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  Why Lukashenko is so fond of new Ukraine?

Vadim Volovoj, Doctor in Political Sciences
2014 07 03

The recent Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s behaviour and his statements in the context of his relations with Russia are staggering. When the Kremlin has been persistently highlighting the unconstitutional nature of revolution in Ukraine and illegitimate power of the acting president, Belarusian President met Alexander Turchinov. „Negotiations were very useful. [...]. We were able to find understanding about all the problems and issues that concern us“. 

Moscow‘s position towards new President of Ukraine is unclear. The dialogue seems to have started (brief meeting of the leaders in Normandy, telephone conversation and gas negotiations), but the inauguration of Petro Poroshenko was attended only by Russia‘s ambassador Mikhail Zubarov.  Prime Minister Karim Masimov represented Kazakhstan. Nursultan Nazarbayev didn‘t attend inauguration, but Lukashenka was there. After the ceremony he answered the questions of journalists and pronounced the following key statements:

First: „I have always backed Ukraine‘s unity and integrity. [...] Ukraine should stay united. We, Belarusians, and I personally are interested in it.”

Second: “As I see, these formations [the so called Donetsk and Luhansk People‘s Republics] have been created by you, the media. To make them real states, this idea should be present in the heart of every person.”

Third: “The militants that fight against the Ukrainian people should be destroyed.”  

And fourth: as for the Crimea, Lukashenko noted that the territory belongs to Russiade facto, but de jure there has been no such decision.” He suggested Ukraine „to follow its path calmly and steadfastly, without any assaults and accusations. Only then the solution to the issue is possible as you would like it to see.”

Russia demonstratively ignores the official Kiev, whereas Lukashenko maintains close ties with the city. The Kremlin supports Ukraine‘s federalization, Batka - integrity of Ukraine. Moscow supports the separatists of Donetsk and Luhansk and sends to these regions „volunteers“ and weapons saying that there the majority (everybody) is fighting for independence; meanwhile Belarusian President says that everything is the other way round. He refers to the rebels backed by Russia as militants and urges to destroy them. According to Russian Federation, Crimea’s accession to Russia is absolutely legitimate, whereas Alexander Lukashenko leaves this issue open.

Vladimir Putin must have been furious hearing the above statements from the leader of one of the „union states”. Having in mind full economic (and political) dependence of Belarus on Russia the situation like this is staggering. A natural question arises: „Why does Batka behave the way he does?“ 

But his actions are logical, for it is Russia, not Belarus engaged in the war with Ukraine. Minsk is more concerned about constructive relations with any government in Kiev. Lukashenko could hardly ignore Moscow‘s position, but maybe he could discern that today the Kremlin is not in the position to dictate the rules of the game. For instance, before the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, Alexander Lukashenko expressed his dissatisfaction in the integration process. Then Dmitry Medvedev (a „good policeman“) paid a visit to Minsk and the union was eventually established in Astana. Most probably, Medvedev reminded Lukashenko who was the „boss“ and suggested at the same time minor concessions to Belarus. 

Russia‘s powers on an international stage are restricted, but it still has huge power over Belarus. But then one can suspect that Lukashenko, realising the helplessness against Moscow’s dictatorship, has taken revenge on Russia at least in the public space. But it is necessary to emphasise that the Kremlin is very sensitive toward symbolic steps. It found difficult to accept the fact that Belarus didn‘t recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but the recent Belarusian President’s „fireworks“ go beyond all bounds and Russia might think of revenge.

According to Rostislav Ishchenko, President of the Centre for Systematic Analysis and Forecasting (Kiev), Lukashenko might be punished after the Ukrainian crisis where Vladimir Putin has good chances to win. According to him, Belarusian President realises that in this case „capitalisation“ of his country and his personal “capitalisation” will decrease and that he will lose the opportunity to play the role of the main ally requiring economic concessions for this friendship. No one can predict how the crisis will end, whereas Lukashenko irritates the Kremlin today.

Russia‘s public space is surprisingly calm. There are no signs of hysteria concerning Batka‘s behaviour. Moreover: no economic sanctions against Belarus! In this context the only thought coming into the mind is as follows: Lukashenka is Moscow‘s eyes and ears in Kiev. Today Russia has placed itself in a situation that it simply cannot afford to suddenly change the nature of its relations with Kiev; yet it is so interesting to know what is happening in the enemy‘s territory. Mikhail Zurabov and his good relations with Petro Poroshenko is good news, but presidential level would be better. Thus, all Lukashenko‘s statements might be nothing but a spy‘s legend: the more aggressive his attacks are against Moscow, the less it is likely that this is his opinion. A political swindler like Batka understands perfectly well that his “uncontrolled tongue” might lead to the Russian coloured revolution in Minsk. And for Lukashenko the presidential post is as important as his life. In view of this it might turn out that „love“ to Maidan‘s Ukraine was just part of Russia‘s plans.

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