Black Swan for Belaya Rus: why the Kremlin is outcompeting Belarusian politicians
Analytics

Black Swan for Belaya Rus: why the Kremlin is outcompeting Belarusian politicians

10 August , 13:43
Alexander Lukashenko has to constantly self-determine between the value of Belarus' sovereignty and Russian-Belarusian relations.

Political analyst Andrei Okara very competently assessed the prospects for today's elections and Alexander Lukashenko, in particular:

“Belarus is a relatively small and fairly understandable country. However, the level of complexity of the situation around the elections of the Belarusian president (if the word “elections” is appropriate in this case) clearly exceeds the level of complexity of Belarus itself.

The absence of a competitive political process for decades and the “enlightened-authoritarian” type of regime, as well as the geographical location, scarcity of natural resources, and dependence on the Russian economy, have led the country into a trap, from which there is no way out. But it is very possible to lose or diminish sovereignty in these circumstances.

The peculiarity of the current elections is that they have not two, but three large subjects - "the collective Lukashenko", "the united Belarusian opposition" and the "Kremlin", as well as several small (whose influence is not decisive) - the "collective West", Gazprom , Ukraine and some others. And this Belarusian political triangle, in principle, cannot be reduced to a bilateral black-and-white confrontation: Lukashenko plus the opposition is against the Kremlin (a dream of Ukrainian observers). Or the opposition plus the Kremlin is against Lukashenko (Lukashenko himself insists on this version). Or the Kremlin plus Lukashenko against the "pro-Western" opposition (position of the Russian state media). It is somewhat reminiscent of a story about a wolf, a goat and a cabbage, or about a rock-scissors-paper, and in different positions different subjects can be both the one and the other, and the third.

But none of these three combinations is possible, much less sustainable and long-term. Therefore, all three have to fight on two fronts at once and maneuver between difficult circumstances.

Lukashenko is forced to self-determine between the value of the sovereignty of Belarus and Russian-Belarusian relations. It would not be a big exaggeration to say that it was precisely the economic preferences of the Kremlin in relation to the Belarusian economy in the form of opening the Russian market and hydrocarbon rent that allowed the Lukashenko regime to persist for a quarter of a century. And the elimination of discounts on oil has become a serious undermining of the political future of the Belarusian "bam".

The Belarusian opposition has to maneuver between Russia and the West, between the values of the “Russian World” and the “European choice”. Unlike Ukraine, where orientations towards the West or Moscow most often exclude each other, in Belarus such an antagonism is not developed: the majority of Belarusian politicians swear in eternal friendship with one and the other. As a result, everyone, including the Kremlin, the West and Ukraine, wonders what will be the foreign policy of Minsk if the opposition candidate wins? What will be the score in political "hockey" between Putin and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya? And there is at least one percent guarantee that it will not lose the sovereignty of its country in the first match?

The Belarusian opposition hates Lukashenko not only for political and ethical reasons, but above all for aesthetic reasons. The Belarusian president often makes a positive impression on foreign observers - for example, in Russia and Ukraine, many admire him: he created a socially oriented state, built modern highways and ice palaces, saved Soviet guests for food, provided conditions for the development of the IT industry, saved Soviet machine building and automotive industry, thanks to him, many Belarusian cities look smart and well-groomed.

But from abroad it is difficult to see how the air of freedom and the spirit of entrepreneurship disappeared in the country, and with them active creative people dispersed to different parts of the world. It is difficult to feel how the entire inhabited space of Belarus was filled with despondency, confusion, carrion, the ghosts of the Soviet past, as well as victims of the coronavirus. The creative intelligentsia also blames the president for the cultural and linguistic policy - the state status of the Russian and Belarusian languages simultaneously brought the latter language to the brink of oblivion - it was pushed into the sphere of "fine literature".

The Kremlin in the “Belarusian” issue is also in a state of difficult choice: it has to maneuver between Lukashenko and the Belarusian opposition. The relationship between Lukashenko and the Kremlin (as well as Putin personally) is appropriate to describe as a unique example of political “love-hate”. On the one hand, Lukashenko is his own, understandable, predictable in his unpredictability. Against the background of this "last dictator of Europe," the inhabitants of the Kremlin until 2014 could consider themselves almost the spiritual children of Mahatma Gandhi, Rousseau, von Hayek and de Montesquieu at the same time.

