Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageBelarus Seen As Top Supplier Of Arms To Moslem Extremists

By Mark Lenzi and Jakob Lemke     Jan 30, 2002 in Technology
MINSK (dpa) - Belarus is the largest supplier of weapons to Islamic radicals, according to sources at the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Israeli intelligence journal DEBKA.

In the first half of 2001 alone, Belarus signed weapons deals with Arab, Palestinian and Albanian Moslem extremists for more than 500 million dollars, the sources say.

It seems the last dictatorship in Europe is playing a key role in supplying Islamic radicals and terrorists in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans with weapons and military equipment.

As a former Soviet republic that inherited huge amounts of military equipment when the Soviet Union collapsed and has expanded and upgraded its existing weapons producing facilities, Belarus is well-placed to maintain its yearly rank as a top-ten weapons exporting country to the Third World.

Belarus, with a population of only 10 million people, has 1,700 T- 72 tanks, intelligence documents obtained by Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa reveal. Poland, which shares a border with Belarus and is a new member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO, has four times the population but just half that number of tanks.

"Belarus is one of the most secretive countries in its weapons deals and probably one of the most irresponsible countries you can think of", says Siemon Wezemen describing the situation.

Wezemen is an expert on arms exports and weapons proliferation at the SIPRI institute in Stockholm, a highly respected scientific foundation devoted to peace research.

The fact that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has led his country into international isolation and has been condemned and ostracised by the West for his undemocratic and authoritarian behaviour has provided another impetus for him to sell weapons to countries and organizations that are unfriendly to the United States and Western Europe.

As official information from Minsk on arms exports is shrouded in secrecy, Western observers must base their assessments on intelligence documents, information obtained from intelligence analysts and diplomats as well as East European military and political journals with sources close to the Belarusian arms trade.

The influential Polish political news journal Wprost, for example, reports that as far back as 1994, in Lukashenko's first year as president, Belarus supplied Tajikistan with machine guns and armoured vehicles - equipment which quickly found its way into the hands of Islamic fighters engaged in civil war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Wprost also reports that Belarus, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, has helped the Iraqi Air Force with modernizing its anti-aircraft systems by supplying military hardware such as SA-3 missile components along with equipment used to modernize Iraq's air defence network.

While Lukashenko has strongly denied the allegations that he has supplied weaponry to Iraq, Wezeman notes: "I would not be surprised if Belarus was giving technical assistance."

The efforts of Lukashenko to earn much-needed hard currency for Belarus's anaemic economy - one of the poorest in Europe - appear to have no limits as the country indiscriminately sells weapons to anyone willing to pay - especially Islamic militants who cannot procure weapons through legal and ordinary channels.

As sources at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency suggest and the Israeli intelligence journal DEBKA reported, Belarus has supplied Moslem Albanian rebels fighting in Kosovo and Macedonia with machine guns, mortars, anti-tank mines and large quantities of ammunition.

These rebels have made good use of this equipment in their fight against Serbia and Macedonia - two Slavic countries who are key Russian allies in the Balkans.

In such a light it seems ironic that as Russia's most ardent public supporter in its military campaign against Islamic freedom fighters in Chechnya, Lukashenko is such a crucial supplier of lethal military equipment for the Islamic world.

As combatting fundamental Islamic terrorism appears to be the lynchpin of Russia's new relationship with the West, some European observers hope that Moscow will use its overwhelming political and economic leverage on Lukashenko to put an end to Belarus's military sales to the radical Islamic world.
More about Belarus, Russia, Terrorists