President sided with Defence Ministry in the air defence system scandal
President Lukashenko chose the least costly way to respond to the penetration by a foreign aircraft in the Belarusian airspace. Rewarding the guilty and silencing the incident is the least threatening reaction for the governments’ authority.
On July 16th, President Lukashenko awarded a number of commanders of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defense with “For Distinguished Service” medals.
As anticipated, the Belarusian leadership has chosen the least costly way to respond to a July 4th incident, when Belarusian airspace was penetrated by a sport aircraft from Lithuania scattering teddy bears over two Belarusian cities, beating Belarusian air defense radars.
A harsh ‘traditional’ response to this provocation (acknowledgement and punishment) is as costly for the authorities as a ‘modernization’ one (re-equip air defense system with more modern equipment or launching a counter-PR-campaign in the international information space).
Therefore, the authorities selected the least costly for the budget and the image response (in their understanding): the incident was completely ignored by the state media and government agencies. At the same time, independent journalists received an unambiguous signal that coverage of this topic could entail tough sanctions (Mr. Suriapin, a photographer, who posted a photo on his website of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane, was arrested by the KGB).
The Belarusian authorities believe that rewarding the guilty above all would strengthen their internal power (top ranking officials over lower ranking) and shift the blame for what happened from the Belarusian military to “external forces”. This behavior is traditional for President Lukashenko and is a variation on his well-known populism.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.