Lukashenko offers to release political prisoners to resume a dialogue with the West
At a press conference for the Belarusian national and regional media on 17 June President Lukashenko declared his readiness to release political prisoners, provided the amnesty procedures were observed.
Belarusian President proposed to the West to bargain for “political prisoners in exchange for the resumption of relations”. First of all, Lukashenko is prepared to restore a dialogue with Poland by mentioning the leading role of Poland in the Eastern Europe.
Bearing in mind it is the second proposal of Lukashenko in the course of the past two weeks (reference to the meeting of judges on 3 June) the Belarusian leadership is doing its best to avoid economic reforms. The main recipients of these statements are member states of the IMF, its mission worked in Minsk on 1-13 June.
Given the lack of positive result of the IMF mission and that the conditions put forward for Belarus are not feasible and detrimental to the “created” welfare state and to the popularity of the President, the Belarusian authorities are trying to get away from implementing economic reforms and try to resolve the crisis with “small blood”: by releasing political prisoners. This option suits Minsk perfectly it has been tested in the summer of 2008, when a former Presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin and other political prisoners were released.
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.