Belarusian authorities aspire that Minsk becomes negotiating platform on security issues

May 15, 2017 11:57

Minsk has put geopolitical differences in the region in the spotlight and is attempting to renew and учеутв its image as a ‘security donor’ in the eyes of Western capitals. The Belarusian leadership consistently promotes Minsk as an international negotiating platform between East and West. Very likely, Belarusian diplomats are considering the possibility of Minsk’s more active involvement in the settlement of the Syrian crisis.

Last week, Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko was on a working visit to the US, where he met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink, as well as with the leadership of the Bureau for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour.

The visit of the Deputy Head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry to Washington aimed to remove the possible tension in bilateral relations in connection with West-2017, a large-scale Russo-Belarusian military exercise. During his visit to the US, Deputy Foreign Minister Kravchenko participated in the discussion "Between East and West: Belarus at the Crossroads" organized by the Atlantic Council analytical centre. Public presentation by Belarusian diplomats along with American media and experts was an unusual move and was used by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry as an additional communication channel in order to step up trust levels between the states. The Belarusian authorities have attempted to use the event to mitigate criticism against Belarus with regard to democracy and demonstrate readiness for a dialogue on human rights issues.

Belarusian diplomacy has exhausted the negotiating capacity to resolve the conflict in the east of Ukraine and started searching for new opportunities to update and extend its international image as a security donor. Apparently, Minsk counts on the fatigue of Western capitals and the Kremlin from mutual confrontation, as well as on their readiness to contacts amid renewed corps of officials in the US and the EU.

The Belarusian authorities have tested the possibility of Minsk’s involvement in the settlement of the conflict in Syria in the Belarusian public space. Over the past month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has twice appeared in Belarusian state media with an address to the Belarusian people. Perhaps, Minsk anticipates a gradual de-escalation of the armed conflict in Syria in the short or medium term. In addition, the Belarusian leadership is likely to be considering the possibility of assisting the Kremlin in organising the "Minsk process" on Syria in the hope for mutually beneficial strengthening of positions on the international level.

Overall, the Belarusian authorities hope to shift the EU and US focus from the democratisation and human rights issues to Belarus’ greater involvement in the international dialogue on armed conflicts resolution and combating international terrorism, cooperation and assistance on security issues.

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Amid budgetary cuts on social protection, the Belarusian public sector is experiencing a management crisis and a balance shift in the state resource redistribution system. The authorities are forced to revise their most unpopular decisions during the implementation due to the pressure from affected social groups. The state is unlikely to oppose to some civil society and opposition organisations in strengthening their role in society in order to retain touch with the population and to be able to respond to the most harsh criticism of state initiatives.

The Architecture and Construction Ministry has acknowledged that the decree No 585 on assistance to large and young families in building and buying housing was prematurely rescinded.

The authorities are often forced to revise their decisions on curtailing social assistance to different social groups during their implementation, without preliminary impact assessment and feedback from the population, so as they lead to the growth in social tension. Due to the centralised decision making, languishing state resources and the lack of public debate as a balancing instrument in issues related to social protection, the state administration is losing control of the population.

Perhaps, the compensatory mechanisms of the state apparatus lack the time to adjust to dwindling state resources for supporting the existing social model, even in a reduced form. The authorities have completely or partially paralysed operations of independent public institutions and representative bodies, through which they could monitor public moods and receive feedback from the population, such as local councils, the parliament, political parties and NGOs. Last year, under the pressure of the authorities, the last independent institute for measuring public sentiment, IISEPS, suspended operations.

President Lukashenka’s self-removal from the decision-making on current socio-economic issues, also could have affected the state apparatus’ operations. The president has always been very sensitive about adopting unpopular decisions which could lower his popular support, hence demanded a careful preliminary assessment of such decisions. However, recently, especially after the introduction of the tax on social dependants, the president has mainly focused on the foreign policy agenda.

Hence, a lacuna has formed in the state decision-making after the president reduced participation in the current socio-economic policy formation, which leads to an increase in manifestations of dysfunction in the public administration.