Belarusian authorities lack experience in information and psychological operations
For a long time, special information and psychological operations (IPSOs) have been the weakest link in the Belarusian defence. The ongoing Russo-Ukrainian confrontation has emphasised this weakness.
On August 11th, 2017, the Ukrainian media published reports that President Putin had submitted for ratification to the State Duma the protocol on amendments to the Belarusian-Russian agreement establishing a unified regional air defence system of the two states. The amendments are of unprincipled nature, only clarifying some issues. Russia and Belarus signed the corresponding protocol in November 2016. However, Ukrainian media provided commentaries that Russia took over the Belarusian border control, created mechanisms for further aggressive actions, and expanded the Russian military presence in Belarus. Through social media, such reports have swiftly spread among Ukrainian users.
That said, Belarus ratified the protocol back in March this year and then, this news did not raise any interest, as well as the very fact of signing the protocol in November 2016.
This was not the first time when the authorities of the neighbouring states carried out special information operations against the Belarusian authorities. Earlier, such targeted reports were against the Defence Ministry and the KGB. Each time, the Belarusian security forces demonstrated blatant helplessness and inability to parry information attacks. This is due to both, the lack of professional staff capable of leading a psychological confrontation, and poor understanding of modern IPSOs by the Belarusian security forces’ leadership, which is often confused with political propaganda against opponents of the current government.
As the interstate information-psychological operations are gaining an increasingly important role in the confrontation among major regional players, Belarus faces the choice: either to create an effective IPSO system, or continue to suffer from manipulation attempts from the neighbours. Currently, the Belarusian law enforcement agencies, taking into account the available human resources, are incapable of carrying out effective IPSOs. Moreover, there are no reasons to assume that the situation could improve in future.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.