The Chinese Account of Cuba’s Possible Purchase of Polonez Missiles From Belarus

The missiles were first presented in 2015, during the Victory Day parade in Minsk. (Military Watch)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 November 2023 —  The Cuban Army is interested in buying Polonez-M missiles from Belarus, with a range of 300 kilometers and reputation for being “the most dangerous artillery system in Europe.” The acquisition of the weapons, actually manufactured by China, would be under negotiation outside of a cooperation agreement with Minsk that the island’s military agreed upon during a meeting held in Havana, according to a statement published this Wednesday by the Belarusian Ministry of Defense.

Neither the Chief of the General Staff of the Cuban Army, Roberto Legrá – who signed the agreement with the Belarusian delegation, headed by Colonel Valery Revenko – nor the other military authorities of the country have revealed why Cuba needs the rockets, installed on MZKT-7930 launch vehicles.

The Belta agency, which claimed to have learned of Cuba’s interest in the missiles through information from the Belarusian Army itself, assured that they are part of a bilateral plan that will be executed starting in 2024. The sale of the Polonez has great geostrategic importance. Insisting that they were manufactured in Belarus is a way of hiding the sale of sophisticated weapons from China to a Russian ally, closely linked to the conflict with Ukraine. This is a violation, albeit indirect, of Beijing’s commitment not to deliver weapons to Russia in the context of the war with Kyiv.

The delegation that traveled to Havana, led by Colonel Valery Revenko, also visited a tank division and an air defense brigade in the Western Military Region of the Cuban Army. It has not been revealed what are the other components of the “cooperation” program between both countries.

Neither the chief of staff of the Cuban Army nor the country’s other military authorities have revealed why Cuba needs the rockets. (Belta)

Despite Minsk’s attempts to deny that the Polonez missiles come from China, there is sufficient evidence that Belarus is only putting the final touch on their manufacture. The specialized magazine Military Watch reported on November 21 that the Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian Army, Viktor Gulevich, recently received – in ceremony and celebration – a batch of rockets sent by Beijing.

Belarus, the media noted, only manufactures the launch vehicles, while China provides the weapons. In fact, it is not even known for sure whether Minsk already has the missiles in its arsenal, since only the launchers were seen at the ceremony presided over by Gulevich, which, the magazine suggests, may be a sign that China has not even made the shipment. Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, he concludes, could be boasting – for propaganda reasons – of a weapon that it does not have.

Military Watch recognizes, however, that the Polonez-M are extremely lethal rockets, which according to several specialists have nothing to envy of the weapons that both Russia – an ally of Minsk – and the NATO countries have today. Russian Tornado-S missiles have a range of up to 120 kilometers.

Lukashenko is increasingly investing in the modernization of his weapons, which already included Iskander-M missiles sent from Russia, several of them equipped with nuclear warheads. The Polonez have been praised by the official Russian agency Sputnik, which has also insisted that China has nothing to do with their manufacture.

Sputnik defines the rockets as “impressive”, and although it says that Belarus “received” the weapons, it claims that they were assembled entirely at the state-owned Precision Electromechanics Plant

Sputnik defines the rockets as “impressive,” and although it says that Belarus “received” the weapons, it claims that they were assembled entirely at the state-owned Precision Electromechanics Plant. The agency limits itself to saying that the Polonez “have been tested in China before being put into service,” although, it admits, “several observers suggest that Belarus has received help from Beijing in the field of development of the weapon’s projectiles.”

The missiles, he adds, were first presented in 2015, during the Victory Day parade in Minsk. Guided by an “inertial navigation system with satellite correction,” each Polonez rocket measures 7.26 meters and weighs 750 kilograms. The explosive warhead they carry weighs 140 kilograms. Each vehicle has eight missiles and can fire them in 50 seconds, plus two minutes of preparation and 20 minutes of reloading. “They are extremely difficult to intercept,” the agency warns.

Although there was no explicit mention of the Polonez during the visit to Minsk of the Cuban Minister of the Armed Forces, Álvaro López Miera, last June, there was talk of “intensifying military contacts.” The Belarusian Minister of Defense, Víktor Khrenin, received the Cuban general after a trip that had also taken him to Moscow, just after the uprising of the Wagner mercenary group against Vladimir Putin. Both Moscow and Minsk then described their alliance with Cuba as “strategic” against the “enemies of the West.”


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