Belarusian authorities may have to reform KGB
External factors and complications in Russo-Belarusian relations prompt the Belarusian authorities to transform the national security system and special services in the first place. Current and future challenges, which Minsk is likely to face dictate the need to pay close attention to the authorities’ capacity in this regard.
Over the past year, Belarus has repeatedly faced Russia-inspired provocations. The provocations aimed to demonstrate that the Belarusian authorities were unable to control the situation.
For instance, in February 2017, an attempt was made to disrupt a press conference concluding the next round of negotiations on the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Four unidentified persons started shouting insults at Ukrainian President Poroshenko, chanting “Donbass is a part of Russia” and disseminated leaflets calling on the Russian leadership to stop negotiations with Ukraine and send troops to Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. Later it turned out that the provocateurs represented the National Bolsheviks, a marginal political group in Russia. The incident occurred in the President Hotel opposite Lukashenka's administration. The hotel security service is headed by former Belarusian Interior Minister Valentin Agolets.
In late August, in Gomel, Russian special services kidnapped Ukrainian citizen Pavel Grib. On September 18th, 2017, the National Liberation Movement (NLM), a Russian chauvinist organization, organised a motor convoy passing through Minsk centre. On September 20th, 2017, NLM activists appeared in Gomel, they travelled through half of Belarus without hindrance.
Frank provocations from Russia against Minsk require appropriate response from the Belarusian authorities. Conventionally, special services respond to such provocations and prevent their occurrence in the future. Lukashenka is likely to focus his attention on this segment of the national security in the near future. The KGB, being the largest special service with broad competences, is likely to undergo a serious internal transformation, with the redistribution of internal resources (human and physical) to enhance counterintelligence, OSINT intelligence, and political analysis. An increase in the security component in special services is likely, too. That said, the political intelligence, "customised" to suppress the political opposition and civil society in Belarus (including independent media), is unlikely to change.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.