Regional conference of the democratic forces. Mogilev
In the end of March Mogilev hosted a regional conference of democratic forces. The conference was attended by representatives of the United Civil Party, Belarusian Popular Front, Belarusian Social Democratic Party NG, non-registered party of Freedom and Progress.
The conference was also attended by guests from the movement “For Freedom” Mr. Milinkevich and Mr. Gubarevich, as well as one of the authors of the “Strategy 2012” Mr. Mackiewicz. The main subject for discussion at the conference was preparation and participation in the 2012 election campaign.
The delegates decided to boycott the Parliamentary elections in 2012, if all political prisoners in Belarus were not released by the beginning of the election campaign.
This decision of representatives of the Mogilev Democratic Forces was adopted almost unanimously. The only reservation was that the 2012 elections “still needed to be prepared for”, given that the authorities could ease up on the political situation at any time. The idea of having a dialogue with the government and holding of legitimate elections in 2012, met little sympathy among the conference participants. This confirms our criticism regarding the prospects for consolidation of the democratic forces across the country. Meanwhile, this inflexible decision at the regional level could be attributed to particular rigidity of the local authorities. During the latest presidential campaign, Mogilev authorities have not included a single representative of the opposition in the territorial election commissions.
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.