On July 3 Belarus marked 73 years since Minsk was liberated from the Nazis by Soviet forces. The public holiday was accompanied by a requisite military parade. The event served as a reminder of a growing reliance on China as a would-be ally.
Other than its reputation as a Soviet holdout serving as a buffer between NATO and the Russian Federation, Belarus is the only country in Europe that imports equipment from Chinese defense contractors. This was seen during the July 3 parade. After the familiar march of infantry squares came the tracked vehicular columns–leftover T-72M’s and BMP-2’s–followed by wheeled transports that included Humvees.
It’s apparent Belarus is one of the few customers for the Dongfeng EQ2050, a well-known Chinese Humvee clone, and the reasons why are sensible. The Dongfeng Humvee’s on and off-road mobility is an asset for the ground forces who need a better alternative to antiquated GAZ jeeps and old BTR’s.
The EQ2050 might not be as sturdy as an MRAP, but for mundane tasks such as patrols, convoy escorts, and recce it manages to function well enough. After all, it’s a favorite of the PLA. Like its American forebear, the EQ2050 is versatile too. Depending on the customer’s needs it can serve as an ambulance, a command car, a mobile air defense system, and even carry anti-tank missile launchers.
Another Chinese 4×4 spotted in the July 3 parade is the VN3/VN4. Deliveries of this particular armored car only began in mid-2017 and it’s further proof that internal security is a serious preoccupation for the Lukashenko regime. The VN3/VN4 is designed to carry at least eight passengers behind its cab. A roof hatch supports a turret and in Belarusian service it’s armed with a manually operated 12.7mm NSV machine gun in a cupola.
While Belarus relies on Russia for its conventional weapons the need to diversify its arsenal stems from knowing Moscow won’t always be generous with its little neighbor. The sorry state of the Belarusian air force is proof of this selective tighfisted-ness.
No wonder the local arms industry is making serious strides. Examples of this during the parade were the new Volat MZKT-490100 and Caiman 4×4’s that are undeniable proof of limited self-sufficiency. Belarusian firms might be receiving expertise from abroad too.
Like most armies organized along Soviet lines, Belarus’ ground forces maintain a substantial collection of rocket artillery. There’s the 122mm BelGrad, the 300mm Smerch from Russia, and a curious addition seen during the parade on July 3. The Polonez MLRS, which is two cells of four 300mm long-range rockets on an 8×8 Volat truck, does bear a strong resemblance to the Chinese A200 that some claim is the most effective of its kind in the world. The arrival of the Polonez is seen as a half measure to compensate for a modest ballistic missile stockpile.
For Belarus to seek lethal technology from China isn’t too surprising. Beijing is a generous patron whose homegrown firms now have a world class portfolio available for paying customers. The current state of the Belarusian military-industrial complex that spans drones, trucks, missiles, optoelectronics, radars, and munitions are well-served by input from the People’s Republic. Both countries have much to share with each other.