BYPOL’s breakdown of “Strategies for Transition to a New Belarus”

21/02/2024

BYPOL joined the public discussion of the “Strategy of Transition to New Belarus”

Стратегия Новая Беларусь

BYPOL experts studied the “Strategy of Transition to the New Belarus” developed by S. Tihanovska’s Office team together with the Joint Transition Cabinet, the Coordinating Council and numerous experts, and submitted for public discussion.

We decided to join the public discussion. Below are our comments.

Let us start the analysis of the proposed Strategy with Annex 1, as it is from this Annex that the “transit of power” will begin. The possible scenarios, and there are 4 of them, in our opinion, do not reflect the reality that is going on in Belarus now, what the authorities and power structures live by. They are simply fantastic. But, let’s start in order.

Scenario 1. Change as a result of negotiations

Summary of Content:

Russia has been weakened by the war and cannot support Belarus. The socio-political situation in Belarus deteriorated. Representatives of the nomenklatura decided to negotiate with democratic forces. A transitional government with representatives of the nomenklatura is formed and the implementation of the decisions made by the government begins.

First, what gave the authors of the strategy hope to believe that Russia would become so weak in the war that Belarus would cease to be of interest to it. Even without taking into account the military aspect and the unwillingness (impossibility) of partners to defeat Russia, there are still air defense systems in Belarus, which are included in a single complex with the Russian Federation, a system of airfields with combat aviation covering the sky in the Moscow direction, a communications base of the Baltic Fleet, without which it turns into a pile of scrap metal.

Just look at the map and think what will happen to the Kaliningrad region if the Suvalki corridor of less than 100 km turns into the Belarus corridor of almost 700 km. (taking into account that the Baltic Sea has become an internal NATO basin), and it will become clear to you that Russia will keep this European balcony with 2400 km long borders along the countries unfriendly to Russia and the proximity of the capitals of its neighbors at the distance of a one-day tank throw to the last. This is without even considering the issue that when this “balcony” is closed to 1200 km. of borders with Russia, Moscow will be only 450 km away, and Warsaw and Vilnius will become practically unreachable.

But if we move away from the military strategy, the authors did not answer the main question, where Lukashenko, his cronies are at this moment, and the main thing – where at this moment all these SOBRs, OMON, BB and SDF and all the others, who have blood on their hands and for whom the preservation of the regime in any form is a question of physical survival, have disappeared or what are they doing? And how long will those representatives of the “Belarusan nomenclature”, who “are making attempts to enter into negotiations with the countries of the West and democratic forces for lifting sanctions and restoring relations”, be at liberty, or even alive?

The above-mentioned confirms that there is simply no sense to consider this Scenario further.

Scenario 2. Change under internal societal pressure

Summary of Content:

In Russia, the authorities are changing as a result of the defeat in the war, and they do not care about Belarus. The socio-economic situation in Belarus is deteriorating. Strikes and protests begin, Lukashenka is arrested by the protesters or fled the country. A transitional government is established, democratic changes begin.

This scenario is no less interesting than the first, and no less absurd. Today it is difficult to say what kind of defeat in the war would have to happen for Russia to be on the verge of repeating the events of 1905 or 1917, but one thing is certain: there is no foreseeable political force capable of leading such revolutionary processes. But it is more than realistic that Putin will most likely be replaced by Patrushev or some other hawk. That will inevitably lead to toughening of the regime and, accordingly, to repressions against dissent, at least of the Belarusan level. The military issue becomes even more significant for them, and to present Belarus as a victory will become the main task with preservation or, most likely, increase of the whole group of troops in Belarus, or its complete absorption, but in any case, reduction of its sovereignty.

Besides, the Belarusian economy is loaded with military orders from Russia and is definitely not going to collapse. It is hard to even suppose what would make it collapse in the current realities.

In addition, if the leaders of democratic forces, trade union and labor movement failed to organize a strike in 2020, at the height of protest moods, how are they going to do it now, at the peak of repression and the absence of the most politically active leaders.

The same question, who will come out to protest, who and how will lead it, how will the protesters seize the presidential residence, other critical infrastructure, and most importantly, why Lukashenko should run away after that.

And of course, the question from Scenario 1 is still relevant – where at this moment all these SOBR, OMON, BB and SDF and all the others, who have blood on their hands and for whom the preservation of the regime in any form is a matter of physical survival, have disappeared or what are they doing?

