Strikes at Enterprises Continue
On June 1, workers of a house-building factory in Vitebsk refused to start work until they were paid their salaries.
Despite the increase in average wages in the country and economic stability, the situation at two enterprises remains tense. A decline in the pace of wages growth and breach of payment schedule immediately leads to social protests.
In contrast to the field of international policy, where Belarus continues its policy of pendulum by selectively fulfilling the requirements of the West and the Kremlin, Belarus’ internal social policy needs to be firm and the authorities need to act accordingly. They need to raise wages and to comply with the schedule of payments. Otherwise, labor collectives immediately go on strike.
Such a scenario was used in 2011 several times; it repeated at the house-building factory in Vitebsk. The salary was only one day delayed, however approximately one hundred employees of one of the factory’s department refused to start work and demanded to pay their salaries at once.
It is expected that the country’s authorities will continue to fulfill their promises to raise wages and to comply with the schedule of payments. At present, it is the only way for the government to avoid social protests.
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.