New political cycle: the opposition is on its own trail
The inability to solve its main strategic task (the regime change) inflicts competition among the opposition forces or forces them to act in collective self-defense. All tactics proposed by the opposition to counteract Lukashenko have already been proved unsuccessful before and will be successfully neutralized by the authorities in the future.
In the course of the week, various political forces in Belarus made a number of statements and decisions about their future political activities.
On November 8th, the United Civil Party Political Council called for the selection of a single opposition candidate via primaries. Before the year-end the party intends to consult with 13 political structures, which were to take part in the primaries in 2009, as well as with new political actors. Earlier, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus also expressed the desire to enter presidential race in 2015 and invited all interested and “weigh” political organizations in the country to determine their real impact in a joint mass action not later than autumn 2013. Moreover, the majority of the opposition political actors have already announced their plans to take part in the next presidential campaign.
As noted earlier, the actions of the Belarusian “conventional” and “non-conventional” (LDPB) opposition do not go beyond the electoral cycle and suggest that Lukashenko’s regime – due to efforts of his political opponents – will be forced to hold free and fair elections in compliance with international standards, and the opposition will win. At the same time, the authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they are ready to play only by their own rules. Therefore, the repetition by the opposition of their previous electoral tactics related to building coalitions or determining a single candidate is unlikely to succeed. Another contributing factor to this is the increased competition among various oppositional political players after the last parliamentary elections in September.
At the same time, while abroad, the opposition demonstrates a desire to freeze the status quo and to protect themselves from “government in exile” project, which would threaten the existing foreign support to the opposition. Therefore, despite the mutual differences, on November 3rd, in Vilnius some opposition organizations signed a memorandum on joint activities of the Belarusian opposition and Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic. The document recognizes the status of the BNR Rada as a non-partisan, overarching-political body of the Belarusian statehood until the democratic government is elected in Belarus. De facto, this memorandum guarantees the immutability of the BNR’s foreign authority from third parties’ attacks. In particular, previously doubts about the legitimacy of the Rada had been expressed by Borodach, Head of the newly founded Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board.
The memorandum was signed by the main Belarusian opposition forces: United Civil Party (A. Dobrowolski), “Young Front” (Nikolai Demidenko), Rada of the Belarusian intelligentsia (Kolosov), “Nash Dom” campaign (Olga Karatch), “For Freedom” movement (Aliaksandr Milinkevich), Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada (Stanislav Shushkevich), BPF (Aliaksey Yanukevich), Conservative-Christian Democracy Party BPF (Zianon Paznyak), organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board (Vladimir Borodach), Organizing Committee of “Belaruski Rukh” (Vintsuk Vyachorka) and Rada BNR (Ivonka Survilla).
In the short term (one-two years) the most likely scenario for the Belarusian opposition will be the continuation of competition for the right to lead the “single candidate” project, while trying to demonstrate the unity of views and tactics abroad. It should be anticipated, if the socio-economic situation in the country deteriorates, the opposition will not go beyond the electoral cycle, and will continue preparations for the presidential election, as they consider this project a priority.
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.