Presidential Administration and security forces taking over Government functions
On July 12th, head of the Presidential Administration, Andrei Kobyakov, held a regular meeting of the working group on construction industry reform.
Construction industry reform clearly demonstrates which public authorities are most trusted by President Lukashenko and, consequently, have the greatest influence. As a result, Prime Minister Myasnikovich can only draw attention to the Government by making provocative statements.
As a result of the working group’s meeting, Kobyakov instructed the government to harmonize the ratio of administrative personnel and the actual number of builders in the main building organizations according to existing standards by October 1st, 2013. In other words, the head of the Presidential Administration demanded reform in construction industry management. This is supposedly the Architecture and Construction Ministry’s responsibility, which reports to Prime Minister Myasnikovich.
The working group receives information about the state of affairs in construction from two entities close to the President: the KGB and the State Control Committee. Within the working group, representatives of the Architecture and Construction Ministry are checked up on and are systematically subject to criticism on TV (which is deserved).
This seizure of control over the construction industry by the Presidential Administration was anticipated. Since 2010, public administration bodies have been systematically narrowing down to those that President Lukashenko trusts the most. These include the President’s Administration and controlling and law enforcement agencies.
In turn, Prime Minister Myasnikovich is forced to respond to such a ‘raider’s’ intervention in his area of responsibility. It should be recognized that the Prime Minister has very little opportunity to resist the process of ‘public administration shrinking’. Myasnikovich’s response does not look convincing. During the Council of Ministers’ meeting on July 10th, Myasnikovich demanded to simplify and accelerate the construction under investment contracts. To this, KGB Chairman Jakobson said that the issue would be discussed during Kobyakov’s working group.
Finally, on July 12th, Myasnikovich supported the controversial idea to introduce tax for the unemployed (about 445,000 working age nationals do not work anywhere and enjoy social benefits). This statement indicates an unfolding crisis, as the government is unable to achieve the economic growth targets set by the Presidential Administration or to change the state’s economic policy. The Prime Minister has to draw attention to himself with such outrageous statements.
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.