The power elite elaborate defense mechanisms
New type elite are formed in Belarus from security forces: from representatives of the Investigative Committee and the KGB in particular. This small elite group is concentrated around President Lukashenko.
On June 28th, police offices, which will work for the Investigation Committee, have graduated from the Police Academy. The alumni were welcomed by the IC Chairman Mr. Vakulchik personally. However, the Academy is not planning to open admission for new students to study “investigative activity”.
Exclusion of the Police Academy from the number of schools providing training for future staff of investigative bodies confirms the previously marked trend: the formation of an elite group from Belarusian law enforcers around President Lukashenko’s family. To date, the security forces the most influential and close to the President are the newly created Investigative Committee and the KGB.
Training of investigators will be carried out by the ‘elite’ Management Academy under the auspices of the President, not by the Police Academy. This educational institution will train future staff of the Investigation Committee, Mr. Vakulchik said earlier. Following the reform of law enforcement agencies in 2011, the IC, and partly the KGB have the exclusive right to investigate corruption cases, which has dramatically increased these agencies’ importance and upgraded the status of its employees.
Finally, an attempt to narrow the power elite circle is observed in the judiciary. Earlier, Belarus’ Supreme Court Deputy Chairman Mr. Kondrat’ev proposed to transfer cases against security forces staff under the military courts’ jurisdiction. If successful, this initiative will make Belarusian power elite even less transparent and “safer” from the security forces’ perspective.
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.