Annual review 2013 | Forecast for 2014
In 2013, the Belarusian authorities remained in full control of the country, despite the state apparatus becoming steadily less efficient and providing fewer social benefits to the population . The lack of real economic progress was compensated by emission-pumped economic growth and pay rises.
Key trends in politics:
- state apparatus became less manageable;
- shortages in human resource shortages at top and medium management levels in the government;
- social benefits cut and quest started to replenish the state budget at people’s cost;
- dependence on Russia increased;
- attempts made to resume high-level dialogue with Brussels and Washington.
Key trends in economy:
- economic recession coupled with poorly diversified export markets;
- potash cartel break-up and reduced investment demand on the Russian market;
- foreign trade deficit and overstocked warehouses;
- international reserves fell
- expectations of devaluation increased
Forecast for 2014:
- public administration will become increasingly inefficient, threatening to split the ruling groups;
- the ‘social welfare state’ will continue to shrink;
- social tension will grow;
- law enforcement’s powers will be strengthened in order to prevent a split among the elite and to counteract open discontent among the population;
- greater involvement in the Eurasian integration project in order to secure external loans and prevent social tension growth;
- economic dependence on Russian capital will continue to grow;
- industrial production slowdown;
- picking citizen’s pockets through ‘new’ tax and non-tax mechanisms;
- restricted pay rises.
In 2014, economic ‘development’ will be out of the equation. Should Belarus manage to receive loans and sell property to gain circa $3-4 billion, this sum will be spent on preserving the status quo. If the authorities fail to raise enough funds, the likelihood of devaluation will increase.
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.