President uses Security Service as training ground for security forces management
The President’s Security Service is the workforce pool for the law enforcement agencies. The majority of those who started their careers in the President’s Security Service have later become top brass in other law enforcement agencies or government agencies, such as the Interior Ministry, the KGB and the Presidential Administration. However, President Lukashenko prevents them from gaining too much influence by frequent reshuffles. Some, after falling out of favour with Lukashenko, have been forced to resign and leave Belarus to seek employment in Russia.
President Lukashenko has appointed former head of the President’s Security Service Colonel Vtyurin as Deputy Security Council Secretary.
Since 1994, the President’s Security Service has had eight leaders. Andrei Vtyurin was the longest-serving head of the superstructure – for seven years (since 2007), which could indicate President Lukashenko’s trust in him. Unlike for many, Vtyurin’s career was void of scandals associated with his name. He started in the Interior Ministry, where he held various positions, then was promoted to lead the presidential bodyguards before becoming the Security Service head.
Five of eight former presidential security service heads were promoted to lead other law enforcement agencies or the presidential administration. President Lukashenko ensures that the security forces personnel is regularly rotated thus generating their loyalty. Neither does he allow the law enforcement officers to grow into influential high-level positions. Interestingly, many security officials from the President’s circle are either non-Belarusians by origin, or have close ties with Moscow. Due to such contacts, they often continue their career in Russia after falling out with President Lukashenko.
Before becoming the KGB Chairman, Leonid Erin headed the Presidential Security Service (for about a month). However, after a meeting with the opposition leaders during a protest rally in 2004, he lost Lukashenko’s trust and was prompted to resign and go back to Russia.
Yury Zhadobin headed the Presidential Security Service in 2003-2007. His career was more successful – firstly, he was promoted to chair the KGB (2007-2008), then appointed as State Secretary of the Security Council (2008-2009) and finally became the Defence Minister in 2009.
Gennady Nevyglas headed the PSS in 2000-2001. In 2001 he was appointed as Security Council Secretary and in 2006 as Presidential Administration head (2006-2008). In 2008 he was dismissed for the failure to ensure security during the Independence Day celebrations – when a bomb exploded in the crowd during a concert. In 2011, however, President Lukashenko had a change of heart and appointed Nevyglas as Deputy Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Vladimir Naumov headed the Presidential Security Service in a difficult period for the Belarusian leadership - from January 1999 to September 2000. At that time the opposition attempted to organise alternative presidential elections and several prominent opposition figures had disappeared. Naumov headed the Interior Ministry from 2001 to 2009. After retirement in 2009, he found a job in Russia as one of the advisors to the “Russian Technologies” Director General.
Ahead of the 2015 presidential campaign, Lukashenko is likely to reshuffle his power structures or the presidential administration and former head of the Presidential Security Service Vtyurin has good chances to strengthen his positions.
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.