Belarusian Police Image, Bаrgaining for а Russian Air Force Base - Belarus Security Digest

photo: belarus.by

On 5 December 2013, after a month of waiting, Aliaksandr Miazhujeu was appointed the State Secretary of the Security Council.

Top police officials continue to work on improving the police's image among the population and fight against negative incidents from occurring within the agency. In the context of budget constraints, the main emphasis in this struggle is being made through ideological appeals and various organisational levers.

Practical steps towards establishing a Russian air force base in Belarus have been made. However, this does not mean that the bargaining regarding this site is over.
Official Minsk has yet to achieve its goals.

Russia is becoming more and more interested in Belarus' military and industrial complex. The reason for this is both the technologies Belarus has and the decline of Russia's own culture of industrial manufacturing.

The Security Council of Belarus has a new boss

When speaking about the appointment of Major-General Aliaksandr Miazhujeu to the position of the State Secretary of the Security Council, we should focus on a number of key points.

First, the position of the Head of the Security Council was vacant for over a month. This is evidence of an unscheduled transfer of the former State Secretary Leanid Maltsau to the position of Chief of the Border Guards. It also points to the fact that Aliaksandr Lukashenka has a small substitutes' bench.

Secondly, over the last year Aliaksandr Miazhujeu was a member of the Chamber of Representatives and the head of the Commission on Defence. Traditionally, MP status has been a pre-retirement sinecure for the Belarusian nomenklatura.

This is already the second case when the Chamber of Representatives has "shared" its staff with the executive branch. On 14 November 2013, Aliaksandr Lukashenka appointed Uladzimir Krautsou, previously the Chairman of the Commission on the Economy, as Chairman of the Hrodna Region Executive Committee.

Apparently, the delay with the appointment was caused by the need to find a person who was not previously among the top nomenklatura. It was made in order to disavow allegations of a personnel crisis as well as to replenish the top management with new staff.

The position of Head of the Security Council is a technical one, rather than a political one. Under conditions where the State Secretary has to coordinate the work of several agencies with often conflicting interests, and taking into account the specifics of the decision-making process in our country, the position can be like running through a minefield. Especially when the demands of the political leadership to the security agencies are backed within only sparse monetary support.

In general, one should not expect any significant change in the work of the security agencies.

Ministry of Internal Affairs seeks to improve its image among the population

In 2013, 33.9% of population trusted the police (according to information put out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs itself). This figure remained stable over a rather long period of time. It means that working with the population to improve the police's image has yet to bring about the desired results.

Particular focus is being put on discipline and the rule of law among police officers and servicemen from the Internal Ministry troops. However, the agency prefers to maintain their silence about any results they may have, or may not have, achieved. Up to this point, publicly officials have only emphasised that the measures which have been taken have helped to reduce "some negative incidents" from occurring in their police work.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs recently issued order No. 424 which aimed at maintaining a healthy lifestyle among police officers and the servicemen from the Ministry's troops and members of their families. The documents set guidelines for minimising one's smoking and eradicating other bad habits, preventing any kind of deviant behaviour or addictions. They have also declared 2014 as the Year of a Healthy Lifestyle in the police agency.

At the same time, the agency's top management became concerned again with the state of corporate ethics. First of all, the question is of preventing information leaks about specific facts and incidents which show the negative side of the situation in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Disclosure of negative information about the actions of the police force's leadership is considered to be especially unacceptable.

On the other hand, the Ministry's top officials asked the heads of field offices to hault the usage of verbal insults and abusive language towards their subordinates which has long been one of the main ways of managing rank-and-file police officers and exert influence on them. This struggle to improve morale and the general situation within the police force has already been going on for many years now, and judging by the fact that the same points have remained relevant all this time, the programme can be deemed inefficient.

The Ministry's top management sees strengthening the ideological foundations of its employees as crucial in shaping a culture of high professional standards, improving the moral and psychological climate, and promoting discipline and the rule of law in its police and military units as the main means by which they can overcome poor conduct in their ranks.

