussian-Iranian relations have entered into the stage of dynamic development, and the intensification of contacts at the higher levels of Government proves that. According to Ebrahim Raisi, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, «over the recent two years we are observing an breakthrough in the development of bilateral relations». [5]

However, the military component of the cooperation between Minsk and Teheran is not a topic for a broad public discussion due to a certain secrecy order. In our opinion, such approach is completely justified, because Belarus and Iran for decades have been subject to aggressive external pressure of the collective global West, which underpins the confidentiality of bilateral contacts in the sphere of defense and military and technical cooperation because it is absolutely undesirable to make the potential enemy aware of the joint plans and probable projects.

At the same time, despite the toxic external environment, Belarus and Iran were successful in achieving substantial progress in the state-building sphere, including the development of the defense industry technologies. Based on the above, the interaction in this sphere seems feasible and ambitious.

Besides, we believe that Belorussian-Iranian collaboration in the military and technical sphere will be of interest for the allies, i.e., the PeopleТs Republic of China and the Russian Federation. It seems that the geopolitical quadrangle Beijing Ц Moscow Ц Minsk Ц Teheran is capable of efficient generation of joint projects  in the military and technical sphere subject to availability of certain political will.

It is also necessary to emphasize the importance of expanding the cooperation between Iran and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is especially relevant in the context of Belarus presiding in this organization. It seems possible to propose to Teheran the plan of joint military training exercises with CSTO on a regular basis, of expanding the training programs, as well as other solutions for military integration. In this context, the important fact is participation of Iranian delegation in the meeting of CSTO Parliamentary Assembly Council in Minsk. Based on the results of such participation, Aziz Ibrahim, the representative of the Iranian Parliamentary Security and Foreign Policy Commission, stated that «CSTO should play a meaningful role in the new system of international relations». [6]

Hence, Belorussian-Iranian relations in the military sphere may have both local (bilateral) and global (multilateral) aspects. In our opinion, currently there are the prerequisites for successful development of collaboration between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Belarus in the sphere of defense and security, of military and technical cooperation. The Belorussian-Iranian rapprochement in these spheres seems to have high potential and to be mutually beneficial, it will strengthen the positions of both countries and their main partners in the international arena.

1. Official visit of the Defense Minister of Belarus to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Defense Ministry of the Republic of Belarus. Military information portal, 01.08.2023. https://www.mil.by/ru/news/162070/

2. Khrenin: Belarus and Iran have close positions on many current international issues. BELTA, 31.07.2023. https://www.belta.by/society/view/hrenin-belarus-i-iran-sblizhaet-obschnost-pozitsij-po-mnogim-aktualnym-mezhdunarodnym-voprosam-579636-2023/?utm_source=belta&utm_medium=news&utm_campaign=accent

3. Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment. Institute for the study of war (ISW), 31.07.2023. https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-31-2023

4. The rhythm of Eurasia. The breakthrough in the relations between Belarus and Iran is possible and desirable. 27.02.2023. https://www.ritmeurasia.org/news--2023-02-27--proryv-v-otnoshenijah-belorussii-i-irana-vozmozhen-i-zhelatelen-64898

5. Raisi stated the breakthrough in the relations between Minsk and Teheran during the recent two years. TASS, 13.03.2023. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/17248449

6. Member of Iranian Parliament: CSTO should play a meaningful role in the new system of international relations. BELTA, 18.05.2023. https://www.belta.by/society/view/iranskij-parlamentarij-odkb-dolzhna-sygrat-ogromnuju-rol-v-novoj-sisteme-mezhdunarodnyh-otnoshenij-567266-2023/