President reinforces ideological foundation for security forces
On July 1st President Lukashenko spoke at a meeting to celebrate Belarus’ Independence Day.
President Lukashenko remains dependent on the law enforcement bodies’ support. Simultaneously, Lukashenko’s increased defensive rhetoric opens new possibilities especially for security officials.
In his speech, Lukashenko put emphasis on a range of threats in contemporary Belarus. If in 2012 the president spoke mostly about historical perspective – Minsk liberators’ heroism against the Nazi invaders – in his recent speech he focused on political, economic, informational and ideological threats in the modern globalization era.
In particular, in his usual manner Lukashenko said that Belarus, led by him, will firmly defend its sovereignty in foreign policy, will fight for new markets and will pay particular attention to information security, including developing cooperation with China in this field. In this regard, the most interesting was Lukashenko’s statement about his coming meeting with Chinese President.
Today such typical of Lukashenko ‘defensive’ rhetoric has a very specific effect: the law enforcement agencies’ influence in the Belarus’ government is growing. The announced by the President ideology aiming at protection against external and domestic threats fits the best the security agencies, which based on this ideological foundation, improve their status in the Belarus’ political system and expand their powers.
Recently, during his visit to the Operative and Analytical Center (OAC), Lukashenko demanded from its staff to strengthen the fight against corruption. Noteworthy, the primary purpose for creation of the OAC in 2008 was telecommunication networks and data protection. In addition, the State Security Committee (KGB) has recently been empowered to control potash fertilizers’ international trade in and to carry out a large-scale inspection in the Belarus’ construction industry.
Also there is a possibility that the law enforcement agencies will be empowered to supervise other non-core areas of social and economic activity. For example, the Interior and Defense Ministries active involvement in activities to prevent and eliminate the outburst of African swine fever may well result in somewhat institutionalization of cooperation between the power and veterinary authorities.
These tendencies are part of a broader trend, implying strengthening of the security forces’ role in the decision-making in Belarus. This process has been consistently gaining momentum after the presidential election in 2010. Consequently, country’s law enforcement agencies grow in number at a pace one new structure per year, and the degree of interdependence between the president and the security forces is only increasing.
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.