Lukashenko and Putin are meeting today in Sochi to hammer whatever it is they are going to hammer out.
I assume that the Kremlin denial that the talks will focus on “mergers” is an obfuscation. There were two valid approaches to Lukashenko’s recent problems in Belarus:
- Non-interference based on sanctity of the (Soviet) state borders, i.e. the international law principle.
- Reunification into common national home, i.e. the national self-determination principle.
But any return to the status quo at this point would just imply that the kremlins see Lukashenko, even despite all his slights towards them, as a fellow feudal potentate, whose common caste interests trump both Belarusian democratic aspirations and All-Russian national aspirations. This is especially relevant, since one of the critical factors why the “Minsk Maidan” failed* was – apart from Lukashenko’s decisiveness – the implied threat by Putin to send in the “reserve OMON” in case things got too hot for Luka.
There are 30% of Belorussians who support Lukashenko (mostly but not all pro-Russian, and another 15% who are hardcore anti-Russian zmagars (most but far from all of whom are anti-Lukashenko). In between, constituting at least half the population, there is an overlap between anti-Luka but pro-Russian Belorussians. After effectively bailing Luka out, leaving those people would be a betrayal, basically cartoon level villainy, and would surely ensure that the next color revolution attempt will carry a much heavier Russophobic tilt than the current one. And it would also not be undeserved – the weak deserve to get NATO brigades at their borders.
But while it’s a bad idea to counting chickens before they hatch, there are some modest reasons to be optimistic that Moscow doesn’t intend to go on this ruinous path:
* On September 1, in one of his typical volte faces between stroking and triggering Russian nationalists, Lukashenko began speaking of a “common Fatherland” that stretches from “Brest to Vladivostok.”
* More concretely, he also replaced the head of KGB Valery Vakulchik, a soft zmagarist who had a history of quietly torpedoing cooperation with Russian intelligence, with Ivan Tertel, with is said to have a more pro-Russian outlook.
* PM Mishustin was in Minsk on September 3 along with much of the Russian government. There is scant information on concrete agreements, but plenty of rhetoric about accelerating integration within the framework of the Union State. There was one slightly cringy scene in which Luka “reported” the interception of Polish-German communications which purported to show that the latter had falsified Navalny’s poisoning claims. Mishustin seemed to struggle to keep a calm face.
* There has been a collapse in relations between Belarus and the more Polonic-tilted “Intermarium” countries. In the most radical step, Lithuania has recognized Tikhanovskaya as the legitimate President of Belarus. (This would presumably imply that it will not recognize any subsequent change in political status with respect to Belarus and Russia). Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have all been especially energetic about pressing for EU sanctions. Poland has also started enticing Belorussian IT companies to move to Poland (presumably in a bid to drain it of human capital).
* Perhaps most amusingly, Kiev has put Lukashenko Karaev on its “Peacekeeper list” on September 4, labeling them as enemies of Ukraine and barring him entry. Its Foreign Minister Kuleba has threatened Minsk with “severe sanctions.” The formal cause of this is Belarus handing over the detained Wagnerites who were Russian citizens to Russia, as opposed to extraditing them to the Ukraine to face charges. The Ukrainians are clearly not happy with the failure of their intelligence operation, jointly organized with the Americans, which it is now clear was an attempt to drive a wedge between Minsk and Moscow the on the eve of the color revolution attempt.
* Russian Ambassador in Minsk presented Lukashenko with a historical atlas with a map of Vitebsk, Grodno, Minsk, Mogilev provinces in 1866, portraying them as a confirmation of historicism and legality of modern borders. Luka’s reaction was like that crying Wojak behind a smiling mask meme.
On a separate note, it has been observed that pretty much all of the high-profile zmagarist activist journalists on Anglophone Twitter – Franak Viačorka, Tadeusz Giczan, Vlad Davidzon – have been snapped up by the Atlantic Council, NATO’s propaganda army funded by the US State Department and military contractors like Raytheon & Lockheed Martin, over the past month or so.
* It is, I think, completely safe to say that the color revolution failed, given that the protests have continued dwindling, and are now increasingly dominated by marginal zmagarists and various Bioleninist trash from Russia. I guess my “hardcore delusion” (as “Concerned citizen” called it) has panned out.