Security: influence of army and China in Belarus have enhanced
Trends of the last week: the army has enhanced its influence through new appointments; the authorities have improved management of the power block; the security and defence sectors have not yet resolved the pressing issue with rational use of resources (financial and human); Belarus and China have expanded cooperation in the security field.
On July 25th, 2017, the Belarusian Interior Ministry and the Chinese Public Security Ministry signed a protocol aimed to expand anti-terrorist cooperation (including information exchange, joint operations and technical assistance from China). Beijing expects that Minsk ensures safety of the industrial park "Great Stone" and other facilities within the framework of the Chinese initiative "One Belt, One Way", as well as related cargo traffic flows.
On July 7th, 2017, Lukashenka appointed Major-General Sergey Novikov as Deputy Chairman of the State Border Committee. Earlier Novikov headed the Department of Transport Support at the Belarusian Defence Ministry. He has no experience in border security.
On the same day, during a meeting with the leadership of the Security Council State Secretariat, Lukashenka pointed to the need to optimize the leadership of the power block and elaborate a new mechanism for coordination between the president and the State Secretariat and other power agencies. In addition, according to Lukashenka, power bodies’ frameworks should be defined this year: the staffing and funding policies for each body and in each field. Heads of department would redistribute physical and human resources within this framework based on current priorities and tasks.
For more than 20 years, Russia was a guarantor of internal stability and external security for Belarus. Obviously, the situation is changing and the Belarusian authorities are prompted to look for new pillars in the security field, both, inside and outside the country. In this regard, Lukashenka may find the military leadership most suitable due to its loyalty, discipline and the habit (at least in theory) to give more than receive. China is oriented towards pragmatic interests, not abstract values, which suits Minsk perfectly. The growth in the army's influence and the expansion of security cooperation with China are stable trends. However, they have their limits: Lukashenka would like to avoid dependence on both, internal and external forces.
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.