The top brass is particularly concerned with an increased in the number of incidences of defiance and even resistance on the part of the population to police on duty. Currently, society is dominated by generations of people which grew up during the post-Soviet era, an integral part of which was "romanticism" for the underworld and its associated morality and behaviour, nihilism for the law and penchant for violence. Obviously, the declining social status of a law-enforcement officer in the eyes of ordinary people will continue to drop in the future. Accordingly, one can expect more frequent cases of violent acts towards the police.

Bargaining around the Russian Air Force Base in Belarus continues

On 10 December 2013, the Belarusian authorities officially recognised the presence of an detachment (4 aircraft) of Russian fighters Su-27P in Belarus which are deployed at the air force base in Baranavichy (the 61th Belarusian Fighter Air Force and Aerial Defence Base). It is worth noting that it was announced only after the news had already been reported by independent media.

Russian Air Force crews will now be staying one month each on a rotational basis in Belarus to carry out joint combat duty flights in protecting Belurasian airspace. The Russian fighters are under Belarusian command and it is likely to stay this way until the agreement on the air force base is signed.

Instead of the Su-27SM3 fighters which were initially announced to be arriving, fighters of the "P" class were sent to Belarus. The Su-27P is a defence aircraft and, according to open sources, is not able to use air-to-surface weapons.

The Russian air force base was originally a tool of the Belarusian authorities for achieving three goals:

  • guaranteeing political support from Moscow on the eve of the 2015 elections;
  • getting larger financial support from Russia;
  • taking issues tied to privatisation off the table.

However, judging by recent events (the maintaining of a remittance on export duties for petrol products in the Russian budget, the unclear prospects of achieving an optimal oil balance in 2014, continued demands for privatisation of some industrial assets by Russia), the last two points remain unfulfilled. This can explain the absence of any explicit enthusiasm from the Belarusian propaganda machine towards this event.

It is evident that the bargaining for the creation of a truly Russian air force base in Belarus continues and the overall situation remains uncertain. After having deployed the first element, Moscow, for image reasons, will be interested in pushing the air force base issue through and achieving its practical implementation. For Minsk this gives them a potential opportunity to ask for the highest possible price.

Russia tries to buy companies from Belarus' military and industrial complex

In December, the government of Belarus announced that preparatory work for the de facto sale to Russian investors of four enterprises (Integral, MZKT, MAZ and Peleng) which manufacture military and dual-use products would continue.

Admitting the Russians to the positions of management in these companies is the price which Belarus has to pay for lifting the existing restrictions on access for Belarusian companies from the military and industrial complex to Russian public procurement tenders (including those available within the framework of the State defence procurement). Moscow promised Lukashenka that they would lift  these restrictions back in September 2012, right after his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

According to the Belarusian leader, the countries' leadership has agreed that all Belarusian enterprises would be able to participate in tenders for the procurement of products for the Russian State defence sector on equal terms with Russian companies. However, some restrictions still remain, especially if a Russian manufacturer of similar products exists, even if the products are of lesser quality or more expensive.

The continued interest from Russia in picking up Belarusian companies in this sector may reflect at least two trends things.

First, Russia seeks to bring under its control the maximum number of components needed for the manufacturing of military-related items in order to minimise any potential political risks in future bilateral relations and to prevent Belarusian technology from being leaked to other countries, which primarily means China.

Second, despite all their best efforts and significant budget restrictions, Russia is technologically unable to create its own complete closed system of defence manufacturing that could completely replace Belarus' own defence and weapons manufacturing industry.

Another issue is the very real cultural decline of production in the Russian military and industrial complex. Fatal accidents such as the launch of the Proton vehicles, the crash of the Kazakh MiG-31 fighter jet which was repaired in Russia, and complaints with the quality of the Su-34 and Su-35 from the Russian military are facts too serious to ignore.

Andrei Parotnikau

Andrei is the head of the “Belarus Security Blog” analytical project.

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