Belarusian President Hints at S-500 Missile System Purchase

Amid rising tensions between Belarus and the Western world, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has indicated that his country could purchase S-500 long range air defence systems from Russia to bolster its security. He stated to this effect: "Today we completely cover our borders with our air defence systems ... But in order to be effective against a missile attack, we need just the S-400, and maybe the S-500.” When asked when Belarus could receive these systems, Lukashenko said that the decision lay with Russian President Vladimir Putin but that a combat ready S-400 unit was already deployed. The statement notably followed his visit to Russia in September when he was briefed on the capabilities of the S-500, and finalised major weapons acquisition deals which will include further units of the S-400 system. 

Remarks regarding a possible S-500 purchase have accompanied indications from Minsk that it could host Russian nuclear weapons on its territory, which the S-500 would be an ideal asset to defend. It is also particularly relevant in light of statements from the Russian Foreign Ministry on December 2 that the U.S. could soon deploy intermediate range missiles to Europe, which the S-500 could play an important role in countering. Russia has yet to induct the S-500 into service in its own armed forces despite its already being in serial production, with the date for induction having been delayed by over half a decade. It has, however, indicated the possibility of marketing the S-500 for export with Belarus considered a leading potential client alongside China, India and Algeria.

The S-500's engagement range, at 600km, and detection range against aircraft of 800km, are entirely in a league of their own globally and would allow Belarus to neutralise targets deep into European territory. As Russia and Belarus more closely integrate their armed forces and economies, the possibility of providing the S-500 on highly favourable terms will only grow with Belarus’ position making a deployment of the system highly beneficial to Russian’s own defences. The S-500 is prized for its ability to neutralise hypersonic targets, space aircraft and satellites and is well optimised to destroying high value aircraft such as heavy bombers and AWACS jets at very extreme ranges. 

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