An article about the impact of propaganda on public opinion in Belarus written by the editor-in-chief of charter97.org Natallia Radzina has been published by the Ukrainian Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies:
Today, the Belarusian public opinion about the events in Ukraine is mostly negative. The main reason for this state of affairs is that apart from the portal “Charter’97” and a few other remaining independent media outlets, all the information space of Belarus is occupied by Russian media. As a result of that, about 60% of Belarusian citizens, according to independent social surveys, support the actions of Russia in Ukraine. With that in mind, today it is very important to influence public opinion in Belarus. Because, when the amount of supporters of the aggressor’s activities increases to 80% (which is quite probable under current trends), Ukraine will have an additional front line of 1,000 km, and then no one will ask neither Lukashenka, nor Belarusian people: the tanks will go, and Belarusians won’t stand up against that.
It should also be noted that using the Belarusian foothold for information offensive blow on Europe and Ukraine is an important component of a hybrid war, in which Russia has made great strides. Today, there are channels of dissemination of information, financing, orders, specific topics that are of a particular threat to the information and national security of Ukraine and the NATO. And to a large extent it can be considered the preparation of the Belarusian society to the steps that Russia has taken in the Crimea and Donbas.
For the moment, a preparatory phase is taking place: Russian flags are being spread in Belarusian cities, Belarusian Cossacks have increased their activities, though they had never existed in Belarus before, other than in the quality of occupants; children and teenagers are taught to shoot in youth and school camps under the Russian flag and the imperial tricolor. The people get it all dressed up in the already usual garb: we are one nation, we have one Russian Orthodox Church, and we have a common enemy – the West. A recent example is the celebration of Russian Unity Day under the Russian flag in the center of Brest on November 4. That means everything that had happened earlier in the territory of so-called “Novorossia”, is now going on in Belarus.
Moreover, it should be noted that the Belarusian state media have no difference to Russian ones presenting information about Ukraine. So, for example, when the events in Ukraine started, Lukashenka’s regime was saying that the junta came to power, the Nazis, and that there was a military takeover. When the power in Ukraine established and came to stay, he felt that it was profitable to cooperate with it, economically in particular, and when they decided to hold negotiations in Minsk, it was decided to go with that to the West. By presenting the events in Ukraine in that way, the regime had a clear task to scare the Belarusians, “If you take to the streets, you will have murders, so it is better to live in the dictatorship and poverty, but stably and peacefully.” And he managed to do it, particularly due to the fact that Belarus has not got a Ukrainian news channel, that would spread objective information about what is happening in the neighboring country.
Therefore, to change the situation in the Belarusian information space for the benefit of Ukraine, today it is extremely necessary to make a number of important steps, such as:
– successfully insist on launching broadcasting of an Ukrainian TV channel in Belarus, promised by Lukashenka last year. At present, the channel is not working and nobody is talking about that. If it is launched, the public opinion in Belarus about the events in Ukraine will be changed;
– provide support to independent Belarusian media that give an objective coverage to the situation in Ukraine;
– organize Ukrainian broadcasting on the border with Belarus so as to cover at least the near-border area. For example, such broadcasting to Belarus is organized from the border areas of Poland.
At the same time, it should be noted that Belarusian propaganda channel BT-24 broadcasts in Ukraine without restraint. It is purely propagandist and completely repeats the Russian propaganda. But this challenge is taken no notice of in Ukraine today for some reason.
About Minsk process and relations with the EU
As for participation of Belarus in Minsk negotiation process, Lukashenka’s regime has very effectively turned it to his advantage. Thus, the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the initiative of the Belarusian leadership on mediation of the country in the negotiations process, have been the reason for suspending of the European sanctions against the present regime, and thus have legitimized it. At the same time, Putin stands behind the selection of Minsk, he had been personally interested in those talks, and Lukashenka’s regime just effectively used the situation to his own advantage.
“The Minsk manoeuvre” of the Belarusian ruler was positively met by Europe, and an evidence of that was suspending the sanctions against the current regime for 4 months (and their possible complete lifting is not excluded). Moreover, Belarus can receive material aid from the EU in the form of a credit, which would allow staying afloat to the Belarusian economy, which is going through hard times.
In this context one should also note that one of the reasons for Belarus’ rapprochement with Europe is the fact that because of the problems in the economy inside the country, it is difficult for Russia to support Belarus to the extent which it had been carried out previously. Thus, oil prices are the same as in the end of the 1980ies in the Soviet Union, but at the same time, the Russian market has shrunk, and in addition, the Belarusian goods are being ousted from the market by cheap Chinese goods. Proceeding from that, improvement of the relations with the EU is nothing but an attempt of Belarus to find new sources of financing in Europe. At the same time, it is not excluded that the money earmarked for that would not be spent on development of the country’s economy, but on other purposes. Such a turn had already taken place in history. For example, once A, Lukashenka received easing of sanctions against him and a loan from the IMF in exchange to non-recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which in result was spent on Russian-Belarusian military drills.
In general, despite the demonstrative movement of Belarus to Europe, the connection of Lukashenka with Russia remains, and it is to be very close in the future, and if required, Putin would be able to adjust both external and home policy of the Belarusian state, by increasing oil and gas prices, for example.
About deployment of the military base
The issue of deploying a military base or other Russian armaments on the territory of Belarus depends on the decision of the Kremlin only, and talks and agreements, which are to accompany this process, are to be a mere formality and a “smokescreen.”
As for the prospects of stationing these Russia’s military installations on the territory of Belarus, it is more than possible today. And it should be noted that, taking in consideration of the statements of the higher military leadership of the country, as well as military capacities of the Belarusian army, deployment of Russian missile systems, not an airbase, are more probable. As for the type of the missiles, they could be both cruise missiles, which are not mentioned in the Treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, and Iskander complexes. In any case, everything is to depend on the decision of the Kremlin only. It should be also noted that in the context of “rapprochement” of Belarus and the EU, this project is camouflaged and postponed to the maximum now, as otherwise Lukashenka’s regime risks not to be given the European loan.
It is also quite obvious that deployment of Russian armaments on the territory of Belarus would be aimed not only against the NATO, but is to be a clear signal for Ukraine that it could be used against it as well.
By Natallia Radzina, Chapter’97