Many believe that Russian-Belarusian relations were fraternal and parasitic and were built according to the formula "Gas at the abmen's for the patsalunks." However, this is not entirely fair - after all, the formula was: "Hydrocarbon rent in exchange for geopolitical loyalty." Lukashenko was the guarantor of the failure of the Kremlin's two geopolitical nightmares - Belarus' joining NATO (theoretically it is much easier for it to join than Ukraine) and the creation of the Baltic-Black Sea project (with the participation of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, etc.). Moreover, Lukashenko’s non-re-election could be a wake-up call for the Russian government, showing the vulnerability and ineffectiveness of authoritarian rule.

On the other hand, Lukashenko constantly created problems for the Kremlin or did not live up to the expectations imputed to him: he failed the project of the Union State of Russia and Belarus (as a result of which the Kremlin was forced to change the Constitution of the Russian Federation), did not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, did not recognize Crimea and Sevastopol as Russian , sold diesel fuel to Ukraine during the hot phase of the war in Donbass, "survived" Russian Ambassador Mikhail Babich from the country, replaced the leadership of Belgazprombank and threw its head and unregistered presidential candidate Viktor Babariko in prison, held a military parade on May 9, 2020 - to obvious displeasure Russian "heirs of Victory".

Well, the arrest near Minsk of the so-called Wagner PMC group became the main pre-election intrigue and in an incredible way angered the Kremlin inhabitants. Fans of German opera went to Minsk to be in the right place at the right time and be ready to carry out any order of the Kremlin? Did you go to seize the residence of the President of Belarus - like the storming of Hafizullah Amin's palace in Kabul at the end of 1979? Did you go to fire in both directions in the midst of the protests, provoking a big bloody conflict? Lukashenko deliberately lured the "Wagnerites" to Belarus and arrested him to make excuses to the West - they say, Moscow was trying to overthrow me? Did the Wagner fighters really fly from Moscow to Venezuela, Libya and Sudan - via Minsk and Istanbul, but missed the plane? A group of random mercenaries with combat experience in the Donbass was framed by the Ukrainian special services to embroil Belarus and Russia? There is no unified and convincing version of why these people ended up in Minsk and will never be. But this scandal could be the “last straw”.

However, Lukashenko also has a compromise way out of the difficult situation: without handing over the fighters to Ukraine, return them to Russia - in exchange for a certain number of Ukrainian fighters held captive in Donbass (since the "Wagnerites", if extradited to Ukraine, will most likely be exchanged for captured Ukrainians).

With all this, for all 26 years of Lukashenko's presidency, Moscow cannot be accused of ever placing a personal stake on any of the oppositional Belarusian politicians (including politicians with a rigid orientation towards Russia and the Union State), although some of them regularly It "stormed" the Kremlin with its anti-Lukashenko projects.

But suddenly now everything will turn out so that the current president will disappear from the political arena. Of course, to a large extent, his political survival depends on the Belarusian security forces. If, under the pressure of the revolutionary crowd, they do not believe in the legitimacy of the re-elected Lukashenko, they are unlikely to defend him personally and the political regime in his name - as happened in February 2014 with Yanukovych. After all, security officials always prefer to be on the side of the winner. Well, if they believe that he is forever, then the share of the Belarusian opposition may turn out to be very sad, to which, however, it has already got used to it for a quarter of a century.

It should be noted that as of the current moment, any catastrophic election scenarios - with all possible risks - objectively strengthen the Kremlin's position - even though it will be Lukashenko - with reduced legitimacy, even though the opposition - without experience and support in the state apparatus and among the siloviki (a kind of “Belarusian Zelensky "). Yes, the Kremlin will wear down Svetlana Tikhanovskaya or the next president of Belarus by playing political "hockey". But who will guarantee that the same Svetlana will not apply to leave the CSTO and will not take a course towards joining NATO?

All this looks unlikely, even completely incredible, but after the coronavirus pandemic, the American revolution "BLM", the events in Khabarovsk and the explosion in Beirut, everyone seems to accept that 2020 is the year of black swans and unforeseen situations.

Well, could anyone just six months ago have imagined that Belarus, inconspicuous on the political map, would suddenly turn into the epicenter of world politics in front of our very eyes?"

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