Former Law Enforcement Officers Establish a Government in Exile
On May 14 in Vilnius, Belarusian emigrants and former intelligence officers, Vladimir Baradach and Anufriy Ramanovich, announced the establishment of the Transitional Government of Belarus in exile.
The initiative is currently at the stage of an “auction bid”. So far, Vladimir Baradach has only voiced the structure of the shadow government which would include a Committee, a Shadow Cabinet, an Advisory Board consisting of the leaders of political parties, a Council of Elders consisting of the most reputable Belarusians and other structural units. However, this proposal is unlikely to be widely supported by the Belarusian opposition due to the reputation of the former military and former law enforcement officers who now live abroad. A major obstacle to this would be the charges of collaboration with the KGB and the desire to split them [the opposition], as the opposition pointed out on May 14. Spokespersons for the major opposition movements (The United Civic Party, the “For Freedom” movement, Tell the Truth! and others) have clearly expressed their strong disagreement with the idea of a shadow government being set up.
Moreover, the initiative is unlikely to be supported by the Council of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR) operating in the USA, which claims to be the only legitimate body to represent Belarus’ interests abroad. The Council had previously gained support of the highly respected Belarusian cultural and political activists, which significantly hinders the creation of the coordinating units of the government, such as the Advisory Board, the Council of Elders and the Shadow Cabinet.
Finally, no objectives have been set apart from an abstract radical idea to topple Alexander Lukashenko. The initiative was supported by very few Belarusian emigrants (currently, only 4-5 people) who have cooperated with the Security Forces in the past. Therefore, there is little hope for broad support.
The future of the transitional government in exile depends entirely on whether it will gain support within the political opposition. Statements made by leaders of radical movements (the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democracy party, the \"European Belarus\" campaign) give grounds to assume that they are likely to support this initiative. Thus, on 17 May, Vital Rymasheusky, a presidential candidate in 2010, publicly supported this project. He also praised the leadership qualities of Alexander Sannikov, also a 2010 presidential candidate. On 15 May, Sannikov’s close ally, Dmitry Bondarenko said that in his estimation, about 80% of independent journalists cooperate with the KGB. In this case, the probable scenario would be support of the project by most members of the radical opposition under Sannikov’s leadership. After his release, he has not demonstrated any political activity in Belarus although he needs a long-term perspective and field for his activity after the parliamentary election in 2012.
If the project is successful, it might open up an opportunity for Sannikov. On the other hand, if Sannikov and his team support the project of the former law enforcement emigrants, it would give this initiative political weight. As a consequence, the split within the Belarusian opposition, both inside and outside of the country will enlarge. The division of the opposition into smaller, radical units (headquartered abroad) and more structural units (conducting civil and political campaigns within the country) will continue.
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.