Belarus is about to sign the world's largest sale of fighter jets to a private company. ECA, a Netherlands-based company, is in talks to purchase 33 fighter jets from BelTechExport, a state-onwed Belarusian company. ECA plans to use the jets in Iceland as a mock enemy in military training exercises. The size of the deal is impressive - 33 fighter jets would be enough to fully equip army of a mid-sized European country.
According to Financial Times:
ECA has agreed to buy 15 Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" jets from BelTechExport, a Belarusian arms export company, with the option of 18 more. If completed, it would be the biggest sale of fighter aircraft to a private buyer and the first large-scale import of Russian-made warplanes into a Nato country. : the aircraft were originally made in Russia and will be "upgraded" in Belarus, with the first delivery in October.
Belarus is already one of the world's largest military exporters. Although the country does not manufacture significant quantities of military equipment, it has old Soviet stocks and significant imports from Russia. In addition, 558 Aviation Repair Plant* is located near Baranavichy, in Western Belarus. The plant has wide experience of military technical collaboration with the foreign countries, and specializes in upgrading Soviet fighter jets.
However, the Baranavichy plant is not the main reason why Belarus is one of the world's busiest arms exporters. It appears that Russian business groups are able to strike good deals with the leadership of Belarus when it comes to selling arms abroad. Avoiding taxes and public attention is crucial in this business. The deals are made in secret and their details are known only to a very limited number of people. So far, Belarus was known for sales to rough regimes such as Iran or Venezuella. Now the benefits of Belarusian murky and non-transparent Belarus environment became evident to European customers.
If the deal goes through the $1.5bn sale price paid by ECA is likely to end up in private coffers of well-connected entrepreneurs and government officials. It is unfortunate that neither Russian nor Belarusian tax payers know let alone benefit from such deals.