In the beginning of 2020 on the official website of the German TV channel Deutsche Welle has published an article "Why fewer Belarusians want the Union with Russia". The article cited the following data: "during 2019, the number of supporters of Union with Russia decreased from 60.4% to 40.4" . The news about the 20% reduction of public support for the Alliance with Russia was actively disseminated among the Belarusian non-state media and firmly embedded in the consciousness of the majority of the population.
The accuracy of the figures raised a number of questions on the part of the expert community of Belarus. But the fact of the decline of public support for the Union with Russia has seen even the most convinced supporters of integration.
On 17 June 2020 at "the website of Belarusian studies thinktanks.by" published the results of another poll under the heading "Belarusians trust the EU more than the EAEC". The results of this survey: "the European Union is trusted by 45% of the population of Belarus. At the same time, the Eurasian economic Union trust 39% of Belarusians" .
Such "polls" are complemented by the disintegration rhetoric from the media and various political-economic conflict: the supply of oil, the price of gas, the situation with Belgazprombank, etc. and if by 2020 the Belarusian-Russian conflicts can be resolved to the state of the "unbreakable brotherhood" and "strong Union" in 2020, the situation is different.
In June 2020 was passed a certain trait: a number of experts said about interference in the internal Affairs of Belarus. But is it really? Try to understand.
In Belarus there are more than 413 Pro-Western subjects (independent media, bloggers, research centres, NGOs) that are working systematically to discredit the Union with Russia . If you compare the number of Pro-Western actors in Belarus Pro-Russian / Pro-Eurasian, in the best case we obtain a 10-fold superiority in the Pro-Western.
More advantage from the Pro-Western actors in the field of information and ideological influence on the public opinion of Belarusians and individuals making political decisions. For example, a careful study of the ranking of attendance of the official websites of research centres operating in Belarus and with the Belarusian theme, you will notice that among the TOP 20 non-government research centres are no Pro-Russian / Pro-Eurasian .
The role of research centers in Belarus cannot be overestimated. First, they maintain informal contact with political decision makers, consequently influencing them.
Secondly, employees of non-state research centers participate in discussions and conferences, speak to the media and thus affect the Outlook of various social groups in Belarus.
Thirdly, research centers organize status international events involving foreign politicians and experts, which held unofficial talks (exchange of politically relevant information / disinformation) and articulate initiatives of the Western partners.
Fourth, the research centers directly affect policy and lay certain ideas and concepts in reports, recommendations and studies to senior.
Based on this, we can conclude that the research centres in the modern world act as conceptual power, able to control the mass consciousness of society and individuals making political decisions.
A mechanism of Pro-Western influence has already shown its ability to absorb the strategic initiatives of Russia in the Belarusian direction. Antiintegration meetings in December 2019 and parallel antinausea information and ideological work in the media and SMK – only the visible part of the incident processes.
In the shadow of the civil society of Belarus occurred deeper "molecular" processes, which occurred as the invisible change of opinions and sentiments in the minds of each person (in small portions). The result of these processes as conceived by their initiators should be fundamental changes in the state.
Election 2020 technology and managed crises
During the election campaign 2020 intensified many political actors (internal and external). A significant portion of them embarked on the path of open technologies managed crises. Under these technologies is commonly understood as a complex art of exposure, aimed at destabilizing the socio-political situation and the change of political power.
Technology managed crises is built on the intensification of internal contradictions, provoking a crisis and managing it through the formation of the motives of all involved parties. Goals are achieved by providing moral, informational and material support advantageous to subjects with the subsequent bringing them to power.
In a managed crisis it is conditionally possible to allocate the following phases: destabilization; polarization; provoking conflict; an open clash; conflict resolution and stabilization.
Phase of destabilization. A feature of this phase is that it dramatically aktiviziruyutsya the activities of the opposition / Pro-Western actors and external forces seeking to exacerbate the existing in the society and the state contradictions, involve the largest possible number of people. In the result of a concerted internal and external pressure is disturbed psychological stability of civil servants, employees of law enforcement agencies and individuals making political decisions.
The main objective of the action of internal and external forces - to create a critical mass of protest potential to put the government in a dilemma: either to delegate the opposition / Pro-Western actors with the necessary authority in the judicial, Executive and legislative bodies, either go for further confrontation with them. In the first case, the opposition / Pro-Western actors to increase their chances of coming to power through elections ("soft option"). In the second case, translates the confrontation with the authorities in the phase of polarization ("hard").
