Analyst: "It is beneficial for Russia if Lukashenko resigns as soon as possible."

Analyst: "It is beneficial for Russia if Lukashenko resigns as soon as possible."
Analyst: "It is beneficial for Russia if Lukashenko resigns as soon as possible."
21 August 2020, 13:57
All Russia can lose with Lukashenko's departure is a sense of confidence that the new authorities will remain committed to the Union State and CSTO membership.

Political analyst Oleg Ignatov published 10 extremely interesting theses on potential risks, difficulties and options for resolving the political crisis in Belarus:

1. Internal factors of the crisis. The political crisis in Belarus has exclusively internal causes. Lukashenko's personalist regime has long looked like an anachronism against the background of a relatively mobile and educated Belarusian society. The erosion of support for the Belarusian leader also took place, apparently, for a long time and not only among the active part of the population. It was allowed to hide the complete absence of normal sociology and public policy in the country. Lukashenko's reaction to the coronavirus pandemic and, judging by the numerous evidences, gross falsification ("painting") of the voting results in the presidential elections became triggers for the start of mass protests. The fact that no one in Russia expected such a scale of rejection of Lukashenko among Belarusian voters and that the Kremlin had no plan of action in advance in the unfolding crisis is again the result of the lack of normal research and the orientation of the Russian political elite towards Lukashenko and his entourage. Under the conditions of a regime that rigidly blocked any external interference and closed all political contacts on itself, the Kremlin, by definition, could not have any “game” of its own in a republic separate from Lukashenka, and there could be no alternate candidate to replace him, who could would quickly consolidate the ruling group around itself and at the same time not cause an allergic reaction in society.

2. Delayed geopolitical factor. As part of the settlement of the political crisis in Belarus, the question of the geopolitical choice of the country will not arise unless the ill-considered actions of external players, first of all, Russia and the EU, lead to this, whose intervention may contribute to the intensification of the crisis. At the same time, the question of the geopolitical choice of the country will sooner or later arise in a democratic Belarusian state (if one appears as a result of the crisis) due to objective reasons - active ties of the Belarusian society and the Belarusian economy both with Russia and with Europe and "unlimited" national identity, which will no longer be artificially constrained by the authorities. This question is deferred. All the risks associated with it for Russia will make themselves felt as the representation of various political forces in the new Belarusian political system is formed and their struggle for power.

3. Loss of legitimacy. As a result of the elections, Lukashenko lost his legitimacy, and with it the entire system of power created by him. He can survive only through violence, the price of which is likely to prove unacceptable in order to continue to rule the country. At the moment, a popular point of view among experts is that one of the scenarios for the further development of events may be the so-called Venezuelan scenario, that is, the loss of control over the country and the presence of several centers of power recognized by different external players. Nevertheless, the prospect of Belarus turning into a failed state is not beneficial, first of all, to Russia itself, which will have to maintain from its own pocket the appearance of the existence of the “Lukashenko state”. In addition, Moscow will not be able to achieve anything from an ungovernable country (any initiatives will be viewed by the Belarusian society as aimed at keeping Lukashenko in power and rejected by him), and the very fact of maintaining relations with Lukashenko will contribute to the growth of anti-Russian sentiments. As a result, Russia may lose the sympathy of the Belarusians even without significant interference in the internal affairs of the republic. Finally, even if Lukashenko manages to hold on to power, the collapse of the regime in the future could be more catastrophic and less manageable.

4. Intervene to force Lukashenko to leave. In view of the critical dependence of Belarus on the position of Russia and its support, the Kremlin is now the only player that has the leverage to force Lukashenko to act in one direction or another. The Russian leadership has every opportunity to make an offer to Lukashenko that he cannot refuse. Neither the EU nor China has such an opportunity. Given the high costs for Russia of maintaining the existence of an illegitimate and already unstable regime within the Union State, the most profitable scenario for the Kremlin is active intervention in order to persuade Lukashenko to resign, to become a guarantor of a peaceful transfer of power to the interim government (with the participation of figures acceptable to Russia ) and holding new presidential elections. Such a step will transfer Russia from the role of an observer to the role of an active player, will allow Putin to win the sympathy of the Belarusian society, creating a strong foundation in order to strengthen pro-Russian sentiments in Belarus for a long time, and to influence the personal composition of the new Belarusian government (such an opportunity was not possible under the Lukashenko regime ).

