Belarusian authorities are changing economic model through strengthening large business patronised by security forces
The Belarusian leadership has enhanced the influence of the power block on the political and economic agenda to demonstrate that it is in control, especially before the Russo-Belarusian military exercise "West-2017". Apparently, the president anticipates economic growth to retain in the coming months due to administrative means and the anti-corruption pressure from the power block, as well as due to an increase in the share of loyal large business in the economy. The authorities continue probing some economic transformations envisaging a smooth transition from the existing large public sector in the economy to enabling loyal private investors.
The power block has retained its positions in the economy, acting as a kind of a referee when interests of competing business groups clash. Businessmen with connections in the power block have the advantage so as the support from the security forces allows them to remove their competitors from the market due to criminal prosecution on economic charges. Such connections are of a particular value in Belarus because of the confusing legislation and justified claims about the independence of the judiciary. For instance, power officials have detained top managers of businessman Averyanov, who had left Belarus, most likely due to the "war" with creditors for his assets. Simultaneously, the president has demonstrated readiness to increase the share of loyal large business in the economy.
In addition, the state is using the anti-corruption pressure on the beneficiaries of the state aid in the most resource-intensive economic sectors. Since the spring, power officials have been focusing on agriculture, which resulted in about a dozen of criminal cases against managers of the agro-industrial complex. The Belarusian leadership aims to keep agricultural managers alert and reduce their expectations of state support for the industry.
In all likelihood, in the near future the power block is likely to shift the focus onto the work of Belarusian exporters and their foreign partners.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.