So as of today there is an 88% chance on the Metaculus predictions market that Lukashenko remains in power to January 31, 2021, which is up from less than 50% at the lowest points this August.
By all indications, Tikhanovskaya’s call from her Lithuanian exile for a general strike has resulted in a damp squib. Although a lot of people are still going out to protest, they have now become predominantly social marginals, ultra-zmagars, or both*.
The Belorussians, unlike the Ukrainians, have confirmed their stereotype as a quiet and obedient people.
Some commenters, such as BNE editor Ben Aris, have repeatedly expressed the hope that the protests will precipitate a balance of payments crisis. Well let’s look at the figures, does this look like an imminent crisis to you?
Three months into this abortive Maidan, Belarus has as much foreign currency reserves as does Ukraine and Azerbaijan do in per capita terms. We are not talking about an imminent Ukrainian or Azeri crisis.
Meanwhile, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – Belarus’ “Guaido” – no longer even bothers to conceal her faction’s hard zmagarist agenda (which I was first to leak in English) and just ReTweets talking points from the NATO- and Raytheon-funded Atlantic Council to all of her 15,000 followers.
We all gathered today to discuss the next steps towards democratic future of Belarus. Very fruitful meeting with the Coordination Council members, Tsepkalo HQ & Babaryka HQ representatives, BySol team. Stay tuned for more details. @PavelLatushka @ValeryTsepkalo @franakviacorka pic.twitter.com/BDdW8900dw
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) October 12, 2020
Incidentally, as I pointed out, then Atlantic Council has in the past few months snapped up pretty much all the so-called “independent experts” on Belarus. This is ultimately a good thing for Lukashenko, what is basically happening is that those grifters are carving our sinecures for themselves, so it can be interpreted as a signal that they are expecting to be there for the long haul.
However, this is not necessarily a “victory” for Russia.
As I pointed out and indeed stressed from the very beginning, Lukashenko was never a good friend to Russia, and a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
Meanwhile, it is mistaken to view Lukashenko as an unambiguously pro-Russian politician. To be sure, at the beginning of his career, he pursued a pro-Russian line – including pushing the idea of the Union State. During the late 1990s, when Yeltsin’s popularity was in the doldrums, the idea of Lukashenko becoming President of a 155 million population Union State of Russia and Belarus was not entirely far-fetched. Since then, his cachet in Russia has eroded, so it is no longer so much the Presidency of a quasi-superpower he has to look forwards to as some executive position within the Belorussian Federal District. That is obviously much less appetizing, hence his increasing penchant to make overtures to Belarusian nationalists (“zmagars”) and dalliances with the West – arrests of pro-Russian journalists and activists, the promotion of the “Litvinist” ideology that portrays Belarus as a spiritual successor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian, joint exercises with the British military while refusing to host proposed Russian air bases, undermining the Russian food sanctions regime against the EU, and the steady replacement of Russian language signs by Belarusian (if with Chinese translations – Xi Jinping being a third prospective sugar daddy).
And so we come to the “zrada” (at least from Russia’s perspective): Lukashenko now apparently feels so confident in his position that he is now signalling a retreat from his commitments to accelerated integration made in September and a return to Belarus “multi-vector policy” of balancing between Russia and the West.
From the Telegram of political gossipmonger NeZygar (via Google Translate):
On the eve of Naryshkin’s arrival, Lukashenko demonstrated in his own manner what he expects from the Kremlin.
At a meeting with two dozen top officials, he, according to unofficial information, outlined the theses according to which the multi-vector nature of the Belarusian policy is preserved.
The staff of the conditional pro-Western wing, headed by Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, has not changed; he has been given carte blanche to stabilize relations with the EU and the United States.
The detainees of the leader of the “controlled Maidan” were actually released; criminal cases are curtailed.
Makei is considered to be a Westernist and is reputed to have lobbied for the handover of the Wagnerites to the Ukraine, which as we have since learned was a Ukrainian intelligence operation against Russia.
It was ordered to work with Russia, bearing in mind the need to use the possibilities of transshipment of large quantities of Middle Eastern and American oil through the Black Sea ports. These deliveries should save Belarus from “carbon price blackmail”.
At the same time, contacts with Western embassies and informal contacts in European capitals are intensifying.
The situation with mass demonstrations and claims of the opposition to power is planned to be “put on the brakes”, channeling and weakening the protest potential through the preparation of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, at which the constitutional structure of the country will be determined.
It was indicated to remain silent about integration with Russia.
Thus, Lukashenko, realizing all the pros and cons of his position, continued to solve his main task – to remain in power as a full-fledged leader independent of Russia, making the most of the geopolitical advantages of Belarus, in which Moscow is extremely interested.
With such a position, the visit of Naryshkin made no sense, which was supposed to clarify and agree on the fundamental points of integration, as well as coordinate foreign policy actions in support of Minsk. The conversation with Lukashenka lasted less than planned.
Apparently we have to admit that with Lukashenka it is impossible to build a meaningful and long-term policy in the interests of integration. But in the current acute confrontation, any replacement of this powerful figure can upset the balance of domestic and foreign political forces, as a result of which Russia risks losing control of the situation.
This is also something I pointed out at the beginning, e.g. see the following graph that I compiled in August:
Well, if Nezygar’s “inside” is accurate, Russia was probably a bit too early in panickedly rushing in to shore up Lukashenko’s position (even if that wasn’t evident at the time) and too ready swallow the potato dictator’s purely situational boot-licking about Russians and Belorussians being “one people“.
Conversely, it needs to be said that both the EU and the US have played a smart hand, avoiding the imposition of hard sanctions on Belarus to leave the road open for a resurrection of multi-vectorism.
So in between these two factors, we might sooner be looking at the state of affairs described in the upper left quadrant of this table, not the more optimal (for Russia) bottom left.
* Incidentally, one prediction that I was correct on, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth from one “Concerned Citizen”
Some hardcore delusion right there. I cant even imagine how hard Mr. Karlin will cope and seethe after the same happens in russia in the coming few years. Until the very final day he will squirm and wiggle: “noooo the protesters are done, putin will destroy them”. LOL
As for Luka, he is finished.
At the risk of sounding crass, are you even following the news? The exact opposite is happening. The biggest firms are striking, such as Belaz, Maz, belarus azot and dozens of others. In sharp contrast to your mocking glib remarks on twitter yesterday “haha only one plant is on strike LOL”. Who is laughing now?
I predict that luka is on his final legs.