Strategic split within the Belarusian opposition into political and civic campaigns
On May 7, the court sentenced the deputy head of Tell the Truth! campaign Andrei Dzmitryeu and a member of the board Mikhail Pashkevich to 10 days in custody. On May 11, at the press- conference a co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party Vital Rymasheuski, “European Belarus” coordinator Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, a co-chairman of the organising committee for creation of the Belaruski Rukh (Belarusian Movement) party Viktar Ivashkevich, made a joint statement on boycotting the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The arrest of two activists of the civil campaign Tell the Truth! is not linked to their political pre-election activity. The measures taken by the state are more likely to be connected to the public projects of Tell the Truth!, such as a protest against the construction of the Chinese technological park in the Smolevichi district as well as the “Civil agreement” campaign (deals with solving social and everyday problems on citizens’ appeals)
All these projects go far beyond the traditional patterns of behavior within the opposition forces, in particular, on the format of participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections. As a result, civil society activists greatly expand their field of activity by addressing social issues (e.g., control over the privatisation, protection of property and civil rights of citizens, etc.). At the same time, by extending their activity beyond the election campaign, they prolong their political life.
Thus, on April 30, the leader of the civil campaign \"Tell the Truth!\" Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu said that the campaign has a long-term goal for 2015-2016. However, it should be mentioned that none of the conventional opposition movements declare such long-term perspectives.
More radical political actors “Belarusian Christian Democracy,\" \"European Belarus\" and \"Belaruski rukh\" (Belarusian Movement) stick to short-term tactics of boycotting the upcoming elections. Other well-known opposition parties such as “Just World\" and the United Civil Party act in a similar manner. Although they both have the opposite attitude to boycotting the elections, neither of them has declared any clear post-election strategy.
Thus, it could be said that the parliamentary election of 2012 will play a crucial role in splitting the Belarusian opposition into two major groups of strategic and tactical actors. The former ones are registered and unregistered parties and movements (the UCP party “A Just World”, \"Belarusian Christian Democracy,\" \"European Belarus\", \"Belaruski rukh\", etc.) The latter include new civic campaigns that do not limit their activity to participation in the elections and seek to implement long-term strategies of civic engagement (\"Tell the Truth!\", the \"For Freedom\" Movement).
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.