Lukashenka in full control of power agencies in Belarus
The national security leadership in Belarus has no political personality and no aspirations to gain one. The Belarusian security forces have no corporate solidarity what so ever. However, there is a noticeable interdepartmental competition for Lukashenka’s attention, which manifests in the desire to fulfil his orders as promptly as possible and identify shortcomings in activity of other law enforcement agencies.
The harsh clampdown by the Belarusian law enforcement on the most recent protests has promoted talks about Lukashenka partially losing control over the security forces. Some analysts believe that the national security leaders have deliberately distorted information for the president in order to disrupt the Belarusian-European dialogue and prompt a political crisis to meet their own or Russia’s interests.
Since coming to power, Lukashenka has applied significant efforts to destroy alternative or potential centres of power within the state apparatus. In order to preclude a threat to his sole rule, he is constantly ensuring that the national security leaders remain loyal. For instance, he has fragmented the law enforcement and created two special services empowered, inter alia, to exercise control over the state administration. In addition, ensuring the internal security in the state is an often-duplicated function.
Currently, there are 16 government agencies in Belarus fully or partially involved in ensuring national security, law and order. By posting senior and middle security officers to unfamiliar regions, the president complicates the formation of influence groups at the regional and national levels.
The rivalry between the law enforcement agencies for Lukashenka’s attention (i.e. budgetary funding and personal career prospects for officers) is manifested, inter alia, through revealing the shortcomings in the activity of other security agencies. That said, the cases when security agencies were providing false information to the president were always associated with concealing own failures and never with political goals.
There is no question of manipulations or a conspiracy against the Belarusian president: there are neither conditions for it, nor officials, who would be ready to assume such a responsibility. Lukashenka has access to quality information about the state of affairs in Belarus. Lukashenka’s decisions are likely to base on his own opinion about a particular issue (except, perhaps, some foreign policy decisions). Power officials in Belarus tend to avoid political issues and choose to implement the president’s orders as is.
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.