The authorities welcome moderate Slavism
On November 25th, the “Slavic March”, authorized by the city authorities was held in Mogilev.
The authorities encourage political activities of organizations that are not associated with the “conventional” opposition. Simultaneously Minsk attempts to demonstrate to Moscow that Belarus is the bearer of the “true” Slavic values and Russian historical traditions.
The event in Mogilev was of an explicitly “pro-Russian” character: the participants intended to use the black-yellow-white flags of the Russian Empire (all in all, it was not allowed by the local administration), and also claimed to represent the Russian nation and chanted “Glory to Belaya Rus” “Glory to Russia” and “Forward, Russians”. A participant of the 2010 presidential campaign Mr. Ryzhov spoke at the rally.
Most likely, the authorities are interested in holding such events due to their patriotic and pro-Russian character, and especially that they take place near the hometown of President Lukashenko. Mogilev is an informal capital for governmental personnel and the closest to Lukashenko family leaders come from this region.
The “Slavic March” was approved and held for the second time. The first “Slavic March” was approved to be held before the presidential elections in September 2010, but then it did not take place because of the organizer’s desire to use the unauthorized black-yellow-white flags. On November 25th the March was attended by about 40 people - mostly young people, united around an informal leader Mr. Denisenko, who was not a member of any organization.
The authorities’ arbitrary policy towards different political players is confirmed by the Slutsk Executive Committee’s rejection of the request filed by the head of the Belarusian Popular Front local branch Mr. Amelkovich to hold a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the Slutsk uprising on December 1st. The BPF is known for its patriotic, but stridently anti-Russian position, which has probably predetermined the authorities’ decision against the BPF initiative.
It would be a mistake to assume that the government is really interested in the revitalization of political movements in Belarus - any political activity is perceived as a threat to the current regime. Therefore, the authorities were quite comfortable and safe with a small number of the “Slavic March” participants, as well as with the non-existence of ‘Slavism’ organizations in Mogilev.
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.