Recently, while visiting the Orthodox Christmas Church, Alyaksandr Lukashenka gave a political speech. He said that “it will be a very difficult year. And we have a lot to do in order to live it with the same dignity, preserving our country, our independence”. The Belarusian president did not explain who is going to attack the country, but there’s nothing to explain.
Lukashenka hasn’t been scaring the people for a long time, as in previous times, with “an awful monster of NATO”. It wouldn’t go through . Ukraine? Ukraine is afraid of being hit from the territory of Belarus by its military ally, Russia.
And here’s the answer: ironically, this very ally has now become Minsk’s headache. It was from the east that the black swan, called “deepening of integration”, arrived.
The “closest ally” is the scariest of all monsters
While the Balts and Poles are calling for NATO assistance in every way, the Belarusian leadership was resisting the Russian military with all might. Because they learned a Crimean lesson: it was there that the base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet became a springboard for the annexation.
Moreover, in a December interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station, Lukashenka openly said: if Russia tries to violate the sovereignty of Belarus, “it will not be tolerated by NATO countries, because they will consider it a threat to them”.
In short, the situation is not the same anymore. The Belarusian leader warns the “closest ally”: it is better not to stick around – and at the same time he hopes for the help of the “awful monster”, the western supostats, which he demonized during the previous ideological confrontation.
“If you want to live, you’ll what it takes”
Yes, in terms of anti-Western rhetoric, Lukashenka used to show how it should be done to the Moscow hawks. But it was easy to scold the cursed imperialists while feeling like protected under Russia’s nuclear umbrella and with its generous subsidies.
And now Moscow has stopped giving cheap oil and gas, loans, but has taken up the demand to “deepen integration”, including introduction of a single currency and creation of supranational bodies. It smells like a quiet takeover. And the Belarusian diplomacy became even more imposing on multi-vectorism.
Minsk is already eagerly expecting the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and even cautiously supports the U.S. in the conflict with Iran (although earlier they tried to get closer to the ayatollah regime on the grounds of anti-Americanism).
No, the Belarusian leader has not become an inveterate democrat and a convinced westerner. However, harsh realities force to make a geopolitical twine.
Patriotism without approval is not encouraged…
Moreover, in December, protesters against the integration with Russia were unhindered several times in the streets of Minsk. They were not dispersed, while the protests were unsanctioned, while the Belarusian authorities traditionally choke off street activity.
At first, this free will was amazing. Observers said: these speeches are beneficial to the Belarusian leader, a trump card in negotiations with Vladimir Putin.
But then everything fell into place: administrative arrests and fines awaited those who got busted. This judicial pipeline will continue after Orthodox Christmas. According to human rights activists, in the next three days there will be at least 45 court sessions. The priest Viktar Kavalkou (father Vikentiy), famous writers Uladzimir Niakliayeu, Uladzimir Arlou, and other distinguished persons will be tried.
Their “guilt” is that they went to the square for independence. The very one that the official leader is pathetically advocating. But the trick is that they went out without asking. And this isn’t liked at all by the authorities. You’re a priest, a poet or something, but you must sit like a mouse under a broom. That’s the Belarusian order.
The regime fears the active part of its own people
Seriously, though, this is the drama of today’s Belarus. The regime played “brotherly integration” to the point where it smelled like crawling annexation. And Lukashenka should have admitted that those whom he called the “fifth column” were right 120% when they said there can be no equal integration with the empire, sooner or later it will show its claws.
But even now, when the moment of truth has come, the sincere, deep patriotism of these people for the bronzed leader is still discomforting. Because it’s not loyal. At the same December rallies tough words were heard not only about Moscow and its ambitions, but also about the leadership of its own country, whose policy led Belarus into an imperial trap.
So, according to the logic of the ruling supreme authorities, it is better to strangle this activity in the bud, or whatever it may gain momentum just in time for the presidential election. In the same interview with Ekho Moskvy, Lukashenka tried to discredit the protests against the “deeper integration” and called them set up.
This is the drama of the moment. Even today, when the authorities need strong foundations to oppose the Kremlin’s pressure, the authoritarian ruler is afraid of the civic activity of the active, nationally active part of his own people. And this exacerbates the risks for Belarusian independence.
Alyaksandr Klaskousky, political observer – for belsat.eu
The author’s opinion may differ from that of the editorial board.