Representatives of 27 OSCE member states recently visited Minsk, in line with the 1999 Vienna Document on Negotiations on Confidence and Security-Building Measures; this stipulates that each of its members must allow OSCE representatives to examine its national military sites every five years.
During the visit, representatives of 27 European defence agencies attended. In particular, they visited the 61st Fighter Airbase at Baranovichi, meeting its top officers and personnel, while gaining familiarity with its major armaments and military machinery.
Lithuania’s Paulyus Mnitsyavichus stressed that ‘the Belarusian military demonstrated openness during the visit to the Fighter Airbase in Baranovichi’. He noted, “There were no secrets. We gained answers to all questions of interest.” He admitted that the professional training of Belarusian pilots and the operational capabilities of fighter jets were of particular interest and views the practice of visiting foreign army facilities, as part of the Vienna Document, as a path to strengthening trust between countries.
The Colonel of the US Army’s Land Forces, James Jenz, was also part of the delegation, noting that the examination of military sites in Belarus — as part of the Vienna Document — is a measure which builds mutual trust between countries at a national level. The process of familiarisation with Belarus’ military sites was a success and, as the American noted, since his previous visit to Belarus, much has changed for the better. According to him, Belarus and the USA have more in common than they have differences.
The Commander of the 61st Fighter Airbase at Baranovichi, Alexander Potekhin, in turn, said that representatives of OSCE member states gained familiarity with operational procedures, samples of military machinery, and leadership and pilot training methods. They had additionally received answers to all questions in which they had been interested. The guests were primarily interested in how combat training is conducted, the re-organisation of air defence troops and the optimisation of the Air Force. Mr. Potekhin believes that modern challenges facing countries are much similar: threats of terrorist attack, technogenic disasters and natural calamities.