Lukashenko posts top brass members on civil positions
Belarusian President keeps the dismissed members of the top brass in the public service: Lukashenko’s main goal is to minimize political risks if economy destabilizes and to secure his own power.
On October 31st, President Lukashenko appointed former Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations A. Shamko as Sports and Tourism Minister, and nominated former State Border Committee Chairman I. Rachkovski for the First Vice-President of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus.
The main goal of the President’s personnel policy is to improve the manageability of the state apparatus and to reduce risks in case of financial crisis recurring in Belarus. Law enforcement staff, from the State Border Committee, the KGB, the Presidential Security Service, Interior Ministry, and others, who are better disciplined compared with civilians, and also the most dangerous for Lukashenka’s family (if he loses control over them) fit this purpose the best.
Publicly the President explains his staffing policy by “discipline and honesty” of the law enforcement officers, who are supposedly less prone to corruption. Chief Curator for sports in Belarus has become Vice Prime Minister A. Tozik (former Chairman of the State Control Committee). Lukashenko has publicly procrastinated former (civil) leadership of the Sport Ministry and NOC, inter alia, accusing them of corruption, which has been aired on the national television. Rachkovsky’s nomination (he was sacked last summer in connection with the so-called ‘teddy bear drop’), was likely due to Rachkovsky’s friendship with the President’s eldest son Victor.
Finally, there is a ‘historical’ reason for Lukashenko’s behaviour. It has been frequently noted, that after the 2010 presidential election, security forces have increased their influence in the government, first of all, - according to the official version – because they prevented the “coup d’etat”, secondly, they detected terrorist attack in the Minsk metro in a field investigation and prevented a ‘social networks revolution’ in Belarusian cities, etc. The law enforcement agencies have the right to count on some favours from the President, for their - albeit controversial - achievements. And Lukashenko has to provide them with such favours.
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.