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.