Belarus’ Lukashenko “Sure” New S-400 Air Defences Will Be Acquired: Confirms Tor-M2 Systems Guarding Major Nuclear Facilities

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has reiterated his country’s strong interest in acquiring new units of Russian S-400 surface to air missile systems, stating that Minsk is ready to buy Russian military equipment worth $300 million to $500 million with S-400 systems set to be included in the purchase.

 "The S-400 is of great interest to us. And I am sure that we will receive these complexes. Moreover, we have saved a lot of money on the construction of the nuclear power plant,” he said. Belarus is thought to have been one of the first foreign operators of the S-400, with the country’s armed forces having signed an agreement with Russian defence manufacturer Almaz Antey on August 24, 2020, for the delivery of advanced air defence systems over the next five years which were speculated to be new missiles for these systems. 

The S-400 is prized for a number of advanced features including very high mobility, the ability to intercept hypersonic targets up to 400km away, very high situational awareness, and the ability to engage up to 80 targets simultaneously. 

These features, combined with its low operational costs relative to fighter or interceptor aircraft and its anti-stealth capabilities, have made it a highly prized asset for countering possible Western threats. Belarus' interest in new S-400s was first reported in January 2021.

As perhaps the only European country fully outside the NATO sphere of influence, Belarus has come under considerable Western pressure including Western support for anti-government rioters and protesters in 2020 as well as economic sanctions. 

As Belarusian officials have repeatedly alluded to a growing threat posed by NATO forces on their borders, in particular from the expansion of U.S. military facilities in neighbouring Poland and from the U.S. withdrawal from the INF treaty in 2019 which allowed it to deploy longer-ranged land-based missiles to Europe. Belarus’ armed forces warned in May 2021 that NATO was training to conduct strikes against the Belarusian territory. 

Alongside the S-400 acquisition, President Lukashenko pledged to maintain aerial security for a new Russian built nuclear power plant, confirming that the Russian-supplied Tor-M2 missile system had been deployed to protect it. "Previously, we relied on the Tor-M2, and this is a good weapon; we know not only how to use it, we know how to modernise it, we know how to repair it", he said, adding that Belarusian armoured vehicle repair plants and several other enterprises were repairing and modernising S-300 and BuK air defence systems. 

The Tor-M2 is a short ranged system that was designed to complement higher-end systems such as the S-400 and is specialises in intercepting cruise missile attacks. Belarus notably produces its own modern medium-ranged air defence systems for export, namely the BuK-MB3K, and has a sizeable defence sector that exports a considerable number of components to Russia and provides upgrades to Russian and Soviet weaponry for foreign clients.

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