Belarus information security risks linked with Eurasian integration
On June 18th, “The Integration” International Fund published poll results about trust levels to opposition politicians in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In three countries 2,700 people were questioned aged between 18 and 65, statistical error not more than 3%.
Belarusian authorities have not yet publicly reacted to the interference by a foreign sociological service with the Belarus’ political agenda. Potentially the authorities will enhance control over public polls in Belarus by enacting stricter laws.
The poll organized by the ‘Integration’ fund threatens the established by the Belarusian ruling group information monopoly. First, the fund operates in several countries (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Belarus), which enables it to carry out large-scale information and research projects. Second, the fund pursues formally a flawless goal - to promote integration among post-Soviet states.
However, the poll’s content contradicts its form and may be considered by the Belarusian authorities as information diversion. Formally, the poll aimed at studying the mistrust level towards opposition politicians in three countries. However the poll failed to study the trust levels towards the authorities, which de facto could be regarded as hidden advertisement of the opposition and as an attempt to put pressure on the countries’ leaders.
In particular, pollsters argue that in Belarus former presidential candidate Nyaklyayeu enjoys the greatest trust (16%), he is followed by Milinkevich (12%), Lyabedzka (11%), Sannikov (9%) and Shushkevich (8%). Simultaneously, Neklyaev enjoys the lowest mistrust - 32%. Other listed opposition politicians have mistrust levels higher than 45%. The poll’s results demonstrate higher trust levels than domestic electoral support poll results held by IISEPS.
So far the Belarusian authorities have not responded to this information. A year ago, Belarus drafted changes to the Administrative offences’ Code, which envisaged penalties for sociological services operating in Belarus without a license. The amendments have not been adopted, but following an order, Belarusian MPs may well resume considering these amendments and prevent foreign polling services from operating in Belarus.
Such a response would be the most logical for the Belarusian authorities, since Belarus is unable to organize similar polls in Russia (mainly due to financial restraints).
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.