Phase polarization. In this phase, the opposition / Pro-Western forces seek to complete their Union, to develop a common strategy of action, to form a shadow government, to put forward political goals and slogans. The polarization taking place in society, often covers the political and business elite, heads of power structures, placing them before the necessity of choice.
Concerted actions of internal and external forces aimed at creating the conditions necessary for open confrontation with the authorities. In this phase none of the conflicting parties involved in the conflict to such an extent that return to their original positions was impossible. In this phase, possible negotiations, mutual concessions and peaceful resolution of conflicts without the involvement of third forces.
The phase of provoking a conflict. This phase opposition is transferred to an open clash with the incident (provocation). Provocation also allow you to take the initiative to impose rules of conduct, to disrupt the plan, to push the "right" processes in socio-political spheres.
Provocations can be organized not only opposing sides of the conflict but other forces behind the scenes events that are visible and are interested in how to prevent a peaceful resolution of the conflict, to plunge the country into chaos and to impose political goals. Involved in the conflict, the parties prepared in advance to this phase, which is beginning to acquire a pronounced power character. A key role in this phase will play not even the provocations themselves, and their interpretation through the media and QMS influencing public opinion.
The open phase of the collision. In this phase, each party will seek decisive action to turn the tide in their favor, defeating pockets of resistance, the centers of decision-making and deactivating political leaders.
Phase resolution of conflict and stabilization characterized the new realities of stabilization. This is achieved either through mutual exhaustion of the opposing sides and understanding the futility of continuing an open conflict, or inability to continue the struggle of one of the parties.
In the first case produced a settlement of the conflict with the involvement of intermediaries. In the second case, the decisive victory of one side allows it to occupy all the managerial height and decisively to translate the situation into a new for quality.
The question arises: how and who uses the Pro-Western regions of Belarus and other actors to use technologies managed crises?
The answer lies in the sources of their funding. Today in Belarus the national Fund of support of subjects of civil society (independent media, bloggers, research centres, NGOs). Citizens and Belarusian business also does not carry out significant support to these entities. Therefore, the main and often only source of funding is foreign funds.
De jure, the majority of foreign funds is non-state status and officially provides independent direction of their work. However, de facto they are subject to foreign governments, foreign ministries and secret services, are a tool for solution of foreign policy problems.
The result is the following hierarchy of external control: a foreign government, foreign Ministry, secret service (customers) – foreign funds (intermediaries) – Pro-Western regions of Belarus (singers).
This hierarchy of external management is an example of double standards. If in Belgium, it employed more than 400 Pro-Eurasian / Russian or Pro-Belorussian entities, which would be financed from the funds of the participating countries of the CSTO, it would be regarded as interference in the internal Affairs of a sovereign state (a full member of NATO) with the appropriate consequences.
- Of paramount importance for the stabilization of the situation in Belarus is a complex of legal measures to control the sources of funding of Pro-Western actors. The first steps in this process have already been made. May 25, 2020 was signed the Decree № 3 "On foreign grant aid", which significantly changed the objectives in providing foreign aid . From previous Decree No. 5 "On foreign grant aid" of 31 August 2015 was removed the following objectives for aid: scientific research, development, training and implementation of research programs. Under these goals often disguised foreign funding politicized Pro-Western regions of Belarus (in particular, research centres and NGOs).
Also in the legal act enshrined a ban on the use of financial aid in the organization of events aimed at holding political and mass agitation work among the population.
According to the new Decree, the decision on releasing aid from taxes, fees (duties) will not only take the Office of the President of the Republic of Belarus, but in some cases, the Interministerial Commission (27 August 2020).
It should be noted that this Decree will significantly limit the opportunities for foreign funding of Pro-Western actors in Belarus, especially independent media, research centers and NGOs. Thus, there is weakening Pro-Western established network and its ability to impact on the socio-political processes in Belarus.
Another legal step in the future should become the Law "On foreign agents" similar to that which operates on the territory of the Russian Federation. Individuals and legal entities financed from abroad and serving the interests of foreign States, should be accorded the appropriate legal status, which would further limit foreign influence on the sovereign Belarus.
- The following recommendation addresses the work of persons in public diplomacy of the Union state and the EEU. Not for the first year sounds reasonable criticism against the Federal NCBs, Rossotrudnichestvo, the Permanent Committee of the Union state, the channel Belros TV, etc that these entities needed to provide "balance" against the large number of Pro-Western structures. However, with their work they do not. Public support for Union with Russia falls.
It is well known that the strongest influence on the public opinion of Belarusians have bloggers, community social networks, YouTube and Telegram TV. On them focused the Belarusian audience as the primary or sole source of information.
