Lukashenko keeps trying formatting the “Teddy bear drop” as an international conspiracy
Attempts by the Belarusian authorities to make the “Teddy bear drop” look like an international conspiracy rather than a failure in the air-defense system, have not had the desired effect yet. The EU reaction was a fairly restrained one. It implies, that Belarus is yet to ‘provide an adequate response to the ‘teddy bear affairs’’.
On August 8th, Belarusian Foreign Ministry recalled its embassy in Sweden and requested the Swedish diplomatic mission staff to leave Minsk. On August 10, the KGB sent an official notice to Swedish nationals who took part in the ‘Teddy bear drop’, requesting them to come to Belarus for questioning saying their rights would be guaranteed. The KGB hinted that if the Swedes come to the “crime scene”, it could have a positive impact on the fate of those arrested on charges linked to the incident: a Belarusian student and a realtor, who were accused of “aiding and abetting” illegal border crossing.
The actions of the Belarusian authorities have caused a serious international outcry (for example, Swedish Foreign Minister informally said that “Lukashenko is behaving like a bandit”), but so far it all has not resulted in a full scale international conflict. The main reason behind this is a fairly restrained reaction by the European Union.
Resolution adopted by the Committee for Political and Security issued at a special EU meeting on August 10th, indicates, that Brussels is likely to fall for Belarus’ provocations and to extend the sanctions, but only after the parliamentary elections, depending on the way they would be carried out.
Attempts by the Belarusian authorities to make the “Teddy bear drop” look like an international conspiracy rather than a failure in the air-defense system, have not had the desired effect yet due to a fairly restrained reaction by the European Union. Moreover, avoidance of the EU to immediately extend the sanctions stripped Belarus of “trump” arguments for mobilizing allied assistance from Moscow.
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.