5. Lukashenka's quick departure is the best option. It is beneficial for Russia that the Belarusian president resigns as soon as possible. Lukashenko's attempts to bring his electorate to the streets, to carry out constitutional reform, and only then the presidential and parliamentary elections only increase the time of the existence of a failed state in Belarus, but most importantly, they also give the opposition time to strengthen, nominate leaders and contribute to its radicalization. As a result, the conditions for the transfer of power in Belarus may eventually become less favorable for Russia. When organizing a temporary transfer of power to Russia, it makes no sense to look for solutions within the framework of the current system. Any decision will be precedent. Any non-polarizing and neo-odious member of the Belarusian ruling elite can become the head of the interim government. At the same time, the new presidential elections should be held without the participation of the current head of state. Lustration Lukashenko will be a legitimate punishment for manipulating the voting results. As far as the organization of elections is concerned, the idea of holding a vote under the control of the OSCE seems now the only reasonable one. This organization has an independent reputation and relevant experience.

6. A precedent for a new model of behavior in the post-Soviet space. Constructive and, at the same time, leadership behavior aimed at resolving the crisis, rather than its escalation, will undermine many Western stereotypes regarding the threats that Russia's behavior in the post-Soviet space may pose, primarily in relation to countries with a large share of the Russian-speaking population, as well as in the world generally. Such a move would contradict the replicated negative expectations, and, if only for this reason, be positive for the Kremlin. As a result, the scenario described above will help ease tensions between Russia and the West and open up opportunities for creating a new agenda and partially restoring relations.

7. Strengthening dialogue with the European Union. Russia and the EU have a chance to make a joint positive contribution to the settlement of the Belarusian crisis. They can jointly agree on the transfer of power, the holding of elections, and provide assurances to all participants that the campaign and vote will be fair. At the same time, the main principle that can unite Russia and the EU is that no one should pull the clothes over themselves, so as not to aggravate the crisis. The change of power in Minsk should not change the geopolitical status quo, should not question the existence of the Union State and Minsk's membership in the CSTO. EU representatives and officials of EU member states should not give any signals to the new Belarusian authorities about the prospects of association or membership. Such guarantees, albeit verbal, can be implemented in practice and increase trust between Moscow and Brussels.

8. Transformation of Belarus into a parliamentary republic. Given the postponed potential for a split of the country into supporters of Russia and the EU, that is, a geopolitical split, it is in Russia's interests to transform Belarus into a parliamentary republic and weaken the powers of the president. If the president retains large powers, then there are high risks that each campaign for the election of the head of state will turn into a geopolitical confrontation that is beneficial for Russia to avoid. Instead of uniting the country, the presidential power will split it and actualize smoldering anti-Russian sentiments. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the price of the presidential mandate as much as possible and transfer the Belarusian policy into a coalition format.

9. Complication of the Belarusian direction. So far, all that Russia can lose with the departure of Lukashenko is a feeling of confidence that the new authorities will adhere to the status quo, that is, they will remain committed to the Union State and membership in the CSTO. However, here it is important to draw a line between the personality of Lukashenko and the politician - the results that have been achieved in bilateral relations. At the same time, Russia should be prepared for the fact that working with Belarus will inevitably become a more difficult area, as well as dialogue with the new authorities. At a minimum, the new Belarus will strive to become a more neutral state than it is at the moment. In Belarus, there has been no competition policy for a long time and there are no political leaders who would embody ideologically polar positions. At the first stage, all Belarusian politicians will be pragmatists and realists for some time. However, as mentioned above, given the close ties of Belarusians with the EU, sooner or later supporters of a change in the country's geopolitical orientation and rapprochement with the West will be represented in its future political system. This must be treated as an inevitability that must be dealt with. The very fact of the appearance of such forces in the legal Belarusian political field should not frighten Russia. Given the critical level of economic dependence of Minsk on Moscow and the unpopular economic reforms that the new government will have to carry out, maintaining the status quo with Russia will have a significant number of supporters, just as the Kremlin has enough leverage. In any case, the process of forming a representative system of power in Belarus will take a long time, and Russia has room for maneuver in order to maintain its position in the new Belarus.

10. Demand for new approaches to work. The old schemes of work in the post-Soviet space, focused primarily on individuals and maintaining the stability of friendly regimes, sometimes at the cost of growing anti-Russian sentiments among the citizens living in them, have long outlived their usefulness. Russia will have to build partnerships with political regimes, the development of some of which goes against the development of the internal political situation in Russia itself. So far, this is more a question of building a smart policy based on interests, and not a question of existential risks for the Russian political system.

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