National security and defence of Belarus (April 2022)

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The most important events of the month. On April 7, 2022, a meeting of the Security Council of Belarus dedicated to the current Russian-Ukrainian war was held. Aliaksandr Lukashenka did not demonstrate optimism:

– The Union of Belarus and Russia may not survive. Obviously, in a confrontation with the West.

– The accusation of Belarus of complicity in Russian aggression against Ukraine is unfounded.

– Lukashenka called on “doubting allies” to unite as soon as possible.

– Minsk should be a participant in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

As a result of the event, the representative of the regime stated that “…Belarus, like Ukraine and Russia, also needs security guarantees.” That is why Lukashenka should participate in the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks.

He stated that even the formal allies of Minsk and the Kremlin from among the post-Soviet states do not provide the expected support and take a wait-and-see attitude. While the Lukashenka regime will take this factor into account when determining its foreign policy.

Russia supported the inclusion of Belarus in the number of countries — guarantors of Ukraine’s security.

The developments within the month. On April 12, 2022, a regular meeting between Vladimir Putin and Lukashenka took place. The subject of negotiations was the issues of economic and military cooperation between the two sides.

Lukashenka agreed with the Kremlin’s policy and stated that:

— USA is pushing Poland and the Baltic States to confront Belarus;

— the West was preparing to strike at Russia, and only the Russian invasion of Ukraine forestalled this scenario;

— in the history of Belarus and Russia there have never been such dangerous moments in relations with the West.

On April 19, 2022, Lukashenka held a meeting with the command of law enforcement agencies. Among other things, the issues of ensuring security on the railway, counteracting cyber-attacks and information and psychological confrontation were discussed.

Lukashenka also criticized the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. He demanded control over the state of affairs in the labour collectives of state-owned companies and the bureaucracy from the State Security Committee.

Prosecutor General Andrei Shved said about the low detection rate of political crimes (about 50%), including violent ones. At the same time, most of the criminal cases in this category relate to activity in the Internet space (about 80%, obviously, we are talking about appeals, insults and the dissemination of various information). Prosecutors of all levels monthly check the effectiveness of the work of internal affairs bodies and investigative units in this category of crimes. As a result, almost 1 thousand decisions to refuse to initiate criminal cases, suspend and terminate investigations have been canceled. Shved made it clear that in some situations the security forces themselves sabotage the investigation of such criminal cases.

The activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to combat illegal drug trafficking were also criticized.

In April, units of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus continued to strengthen the protection of certain sections of the border with Ukraine on a rotational basis. The military controls important transport routes.

Last month, a delegation headed by the Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of Russia visited Belarus. Issues in the field of information security of the so-called “union state” as well as international cooperation in the field of combating information crime and international Internet governance mechanisms were on the agenda.

Of the training activities for law enforcement agencies in April, it is worth highlighting the following:

— Planned joint staff training of the North-Western operational command of the army on the use of troops in a defensive operation. In addition to the management bodies of the command and subordinate formations and military units, the training involved the operational groups (representatives) from the administration for the use and development of unmanned aerial systems of the army, the command of the Air Force and the air defense forces, the headquarters of the territorial defense zones and the State Border Committee. The interaction of the troops of the operational command with the forces of other formations has been trained. The event took into account the experience of modern wars and armed conflicts.

— Tactical exercise of the battalion of the 38th Brest Airborne Assault Brigade. During the event the troops trained the landing from helicopters, night firing, the capture of the island, and overcoming water obstacles.

— Tactical-special exercise “Thunderstorm” with the participation of special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Internal Troops and the Minsk OMON. Among other things, the troops trained ambush actions against a convoy of enemy equipment that had broken through the Belarusian border.

Conclusions. Minsk’s attempt to become a party to Russian-Ukrainian agreements is part of a joint game with the Kremlin. Whose interest is to have two of his votes against one from Kyiv during such negotiations. For the Lukashenka regime, this is a nod of loyalty to Moscow and an attempt to raise its own status as a party to the conflict, which hypothetically could cover other countries. By becoming a negotiating party, Minsk will increase its chances of some kind of deal with the West, which will allow the regime to return to international politics. At the same time, it will give certain guarantees against retribution from Ukraine in the future for complicity in aggression. However, taking into account the actual deadlock of the Ukrainian-Russian negotiations, the already low chance for the success of this plan has actually vanished.

The resentment of the Lukashenka regime towards the post-Soviet countries is addressed primarily to Kazakhstan. Which clearly doesn’t want to publicly identify with Minsk and Moscow, as well as to become a non-public channel for circumventing Western sanctions.

Lukashenka’s statements in support of Russian military aggression against Ukraine are not only his demonstration of loyalty to the Kremlin, but also his deep inner conviction. There is no need to look for any coercion on the part of Putin in this case. Lukashenka could have limited himself to more streamlined formulations at the public level. But he says exactly what he personally firmly believes. In this regard, it is worth noting that, in addition to the general anti-Western rhetoric, Lukashenka regularly “attacks” Poland, like no other country of the “collective West”. If Lukashenka’s general anti-Westernism can be attributed to his Soviet mentality, then it is not clear what such a special dislike for Poland is based on.

The Lukashenka regime is extremely concerned about the acts of sabotage on the railway, the surge of which occurred after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, about 80 of them were identified. In addition, the information networks of the railway were subjected to successful cyber attacks. It is impossible to say with certainty how seriously these acts of sabotage affected the functioning of the railway transport. But the fact itself demonstrates the potential of the Belarusian society for a rather large-scale, and most importantly, forceful opposition to the regime inside Belarus. Lukashenka traditionally considers the ideological influence of the West on Belarusians to be the reason for that.

The fact that the regime takes the “rail war” extremely seriously is evidenced by the fact that all available resources are used for the fight against it: camera traps are placed; UAVs capable of operating at night are patrolling railway lines; railway facilities are patrolled by security forces, ambushes are organized in places of possible sabotage actions. Acts of sabotage on the railway began to be qualified as acts of terrorism (it is not clear whether in all cases, or only when the railway infrastructure is destroyed).

Lukashenka still has concerns about the loyalty of the state apparatus and control over the labor collectives of large state-owned enterprises. The latter may be related to the factor of Western sanctions, which, despite the victorious reports of propaganda, have a suffocating effect on the economy of Belarus.

It is unlikely that Prosecutor General Andrei Shved would publicly criticize law enforcement agencies without Lukashenka’s sanction. The reason why the criticism was publicly voiced, should be looked for in the political area. It is likely that the Belarusian ruler believes his dependence on the generals is too high. There is a high probability of strengthening the powers of the prosecutor’s office to control the activities of law enforcement agencies.

The announced format of the army’s participation in protecting the border with Ukraine and the April exercise of the Ministry of Internal Affairs gives reason to believe that, first of all, Minsk fears a possible breakthrough into Belarusian territory by large units with military equipment, and not by small sabotage and reconnaissance groups. First of all, we are talking about Belarusian volunteers fighting in Ukraine against Russian invasion.

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