In his domestic rhetoric, Lukashenko is blaming forces from Poland, Holland, Ukraine, and various liberal groups from Russia (Open Russia and Navalny were named) for using “Belorussian children as cannon fodder” to carry out a color revolution.
The Belorussian elites remain consolidated for now, but there are now signs that many of them are hedging their bets. For instance, the head of the Central Electoral Commission, Lidia Ermoshina, who rubber stamps Lukashenko’s 80% results, has recently emphasized that she was not present at opposition candidate Tikhanovskaya’s meeting with two senior security officials, where she filmed her call for the protesters to go home and after which she immediately fled to Lithuania. Clearly, trying to build up a case that she disassociated from the regime, in the event it collapses.
Metaculus now giving 52% chance Lukashenko remains President on Dec 31, 2020 (down from 75-80% before August 13). So, not an unreasonable course of action.
However, an important note. We should also not rush to proclaim that Lukashenko has lost control over the security apparatus. Some overly enthusiastic people on Twitter were doing that after videos of OMON “laying down their shields” and protesting girls with flowers embracing them. This doesn’t mean anything. From the Telegram chatter, they simply received a command to behave less aggressively towards what are, in the end, non-violent protesters.
The big news has been the handover of the 32 Wagnerites to Russia.
(There were Telegram rumors that there was an under carpet struggle over their fate, with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei – a representative of the pro-Western vector – wanting to hand them over to the Ukraine, while the representative of the siloviks and national security advisor Viktor Lukashenko (relation: Luka’s eldest son) insisted on sending them back to Russia).
So, in the latest stage of Lukashenko’s decades-long “multivector” saga of playing off Russia and the West, he is now in the position of banking on the kremlins bailing him out… though why they should do that just on account of Lukashenko releasing political hostages is up in the air.
In a phone call between Lukashenko and Putin just a couple of hours ago, Russia’s reaction seems non-committal:
Alexander Lukashenko informed Vladimir Putin about the developments following the presidential election in Belarus. Both sides expressed confidence that all existing problems will be settled soon. The main thing is to prevent destructive forces from using these problems to cause damage to mutually beneficial relations of the two countries within the Union State.
In connection with the return to Russia of 32 people who were previously detained in Belarus, a positive assessment was given to close cooperation of the relevant agencies in this regard.
They also agreed on further regular contacts at various levels, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening allied relations, which fully meets the core interests of the fraternal nations of Russia and Belarus.
For now, I see no signs that Russia intends to materially interfere to prop up Lukashenko.
But presumably there are intense quiet discussions about the practicalities, approaches, and advisability of flash executing an Anschluss in the couloirs of the Kremlin.
There are reports that the EU will decide on anti-Belarus sanctions on August 27-28 in Berlin and intend to press Minsk for a rerun of the elections.
I do not think that latter demand is realistic. If the elections are rerun, the apparatus will be too demoralized to falsify in favor of Lukashenko, while his real popularity will be even further in the doldrums. 95% chance he will lose.
Lukashenko is also refusing outside intermediation. That is also reasonable. After all, so far as is officially concerned, he is the one and only legitimate President. Accepting intermediation would put that status under question.