Opposition is against the nomenclature privatization
On March 15th several members of the Belarus’ Supreme Council of the 13th convocation signed a petition against the so-called “nomenclature privatization” in Belarus. The meeting was chaired by the United Civic Party Chairman Lyabedzka and the Belarusian Leftist Party “Fair World” Chairman Kalyakin.
The joint statement by members of the Belarus’ last legitimate parliament is an important political capital. However, the ex-deputies’ ability to influence the situation in the country is rather symbolic than political. Their resolutions are therefore easily ignored by the ruling group.
There is a strong view that in the Belarus’ modern history the Supreme Soviet of the 13th convocation was the last legitimate authority before the constitutional reforms were undertaken by President Lukashenko by 1996 referendum (in violation of the Constitution). This legal conflict was successfully neutralized by the strong presidential authority and suppressed by the state propaganda.
However, in principle, there is still the opportunity to restore the law which has been violated 17 years ago, and the joint statement by the Supreme Soviet deputies of the 13th convocation intended to draw attention to this. In particular, as a ‘weapon’ the deputies chose an extremely sensitive issue for the Belarusian elite – the ownership issue: illegitimate Belarusian authorities are not entitled to dispose of public property. Therefore the petition’s authors promise to review the deals with strategic enterprises after the rule of law is restored in Belarus.
In practical terms, the probability of restoring the law and the parliamentary power continuity in Belarus is very small, because president Lukashenko remains the key figure in the managerial elites system that he had created in Belarus. Also note the initiative’s ambiguity: doubts about the Belarusian nomenclature’s legitimacy effectively marginalize the authors of the statement. Since 1996 there were five convocations of the Parliament in Belarus and a whole new generation of nomenclature groups.
The authors clearly understood the risk of their marginalization and therefore focused only on the infeasibility of privatization of large strategic businesses, not all. Moreover, the opposition’s demand is generally consistent with the president Lukashenko’s current policies, de facto banning the privatization of Belarusian assets, and even creating the conditions for re-privatization.
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.