Of course, the fighters of Belarusian units who returned from the war in Ukraine are highly motivated and already fired upon, but how many of them – 50, 100 or 150? How many of them are ready to return to Belarus, how to return, where they will take weapons, because the Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly stated that Lukashenko is an internal problem of Belarus, they won’t interfere and won’t let anyone through with weapons. And there are at least 12 thousand internal troops in Belarus, plus other units of the Interior Ministry, totaling about 80-100 thousand armed personnel, including heavy weapons and helicopters. It is somehow unbelievable, even with large tolerances.

Scenario 3. Gradual transformation of the regime

Summary of Content:

For some reason Lukashenko stops acting as President. Russia is weakened from the war, the new president from the nomenclature decides to normalize relations with the West, the EU and Ukraine. De-escalation and democratization of society begins.

Everything starts with the phrase: “for any reason A. Lukashenko ceases to fulfill the duties of the President”. The whole history of his rule says that for him to rule means to breathe and live, he himself said that he would be taken out of the office only when he dies.

We will not repeat ourselves about Russia, everything has been said above!

The new president is a nomenklaturnist who has no negative baggage of crimes committed by A. Lukashenko. Do you believe that there is such a person? Let’s assume that such a person has been found. But how does he become President? What forces support him, nominate him, on whom he relies? How does he stop repression and release political prisoners? Does he put in their place prison governors, all those who tortured prisoners all these years, all those who have blood on their hands? We can’t imagine it. And again the same question, where is Lukashenko himself at this moment, where are all these OMONs, SOBRs and the rest of the list? Are they just sitting and waiting for them to come for them?

Scenario 4. Change under external pressure

Summary of Content:

Lukashenko’s army enters the war on the side of russia. The Ukrainian army crosses the border with Belarusian volunteers and seizes power in Belarus. A provisional government is established and democratic reforms begin.

It’s simple here. An army that did not enter the war at the peak of Russian success, when it really seemed that “Kiev in 3 days” would suddenly enter the war, when the front stands still and more soldiers are milled per month than all Belarusian combat-ready units put together.

Here are the mathematical calculations confirming the absurdity of these inferences. All armed forces of the Republic of Belarus today have a personnel of about 50 000 people, i.e. about 3-4 divisions of the wartime state, the army reserve is estimated at another 250-300 thousand people, so if we imagine the improbable that somehow they all managed to secretly mobilize, arm, conduct combat alignment, etc., then Belarus will have about 25 divisions. Belarus will have about 25 divisions manned according to wartime staffs.

The division’s defense zone is 8-12 km along the front, with about 3-4 km in depth. But we have a border with Ukraine 1084 km, i.e. more than 43 km of defense, provided that all the troops of Belarus are special operations forces, tank or motorized rifle forces, since all the rest by definition are in the zone of 2-3 echelon, or generally in the rear. And yes, there is no 2nd and 3rd echelon at all. But the war assumes that when attacking, it is necessary to advance, and the width of the division’s advance is up to 20-30 km, with the breakthrough zone not exceeding 2-4 km.

In such a breakthrough it is necessary to constantly introduce fresh units and expand the breakthrough zone, strengthening its base, or else an inevitable cauldron with all the ensuing consequences, and the state border line must be kept under constant control, otherwise you can still get into a cauldron, but with a wider coverage. But you remember, there is no 2nd and 3rd echelon of troops, the defense front is stretched 4 times (even if all armed forces are lined up along the border).

Someone will of course ask about Russian help, the length of the existing front line in Ukraine is about 2,000 km with about 1,200 km of active contact, the Russians keep about 420,000 troops there and cannot achieve strategic success, the replenished reserve is only enough to cover the level of losses, i.e. there is not much to count on.

And we thought that Belarus has mobilized everyone! There are no reserves, the political situation is unstable, there are repressions in the country. In general – the plan for suicides in such a situation is to prepare an attack.

Even more hilarious is the plan, if it did happen, that Ukraine defeated everyone and took Minsk. First of all, where does Ukraine get so much strength (if they are able to contain and smash, they will be able to attack, not today and not even tomorrow). Then Russia will find in itself forces to put something to meet them, after all, from Belarus to Moscow is within walking distance, and Russian bases again, and here and Ukraine such a stretched front, and on foreign soil, can not pull.

To summarize – the scenario is the most unrealizable!