State Personnel Policy: staff and loyalty shortages
Analysis of the President Lukashenko’s government staffing policy reform in 2013 shows its two features. Firstly, officials close to President Lukashenko have increased their influence and so-called Prime Minister Myasnikovich group weakened. Secondly, ruling elite’s authority is not sustainable and could change rapidly. State power’s sustainability is increasingly dependent on President Lukashenko and a small group of his closes’ health.
In Q1 2013 the most distinct feature of the personnel policy is Deputy Prime Minister Petr Prokopovich’s administrative weight sharp increase. In particular, once appointed, he was introduced to 10 different state boards and high level commissions, as a head in 7 of them. Thus, today Prokopovich formally oversees a broad variety of public policy areas: from entrepreneurial development and taxation simplification to industrial modernization and public assets privatization.
Most likely, President Lukashenko’s confidence in Prokopovich is due to the crisis of confidence within the ruling group. Empowering one person with numerous responsibilities primarily indicates there is a deficit of loyal and trusted aides. In these circumstances, President Lukashenko has to turn a blind eye to the age and health of 73-year old Prokopovich, who in 2011 had a major heart surgery and retired.
Simultaneously to Prokopovich’s strengthening positions, since 2012 Sergei Rumas from Prime Minister Myasnikovich team has been losing his positions in government decision-making. Since early 2013 Rumas, who in July 2012 was appointed Chairman of the Board at Development Bank, was consistently taken out of various inter-agency councils and commissions (state statistics, price control, Logistics, stock trading, international financial reporting standards and others). In this context, Prime Minister Myasnikovich’s appointment as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Development Bank in January 2013 is yet another prove of this trend.
Therefore, Belarus’ public policy is far more personalistic than clan-based. Influence groups’ size within Belarusian ruling elite are relatively small and limited to the most senior officials’ inner circle (the President or Prime Minister), which makes them relatively easily replaceable. On the contrary, confidence deficit significantly increases the burden on officials from the president’s inner circle, increasing managerial risks during crisis or in case of President’s or his current favourites’ potential health problems.
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.