Lukashenko's response to teddybear stunt: delayed and disproportionate
The punishment of heads of key law enforcement agencies was not an adequate response to the border protection problems recently found. Justification of the President’s decision is questionable, as it lowers the loyalty of the security forces and increases the risks to national security.
On July 31st, President Lukashenko sacked the head of the State Border Committee, Air Force and Air Defense Forces Commander for improper performance of his official duties regarding national security of Belarus. The Minister of Defense and Chief of General Staff received public warnings. State Secretary of the Security Council and the Chairman of the KGB were reprimanded.
Inspection of the July 4th incident, when a light airplane freely flew over the Lithuanian-Belarusian border to Minsk and back revealed serious vulnerability of the Belarusian state border. Two main conclusions could be drawn from the available official information.
Firstly, violation of Belarusian airspace is co-defined by the defense troops and by the border guards on duty. Secondly, there is a weak link in coordination between the border guards and the military, i.e. the way information about the airspace border violation is passed on from the state Border Committee to the Air Defense Forces.
Official statements by representatives of both the Ministry of Defense and the State Border Committee say that on July 4th a light airplane was successfully detected by both agencies. However, for some reason it has not been identified as a perpetrator of the Belarusian airspace. Therefore, appropriate actions to arrest the plane were not carried out.
We assume that actions of the leadership of the State Border Committee and of the Air Defense Forces in this situation were absolutely correct. However, factual careful ‘silencing’ of the existence of a ‘weak link’ in state’s border protection by the government, as well as harsh decisions about resignation and punishment of the security forces management confirm our previous assessments.
Namely, that perhaps the weak link in coordination between Belarusian Air Defense and the State Border Committee persists intentionally and could be used to organize secure aircraft raids across the border. It should be noted that there is no direct evidence of this.
In this light, the personnel decision is unfair, or at least rather questionable. It has already caused a surge of discontent among the Ministry of Defense and the State Border Committee officers, to which the President had to respond publicly. Today the crucial issue is whether the President will pay off this discontent.
In the best case scenario, the decision will be mitigated by shifting the attention to the international side of the incident. In the worst case, border guards and the military may resort to the tactics of an ‘Italian strike’, which will increase risks to national security at the Belarus’ Western border.
According to Decree No. 221 of June 23rd, 2017, deadlines for the completion of foreign trade operations have been extended from 90 to 180 days for exports and from 60 to 90 days for imports. Delayed payments entailed a fine up to 2% of the transaction cost for each day of the delay, but could not exceed the total cost of the transaction. Most companies, when working with new counterparties, require a deferred payment for a period of three to six months. Due to the new regulation, violations are likely to reduce in number, so as the fines. Trade enterprises are likely to expand the assortment list due to the supply of new products in small lots, and the assortment list of exported Belarusian goods could expand, too. The new terms for completing foreign trade transactions would enable medium and small companies on the foreign trade market, exporters and importers are likely to grow in number and the geography of export-import operations could expand.