Belarusian authorities want higher impact from ideological outreach
Recently, public institutions and government agencies responsible for ideology in Belarus have been under an extensive information attack. Ideology departments, pro-government organisations and political parties have faced an increased competition for dwindling state resources. The Belarusian government is likely to revise its ideology strategy in order to ensure greater feedback from the population and fine-tune performance criteria.
On November 29th, 2016, the Congress of the Belarusian Writers Union was held at the Belarusian State Philharmonic.
Controversies have shaken the state ideology sector, which was likely due to funding cuts and anticipation of further deterioration. For instance, independent media reported about alleged abuse of power and financial fraud by the deputy chief of administration in a Belarusian region. The controversy has affected some pro-government organisations he is a member of, including the loyal Communist Party of Belarus and the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, which receives substantial support from the state.
Following the information attack on the ideology sector, GoNGOs and pro-government parties, media also reported about abuses in the Orthodox Church. That said, the government prioritises cooperation with the Orthodox Church to all other confessions and has a special cooperation agreement signed back in 2003. Thanks to the agreement, the Orthodox Church has some privileges and additional opportunities to reach out to the population.
At the Congress, which gathered over 500 participants, staunch writers appealed to the authorities to step up the state support for the Belarusian Writers Union members. Simultaneously, the Congress was marked by a conflict between some participants and the police. The public row involving writers is likely to reduce drastically their prospects for increased support from the state and will give the authorities additional opportunity to criticise their activity.
The state encourages competition in the ideological sector and demands greater involvement and visible results in ensuring people’s loyalty to the Belarusian authorities.
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.