Belarusian army is forced to change information policy
The Belarusian Defence Ministry has demonstrated greater openness, which was a forced step dictated by external circumstances, independent of the generals’ will. Minsk is fighting for credits from all parties in the ongoing confrontation in Eastern Europe, which, inter alia, requires greater transparency of military activity in Belarus.
On July 12th, 2017, the Belarusian Defence Ministry organised a briefing on West-2017 military drill at the OSCE Security Forum in Vienna. According to the Ministry, about 150 journalists have already accredited to cover the West-2017 exercise and accreditation is still ongoing.
On August 29th, 2017, Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian Army Oleg Belokonev for the first time held a briefing dedicated to the forthcoming Belarusian-Russian drill. Although the briefing itself was not sufficient in terms of the format and information provided, it was a significant step towards greater transparency of the military.
Negative media coverage of the forthcoming Russo-Belarusian military drill and fears of political provocations have prompted the Belarusian military leadership to change its information policy. The Defence Ministry comprehends the importance of publicity in contemporary society and, despite the inherent military conservatism, has demonstrated willingness to change approaches. Having stepped over their fears and insecurities, the generals, evidently with the approval of the Belarus’ top political leadership, have demonstrated greater openness in the preparation and conduct of the "West-2017" exercise (albeit still insufficient in modern society). The Defence Ministry has ambitions to become a moderator on defence issues in Belarus.
The process aimed to enhance the transparency of the Belarusian military has been launched, but it will take a while to implement, due to both, the inherent conservatism of the army and limited technical and human capacity of the Defence Ministry required to ensure high-quality information support for the Ministry activity. Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry has the idea of the importance of publicity in modern conditions, and has acknowledged its weakness in this regard.
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.