Lukashenka mobilizes territorial troops
Belarusian authorities are seriously afraid of growing social protests in the regions and started to take countermeasures. They don’t have enough resources to increase salaries, as demanded by people, so, in order to stop the wave of dissatisfaction they have started to use coercive measures.
On the 3rd and 4th of November, Lukashenka visited a number of centers of territorial defense in Minsk and Grodno regions.
Belarusian authorities are seriously afraid of growing social protests in the regions and started to take countermeasures. They don’t have enough resources to increase salaries as demanded by people, so, in order to stop the wave of dissatisfaction they have started to use coercive measures.
Belarusian authorities are seriously afraid of growing social protests in the regions and started to take countermeasures.
A number of loud statements from Lukashenka concerning mobilization of territorial troops, where the reserve military personnel is mobilized in case of danger, should be understood not in the military, but in the political sense. At the present moment, the largest threat for the Belarusian government is represented not by external military menace, but by social protests of workers at regional enterprises, which stand against a decline in welfare and demand an increase in wages, in order to compensate for the price rises.
It is the desire to keep control over the social situation on the local level that prompted the President to make a trip to the regions. In September-October, at least 3 cases of strikes took place at the enterprises of Vitebsk, Svetlogorsk and Borisov, also there was a pre-strike situation at the railway carriage repair works in Gomel. At the same time, the Belarusian Ruble continued to weaken at the stock exchange, the probability to receive external credit help is very low, and the level of prices in the country continues to grow.
The Belarusian authorities are losing the ability to control the situation by economic means and predictably resort to force – strengthening the control over the heads of the regions and directors of state and private enterprises. That is why on November 3rd, all Belarusian governors received the rank of major generals, and during the visit to Minsk Headquarters of Territorial Defense the President gave a clear signal to regional businesses that they need to cooperate with the state. After that, in Grodno, Lukashenka ordered the Ministry of the Interior and to KGB to prevent the unrests at enterprises.
The Belarusian authorities are losing the ability to control the situation by economic means and predictably resort to force – strengthening the control over the heads of the regions and directors of state and private enterprises.
In addition, the President is sending a clear message to his external and internal opponents that he is ready to protect his power even with a grenade launcher in his hands (the press-service made a corresponding picture of him). Also, the President de facto provided KGB and the Ministry of the Interior with a carte-blanche to make tougher their activity on prevention of extremism, without any respect to international commitments of Belarus in the sphere of Human Rights protection. The President stated that he takes upon himself all the responsibility for such actions.
The last statement should not be perceived as the beginning of a new campaign to eliminate political opponents – such a campaign has been going on at least since December 19, 2010. The words of the President Lukashenka aim to lessen the weight of responsibility of his subordinates for the violations of law and Human Rights. The symbolic transfer of responsibility for the activities of Belarusian law-enforcement and special agencies personally to the President, in opinion of Lukashenka, will help him to keep internal legitimacy and strengthen the loyalty of his subordinates.
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.