The awaited document. On July 26, 2016 it was announced that on July 20, 2016 Aliaksandr Lukashenka approved the final version of the new military doctrine of Belarus. The saga of the adoption of the document started at the beginning of April, when the project of the Doctrine was approved by the House of Representatives in the first reading. And it immediately got heavily criticised by the Armenians, who rightly saw in it the abolishment of the common defence principles in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter CSTO).
It is obvious that so much attention to innovations in Belarusian legislation from the side of distant Armenia was the result of the “advice” by Russia, which for political reasons couldn’t directly and publicly express its attitude to the document because of fear of being accused of interfering in the internal affairs of Belarus.
After that there were almost four months of “cleaning” of the document, which can be explained by the need to make unimportant, mostly stylistic corrections in the document.
It’s necessary to note the specifics of the Belarusian situation: The National Assembly is in fact a consultative body under President Lukashenka. And it only deals with the issues, which were allowed or even directly pointed out by the head of state. In fact, the National Assembly has neither the political nor the imperious subjectivity and is only a place for the ritual of voting to support the initiatives approved by Belarusian leader. Therefore, all the talks about the deep study of the document by the deputies of the National Assembly, which took additional time, shouldn’t be misleading. Rather, it took effort to get feedback from Moscow to the text of the Doctrine and to buy time to allow the situation to calm down.
With the use of Armenia the official Minsk was given the sing that the document hadn’t pleased Moscow, but nothing more than that.
Importance of the Military Doctrine. In itself the Military Doctrine isn’t a document of direct action. It’s interesting rather as a list of fears, projections and opinions of the political leaders of the country only at the time of drafting and adoption of the document. This is valid for all the doctrinal documents of Belarus, the number of which is quite big.
From a practical point of view, the document is interesting since it contains a specific set of concepts and terms with interpretation given. This is important, but mainly for specialists engaged in military security issues (theoretical part) and comparative studies. The doctrine is also interesting to the state ideologists, who need something to write and speak about.
In general, the hype surrounding the adoption of the new military doctrine seems overestimated and doesn’t correspond to the actual importance of the document. This may be connected with two factors. Firstly, in Belarus, in principle there are not so many things that deserve media attention. Secondly, the hype was partly provoked by the authorities themselves, trying to pull attention away from the social and economic crisis in the country to the security issues.
Thus it makes sense to consider the document mainly with the aim to understand the views of Belarusian authorities on the current situation and the possible development of the situation.
Comparing the version of the document. It’s necessary to start with the changes in the text of the military doctrine over the past four months.
Thus, the document was prepared, coordinated with the departments concerned, approved by Aliaksandr Lukashenka personally and in mid-February sent to the National Assembly in order to complete all formal procedures. Under normal circumstances the Doctrine would pass all the formalities in a day or two: just recall the adoption of the Budget Law for the current year. But suddenly the Doctrine got “hung” for several months.
During this period, the document was updated and more than 1200 changes, most of them stylistic, were made to it. But the issue wasn’t just craving for the perfect literature. The final version of the Doctrine contains a number of important changes.
For example, the references that the Doctrine is based on the results of the forecast of development of the military-political situation in the world (including in Europe) until 2020, were taken out of p.2. The phrase “in the medium term” was used instead. On the one hand, it eliminates the need to develop a new doctrine before the end of the current forecasts. But on the other hand it means the recognition of the fact that all the forecasts may be useless, the uncertainty factor is very high. But events in the world and in Europe can develop in completely unpredictable scenario. And it doesn’t inspire optimism.
P.4 of the Doctrine expands the list of military security entities from terrorist and extremist organizations to non-state actors. In this case, the direct connection with the war in the Donbas is obvious. It’s necessary to note that a significant role in the conflict belongs to a legal Russian Cossack organizations and parliamentary parties (the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party), which are actively involved in recruiting fighters and material support of terrorist activities in the South-East of Ukraine.
Currently, there is no reliable information about the number of Cossacks in Russia. The number of 7 million people is mentioned. But this number can be overestimated. The number of Russian Cossacks is reliably indicated only by the data on registered Cossacks. 11 military Cossack groups include more than 465 thousand adult men. At least 237 thousand of them expressed a desire to be at the state or other equivalent service. Besides the registered Cossacks organizations a significant number of Cossacks is participating in the alternative institutions. There more than 600 of such organizations at the moment — their number can’t be determined precisely. It is likely that the number of unregistered Cossacks is not much smaller than of the registered ones.
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (hereinafter LDPR) has more than 235 thousand people in its ranks. The party has extensive contacts in the Russian top bureaucracy and in the business community. The Communist Party of Russian Federation (hereinafter CPRF) has over 161 thousand members. Although the party officially stands on the platform of internationalism, in practice it covers the Russian chauvinism, demagogy on the fight against fascism, and all sorts of conspiracies. CPRF and LDPB are the largest, but by no means not the only political organizations in Russia, which actually supported the terrorist activities in the territory of a neighbouring country (which was even formally friendly before).
The number of Russian volunteers who participated in the war against Ukraine may exceed 50 thousand.
Then, in the final version of the Military Doctrine, the strategic deterrence measures include the social measures. It is obvious that the Belarusian authorities are aware that the current crisis can be protracted. They also understand the danger of its deepening and growing into a social crisis, leading to the weakening of the state and disorientation of the society, which can be used to destabilize the situation in Belarus in order to facilitate external aggression. Contrary to official propaganda the Belarusian state is not (and has never been) socially-oriented. The state budget is used as a means of satisfying the interests of the lobbies, which, frankly speaking, may coincide with the interests of the society. An example is the program of preferential crediting of housing construction. Or the program of rural development, but only partly. And that’s all.
In p.22.3 military security measures include the formation of good neighbourliness zone in the military and political spheres along the entire State border, rather than the external border, as it was stated in an initial draft of the Military Doctrine. External borders are the borders of the CIS countries with third countries (Ukraine is a country-founder of the CIS, but never was its part de jure, although participated in its activities). The state border is the line that defines the limits of the national territory and airspace. Which means that the definition was expanded with Russia. This is strange: formally, the states are good neighbours both in the military and the political spheres. Although this good-neighbourliness is constantly put to the test by the efforts of the authorities of both countries. In recent years it’s done mainly by the Kremlin. Preservation of good neighbourliness is obviously an important and challenging task for the Belarusian authorities.
The text of the Doctrine introduced the concept of the protection of the constitutional system of Belarus, which in fact is the protection of the existing political regime and the power of particular individuals. It’s strange that this definition has been omitted in the original text of the Doctrine.
In the new edition of p.22.14 a number of measures to ensure the military security of the state includes the protection of not only state secrets in the field of national defence, but all of them. So, there is the expansion of the application field of the rules, which is explained by the need to confront the reality of a hybrid war, when the object of the application of aggressive efforts may be, for example, personal data of employees of law enforcement agencies, an important economic and scientific-technical information, etc.
In the final edition of p.37 the competence of the Council of Ministers is supplemented with the management of the civil defence of the country, which is already included in the competence of the Government according to Art. 6 of the Law “On Civil Defence”. The issue of civil defence also wasn’t initially taken into account in the description of the functions of local authorities. Thus it was possible to fix the flaws made by the authors in preparation of the text of the Doctrine. The omission of civil defence in the original text may indirectly indicate that either representatives of the Ministry of Emergency Situations participated in the work on the document improperly, or they weren’t involved in the creation/edition of the original text of the Doctrine.