(For this article, the term «soldier» means a person serving in the Army and the agencies operating in the sphere of public security and law enforcement)
Belarus is currently facing the most serious crisis for the entire period since getting independence in 1991. It is caused by confluence of several negative factors that could undermine the existing constitutional order: in an economic crisis the country is experiencing a political crisis connected with non-recognition of authorities’ legitimacy both in Belarus and abroad. There is no single position of the authorities on a number of policy issues, i.e. we can talk about not good quality of cooperation in the ruling regime. We can also observe the lack of reliable allies of Belarus in the international arena and the low efficiency of public administration. All these things are factors to help the political opposition in the struggle for power. The situation is also good for individual groups of the authorities, seeking to improve their level of influence, as well as for foreign governments and their units who are interested in incorporating (saving) our country in its zone of influence.
In this regard, one of the major challenges for the highest military and political leaders is to strengthen the institutions responsible for national defense, security and law enforcement. In this case, it is necessary to solve three sets of issues:
— To optimize the structure of personnel and strengthen the human resources system;
— To find the major internal threats;
— To get support in the international arena.
As part of the state apparatus, law enforcement agencies in fact have the same drawbacks as civilian ones. In our opinion, the basic are the bureaucracy, the gap between management and interests of employees and poor quality of personnel in general.
Belarusian law enforcement agencies, are a «sacred cow». And the very idea to reform them is considered as a sedition. Military-political leaders of the country believe that the structure and strength of national security is generally optimal. Meanwhile, the processes, typical for both military and civilian bureaucracy, like self-reproduction and expansion, are taking place in the law enforcement agencies. Especially in the Interior Ministry, where there is a redistribution of investigative and operational units of the officers in supervisory organizations where there is neither the investigation nor the operational work. Moreover, often the officers of these units do not have any practical experience, as they are appointed by virtue of family connections or patronage. Control, logistical, analytical, statistical, staff and similar organizations of all law enforcement agencies have a tendency to sprawl, often by cutting staff units directly involved in the execution of tasks to ensure national security and defense.
Recurrent reductions in administrative and supervisory staff usually bring no result and often lead to a growth of “bureaucracy in uniform” instead. This leads to the “gap” between leaders of the security agencies and the problems of the lower divisions, appearing in the course of performing their duties.
At the same time we should pay attention to the moral character of the leaders of the law enforcement agencies’ units. Often, they are appointed to their positions not because of their personal abilities, but because of having good connections and patronage. In many parts of the Interior Ministry insult and humiliation of subordinates by their superiors is a common practice. Prevarication and the use of the position for personal needs and self-serving purposes by the officers, becomes known to their subordinates. All these facts are made public through family members of the officers, which negatively affects the public attitude to the security agencies.
Now it is necessary to “clean” the management, reducing the structures not directly related to performing their tasks, and to promote civilians to certain positions. However, in the situation of the crisis it is doubtful that the leaders of the country would dare to reform the defence and law enforcement agencies. The authorities are afraid of reduction of the capacity and the possible actions of the soldiers dissatisfied with the reforms, which can be aimed at undermining the existing state system. In addition, they may simply not have the relevant staff for correcting the situation.
Staff shortage and outflow of professionals (especially young) is an acute problem of law enforcement agencies. And this is primarily connected with the low prestige of serving in the agencies and inadequate salaries there. Currently, the allowance for lieutenant after graduating is below than average one in the country and is about one of a loader. The situation got even worse after the devaluation of Belarusian currency. In our opinion, a significant increase in wage in security forces is one of the most urgent problems. Delays in resolving this issue for early or mid-term period (2-3 years) will result in an outflow of the specialists and enhanced lumpenization of law enforcement agencies. In such situation a fired employee will be replaced by a person who is not able to claim a comparable income in the civil sector of the labor market because of their moral, intellectual and professional qualities.
In the light of the growing political crisis, the defense of the state system is one of the most important issue for the security services of Belarus. Taking into consideration the possibility of activization of political opposition, it seems appropriate to expand the operational staff related to political security of the state and control of the loyalty of officials and members of other law enforcement agencies, especially the senior supervisory personnel, to the existing regime. Such expansion can be done either through redeployment of existing staff units or by introducing new ones.
At the same time some measures to detect and suppress the financial sources of the opposition organizations, or put them under control with the help of the agents, planted into opposition before, can be expected.
Another important task on ensuring the sustainability of the existing system is a foreign security, which can be defined as absence (successful prevention) of the threat of intervention in the internal affairs of the Republic of Belarus by foreign states and international organizations. The ways to achieve this goal are:
1) collecting embarrassing information about government and public figures of foreign countries;
2) support (informational, financial and military-technical) of friendly politicians (political groups) and government officials abroad.
Foreign states can be divided into two groups:
1) Western countries, Russia and Ukraine, where it’s necessary to use the first of the above methods due to the lack of sufficient financial resources for the involvement of local politicians and officials into pro-Belarusian activities;
2) Third World countries, where it’s better to use the second method because of low prices of local political campaigns; the potential interest of local business dealing with political and administrative elite, in cooperation with Belarus; and the ability of Belarus to assist those countries in preparation of local law enforcement agencies.
The establishment of friendly, even allied relations with Third World countries is very promising due to the fact that:
1) At the moment Belarus is ahead of most of them in terms of technological development, which creates conditions for increased exports of complex technical products;
2) Being mostly not rich and not having significant military resources, these countries have a voice in international organizations and can provide support to Belarus.
Thus, there is an issue of creating a full-fledged political intelligence, busy with collecting information and lobbying the national interests of our country abroad by all available means.
However, it should be noted, that in this case only one intelligence effort is not enough for reaching all goals. It’s necessary to start an integrated campaign and work with other government bodies and interested business entities of Belarus. Cooperation with Third World countries can be successful and profitable only in case of a sustained and consistent work, and also clear and timely implementation of our country’s commitments.
Belarusian authorities can boast neither of the first nor of the second. Thus, despite the announced strategic cooperation with Iran, the Belarusian side is more talking than trying to increase its presence in the Iranian market. Belarus has also made delays of payments in joint projects with Venezuela. According to our information, Hugo Chavez arrived in Minsk in October 2010 to resolve issues related to debt of Belarus to Venezuela. And although in the end Belarusian side fulfilled its contractual obligations, the reputation of our country in the eyes of the Venezuelan leaders was undermined. It should be noted that since that time the number of materials in the official Belarusian media on bilateral cooperation has dramatically reduced.
Thus, the supreme military and political leadership faces serious challenges. We will know soon, whether it will take adequate and effective measures. However, Belarusian authorities have no much time. Contrary to official propaganda, foreign intervention in our internal affairs and external pressure on Belarus are still severely limited, often symbolic (the appeals to respect the country’s commitments in the sphere of human rights). Belarusian authorities have not yet faced any real pressure or actual subversive actions of foreign special services. For the present.