Russia plans to deploy fighter jets, base in Belarus

Russian fighter jets fire fly over the Kremlin during Victory Day parade, May 9, 2009

From Andrei Makhovsky and Alexei Anishchuk, ReutersRussia plans to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year and eventually establish an air base in the former Soviet republic, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.

The moves would increase Russia’s military presence in Belarus, viewed by Moscow as a buffer between Russia and NATO, and could unnerve neighboring members of the Western alliance.

Russia agreed in 2009 to set up a joint air defense system with Belarus and talks were held before then on establishing an air base there, but few concrete steps have been taken.

"We have begun considering the plan to create a Russian air base with fighter jets here," Shoigu said at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the capital, Minsk.

"We hope that in 2015 there will be a regiment of warplanes (in Belarus) which will serve to defend our borders," Shoigu said in a portion of the meeting shown on Russian state television.

Shoigu said the plan is for the first fighter jets to arrive in Belarus this year. Russian aviation regiments normally consist of roughly 60 warplanes. . . .

An anti-missile shield the United States is deploying in Europe together with NATO nations is a chief source of tension.

Shoigu’s remarks coincided with a meeting in Brussels at which Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told NATO that Moscow still wants guarantees the system would not be used against Russia, despite a recent decision to scale it back.

From RIA Novosti:  Russia will also deliver four battalions of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Belarus in 2014, Shoigu said.  (photo: Live Journal)

Image: live%20journal%204%2023%2013%20Russian%20jets.jpg