Minsk was unable to prove its independence in security matters
Over the past three years, Minsk has been using regional security issues to gain a foothold as an independent actor beyond Russia’s control. This was facilitated by demonstrations of a special, different from Moscow, position. However, the Belarusian authorities have failed in achieving the desired effect, and the Kremlin has effectively used the insufficient information support for Belarus' foreign policy.
Minsk hoped that its openness and transparency during the preparations and the conduct of the West-2017 joint Russo-Belarusian strategic military drill could take it out of the Moscow’s shadow and prompt the West to recognise Belarus as an independent actor in the regional security policy, rather than an appendage to the Russian military machine. Belarus has embarked on an unprecedented openness in defence matters. For instance, the General Staff of the Belarusian army has held briefings during the OSCE Security Forum and in Minsk. In addition, circa 250 journalists have been accredited to cover the exercise.
Unexpectedly, despite the confrontation with the West, Russia has provided more extensive information about the joint exercise ‘West-2017’. For instance, Russia’s briefing for NATO was concise, informative and was positively received by the Alliance. The Russian Defence Ministry’s briefing on August 29th, 2017 was more detailed than the briefing of the Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian army, held on the same day. Russia is maintaining high level contacts with NATO to inform about the forthcoming Belarusian-Russian exercise.
The West has noted greater transparency of Russia as compared with Belarus in terms of providing information about the West-2017 military drill. Hence, Russia has demonstrated the leadership in the Russo-Belarusian tandem. Nevertheless, not all concerns related to the West-2017 military exercise have been removed. For instance, issues related to combat training of the Russian army, which would be held in parallel with the West-2017 make an additional matter of concern beyond Belarus’ sphere of influence.
Yet another attack (carefully planned) on Minsk’s reputation was the abduction of Ukrainian citizen Pavel Grib from Belarus by the Russian special services. The lack of a coherent response to the case from the Belarusian authorities is regarded as a sign of Belarus’ strong dependence, bordering subject nation, on Russia in security matters.
The Belarusian authorities have failed in providing information and diplomatic support for their foreign security policy. In the near future Belarus is likely to focus on improving the state of affairs in this matter. However, she requires to implement new approaches in public relations, which could only be used effectively by new staff.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.