Amid loyalty of senior management security forces become less sensitive to public criticism
Increased police savagery and incidents with the participation of security officials could imply that the law enforcement system is growing out of balance. The law enforcement agencies have become less sensitive to public criticism and public opinion, which, apparently, is due to the support from the Belarusian leadership. Amid growing tension in Belarusian society, the authorities lack the resources and political will to reform the law enforcement in order to improve their public image.
A man, shot twice by a policeman on January 1st, 2016, in Minsk, was detained.
Amid reduced repressions against ‘titular’ opposition, according to media reports, the law enforcement representatives have become more violent in relation to ordinary citizens. The law enforcement stopped the clamp down on unauthorised opposition activity and repressions against party activists. Meanwhile, demonstratively tough actions by some law enforcement officials in relation to ordinary citizens keep the human rights community and society as a whole, tense.
The role and political weight of the law enforcement in the Belarusian society has increased as the state has fewer resources to buy the loyalty of the population due to the lingering social and economic crisis. This may lead to an increase in conflicts between the law enforcement and citizens, which was typical of the 1990s when public and state institutions were weak.
That said, yet some time ago, the authorities have restricted opportunities to measure the confidence level in the law enforcement authorities by destroying independent sociology. Apparently, amid falling well-being of the population and growing tension in society, the authorities are willing to sacrifice some trust in the law enforcement bodies.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to perceive a possible criticism in the media of the security forces’ actions against citizens as an information attack on public institutions.
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.