Strengthening independence, deals with Azerbaijan, a new UK approach – Ostrogorski Centre digest
In October, analysts at the Ostrogorski Centre discussed Belarus’s involvement in supplying arms to Syrian war parties, the UK’s new approach towards Belarus, and how President Alexander Lukashenka’s recent appointments strengthen Belarusian independence and identity.
Commentary from the Ostrogorski Centre also appeared in the media. The topics under analysis ranged from the new edition of the law on mass rallies, to the Belarusian anarchist movement and state reactions against it, and to Belarus-Azerbaijan deals on weapons and oil.
Last but not least, the centre published five new policy papers in the areas of economics, education and public administration, and uploaded them to the BelarusPolicy research database—a joint project between the Ostrogorski Centre and the Belarusian Research Council.
Siarhei Bohdan examines on whose side Belarus is in the Syrian civil war. Belarus thus is accused of supplying all sides in the Syrian civil war. If the allegations are proven, unscrupulous deals in such a conflict amount to a gross violation of international security regulations.
The responses by more influential states or a global power like the US or Russia to such a violation would likely be much harsher than their reactions to human rights violations committed by Minsk. But available evidence proves that Minsk is only an indirect participant. Its involvement in the Syrian conflict as a supplier of weapons is limited to working with intermediaries acting on behalf of Western countries and their allies.
Igar Gubarevich investigates whether the United Kingdom is finally interested in Belarus. The UK has virtually overlooked Belarus since the latter regained its independence over twenty five years ago. London has, by and large, been a strong proponent of a hard-line approach towards Lukashenka’s regime. The UK has avoided talking to the authorities in Minsk.
The UK’s post-Brexit needs and Belarus’s increased role in stabilising security in the region made the junior minister’s visit to Minsk finally possible. However, a major increase in bilateral cooperation or the UK’s substantial departure from today’s common EU policy towards Belarus remains unlikely under current circumstances.
Vadzim Smok claims that Lukashenka’s recent appointments strengthen Belarusian independence and identity. Over the last few months, the Belarusian president has made a number of high-level appointments that demonstrate a clear trend of “Belarusianisation” of the government. A number of new military chiefs never studied in Russian military schools as did most of their peers.
Certain job candidates known to speak Belarusian on a daily basis received positions as rector of Lukashenka’s alma mater – Mahilioŭ State University, Minister of Information and Deputy Foreign Minister. This policy is apparently supposed to strengthen the country’s independence and national identity. What differs “Belarusianisation” from Lukashenka’s previous policy methods is to emphasise not a purely statist, but also a cultural approach to nation-building.
Comments in the media
On Radio Poland’s “Political mirror” programme, Ryhor Astapenia discussed the entrance of private companies to the utility sector, whether the authorities will allow Belarusians to rally freely, and why only a few hundred people gathered at the socio-economic protest in Minsk.
Igar Gubarevich, also on Radio Poland, analysed the first visit of a high-level British official to Belarus in the country’s independent history. According to the expert, the visit of Sir Alan Duncan has two obvious reasons. First, the UK is interested in Belarus’s position on the annexation of the Crimea remaining unchanged. The second reason is Whitehall has begun to negotiate Brexit and it is looking to shape its own foreign policy independent from the EU. Therefore, the official explored how to build Britain’s own policy towards Belarus.
The third Ostrogorski Centre analyst to speak on Radio Poland, Alesia Rudnik, discussed today’s anarchist movement in Belarus and its persecution by the authorities.
The Times of Israel newspaper quoted Siarhei Bohdan in an article on Belarus’s possible military assistance to the Syrian Assad regime. According to Siarhei, Belarus’s ties to the Assad regime are not as deep as they appear. The country is still looking to maintain its business ties with the Gulf states—which have deeper pockets than Syria—and that Belarus would not risk those relationships for a quick buck from Assad or Iran.
Siarhei Bohdan in an interview to Azerbaijani news agency Vzglyad.az discussed the meeting of Belarusian Security Council State Secretary Stanislaŭ Zaś with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. According to Siarhei, Zaś was likely to have negotiated on Azeri oil supplies to Belarus, as well as defence industry projects, in particular, involvement in Belarus’s missile programme.
Aliaksandr Filipaŭ. Mechanisms of motivation of civil servants in Belarus: how to reconcile the irreconcilable? BIPART, 2017.
Aliaksandr Čubryk. Reforms in Belarus after the cancelled IMF program: totem and taboo. IPM Research Centre, 2017.
Kaciaryna Barnukova. Fiscal redistribution in Belarus: what works and what doesn’t? BEROC, 2017.
Final monitoring of the implementation of the Roadmap for Higher Education Reform in Belarus. Belarusian Independent Bologna Committee, 2017.
Belarusian Economic Review, Q2 2017. BEROC, 2017.
Think tanks in Belarus are encouraged to submit their research for inclusion in the database by emailing us.
The Ostrogorski Centre is a private, non-profit organisation dedicated to analysis and policy advocacy on problems which Belarus faces in its transition to market economy and the rule of law. Its projects include Belarus Digest, the Journal of Belarusian Studies, BelarusPolicy.com,BelarusProfile.com and Ostro.by.
Call for Papers: The Third Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies
The Belarusian Studies in the 21st Century Conference Committee, the Ostrogorski Centre and the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum invite proposals from established academics and doctoral researchers for individual papers and panel discussions on contemporary Belarusian studies. The conference is a multidisciplinary forum for Belarusian studies in the West.
All proposals will be considered on any subject matter pertaining to Belarus. This year, however, proposals relating to human rights, social media, education, the history of the Belarusian People’s Republic, Belarusian history and culture and sociology are particularly encouraged. A selection of peer-reviewed papers will be published in the Journal of Belarusian Studies in 2018.
As in previous years, in addition to the conference, which will be held 23–24 March 2018 at University College London, several other Belarus-related events will take place in London. The 2018 conference will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic, the first modern attempt of Belarusian statehood, as well as the 10th anniversary of Belarus Digest.
To submit a paper or panel proposal, please complete an online registration form at http://tinyurl.com/belauk2018 by 15 December 2017. Successful candidates will be notified by 5 January 2018. The working language of the conference is English.
There is a £10GPB registration fee associated with the conference to cover related expenses. You may pay the fee at the door or pay online (see the registration form for details). If you are unable to pay the registration fee, the organisers can a waiver. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for a fee waiver.
The organisers can provide non-UK based applicants with invitation letters for visas.
For any questions, please contact either Stephen Hall or Peter Braga at email@example.com.
Conference co-chairs: Professor Andrew Wilson and Professor Yarik Kryvoi
Please use this hastag #belstudies