CSTO evolves into the Holy Alliance of post-Soviet autocracies
Yet another bargaining stage between the CSTO states has ended. The parties have come to a common conclusion that they need to counteract jointly internal political instability in the participating states. Economic challenges and growth in protest moods in the CSTO states have prompted them to such an agreement.
At the informal CSTO Summit held in Bishkek last week, Belarus resumed full-scale activity within the framework of the Organization. For instance, she stopped blocking the appointment of an Armenian representative as the new CSTO Secretary General.
Earlier, the appointment of the new Armenian CSTO SG was blocked twice. In October 2016, Nursultan Nazarbayev did not take part in the Summit under the pretext of being ill. In December 2016, a quorum could not be secured due to the absence of Lukashenka, who did not provide an excuse. Clearly, in addition to the symbolic gesture of support for Azerbaijan, a strategic partner for Kazakhstan and Belarus, sabotaging the new CSTO Secretary General appointment has become an outward manifestation of the behind-the-scenes negotiations among Minsk, Astana and Moscow.
Arguably, the CSTO member states have united in order to counteract the so-called "colour revolutions". Namely, Vladimir Putin, after meetings with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, said that Russia would assist the CSTO states in retaining domestic political stability. The CSTO autocracies (4 of 6 participating states) deny the right and capacity for their citizens to publicly protest and change the government, believing that such an action could only be prompted from the outside. "Colour revolutions" are regarded as a complex instrument of external aggression by non-military means.
Clearly, the CSTO has not materialised into a full-fledged military alliance. And, as it often happens in the post-Soviet space, it has found a different niche, evolving into a modern analogue of the Holy Alliance of European Absolutist Monarchies of the 19th century. That said, this has ended the ambitions of the CSTO leadership to acquire international legal personality for the organisation. Further, the CSTO is likely to focus on ensuring internal security of political regimes in the participating states, evolving into a gendarmerie rather than a military union.
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.