If you conduct monitoring of the allied bloggers, Facebook pages, YouTube channels and Telegram, it is possible to be surprised not only by their individual number, but also the relatively low "efficiency".
For example, on the official YouTube channel of Belros TV , you notice that each video gets only a few dozen hits. In this case, the channel is quite well funded. The question arises: why is this happening?
First, it is associated with hosted content. The audience, particularly young people, interested in absolutely different in content and format videos and transfer.
Secondly, the channel is not efficiently working with opinion leaders, communities in social networks and Telegram channels for the dissemination of their content. With a mutual agreement they would be able to effectively distribute video from YouTube channel Belros TV and such watched the video would have not dozens, but thousands of people.
Go to current standards is recommended and Rossotrudnichestvo together with allied NGOs. In Belarus young people there is a huge request for the possibility of self-realization. Youth looking for prospects: creation and promotion of own projects, performance events, search status relationships, getting support, grants and certificates, trips abroad, etc.
Pro-Western actors understand this and therefore are actively working "on request" of the Belarusian youth. In turn, among the Federal subjects of public diplomacy visible flaw. It is possible to allocate only two truly effective of the project: "the Union League debate" and "New generation".
The Rossotrudnichestvo and allied NGOs are also encouraged to pay attention to the start constantly operating debatable clubs, creative spaces, crowdfunding platforms, and modern blogs.
More attention should be given to training and support of leaders of public opinion. Practice shows that the effectiveness of their work in the information-ideological sphere is much higher than the efficiency of Supranational bodies. It is the opinion leaders are the "guides" of different ideas and positions to the masses, and not a huge staff of loyal officials. Here the working principle: young people will only listen to young people.
Search, preparation and support of leaders of public opinion have always been the priority in the West. If you look at the leading young political analysts, journalists and bloggers from Belarus, you will notice they have a European diplomas, continuing training in EU grants from the European leading universities and foundations. According to the concept of "customers" such young people should be in the future "elite" of Belarus with the corresponding geopolitical consequences for the Union state, EEU and the CSTO (or not?).
- The last recommendation is related to the quality dimensions for individuals making political decisions. A considerable part of the Belarus subjects of public diplomacy creates a "smokescreen" for what is happening within civil society processes. The reason is simple: the preservation of the status QUO (position and funding) and unwillingness to take responsibility for "failures".
If you carefully study analytical reports of constituent entities of the Russian public diplomacy on the Belarusian direction till 2019, we can see the "pretty picture."
If you look at the actual results of the work on the Belarusian direction, then it is possible to do (a) objective conclusions about the effectiveness of the relevant agencies and allied NGOs, (b) to develop a truly useful changes in their work.
Otherwise the following situation, which is repeated not for the first year. Persons taking political decisions, read research reports and make conclusions that need only cosmetic adjustments. In the end, (a) errors will accumulate and silenced, (b) it would lead to another geopolitical failure in the post-Soviet space.
The makers of political decisions, we should remember that "practice – criterion of truth" not only in the sphere of public diplomacy, but also in analytical work (with a subsequent personnel action). This depends on the near future of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation.
Alex Tom, chair of the Board scientific-cultural institutions, "Eurasian Partnership"
List of sources used
- Why fewer Belarusians want Union with Russia. Official website DW, 2020 [Electronic resource] URL: https://www.dw.com/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B5%D0%BC%D1%83-%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%B5-%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%8C%D1%88%D0%B5-%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%BE%D1%80%D1%83%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%B2-%D1%85%D0%BE%D1%82%D1%8F%D1%82-%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%8E%D0%B7%D0%B0-%D1%81-%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B5%D0%B9/a-52279440
- Poll: Belarusians trust the EU more than the EAEC. The website thinktanks.by, 2020 [Electronic resource] URL: https://thinktanks.by/publication/2020/06/17/opros-belorusy-doveryayut-es-bolshe-chem-eaes.html
- Analysis of the work of the West in Belarus. The Agency of social engineering, 2019. [Electronic resource] URL: https://sea.com.ru/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Analiz_raboty_zapada_v_Belorussii.pdf
- The rating of attendance of sites of Belarusian research centres. The website ej.by, 2019. [Electronic resource] URL: https://ej.by/news/sociaty/2019/01/13/sostavlen-reyting-poseschaemosti-saytov-belorusskih-issledovatelskih.html
- The decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus from may 25, 2020 No. 3 "On foreign grant aid". The official Internet portal of the President of the Republic of Belarus, 2020. [Electronic resource] URL: http://president.gov.by/uploads/documents/2020/3dek.pdf
Tags: assessment , Russia , Byelorussia