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Lukashenko Wins, Zmagars Lose, Russia Left on the Sidelines
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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.

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

Link:

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.

Link:

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.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Belarus, Color Revolution, Prediction 
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  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

    Commenting rules. Please note that anonymous comments are not allowed.

  2. Why hire all the Zmagars directly at Atlantic Council? Why not create some new gay “democracy promoting” NGO instead? The choice seems intended to make Russia panic.

  3. Svevlad says:

    You know the concept of Iran and Aniran?

    Since zmagaristan and svidomistan base their reasons to exist just in that they’re “not russians”, perhaps the Russian translation of both countries names should be changed to… Antirussia.

  4. Now would be a perfect time for Russia to curtail its credits/subsidies to Belarus. If Lukashenka feels too confident now, this will change as economic situation continues to deteriorate.

    The bottom-line is the sooner Luka goes, the better it is for Russian interests. The next time he comes to visit Russia, we should just arrest the old fool.

    As a sidenote, how stupid do you have to be to still think that Moscow-led “integration” projects can be successful in the former Soviet space? We have 20+ years record of failure, yet the kremlins continue to pour resources into this shit. Stupid sovoks and their phantom pains.

  5. Nolin says:

    I have to disagree with your assessment that Russia is being sidelined, while I doubt there will be full integration anytime soon, there are some recent good news on that front, namely increased military integration. Here I quote an Atlanticist think-tank which, when you ignore the bias (and sometimes excessive guessing), can be a decent source of information:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin achieved a major milestone in his pressure campaign to subordinate Belarus’ military to Russia. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin adopted a common military doctrine and announced the completed formation of Russian-Belarusian “regional grouping of forces” on October 27.[1] The formation of a Russian-Belarusian regional grouping of forces is a major achievement in Putin’s larger campaign to subordinate former Soviet states’ militaries to Russian-dominated structures.[2] The Russian State Duma first ratified the agreement to create a regional grouping of forces with Belarus in 2017.[3]

    Russia is pressuring Belarus to create a unified advanced air defense system. Shoigu also stated Russia and Belarus are planning to create a “unified regional air defense system.”[4] ISW warned Putin likely seeks to deploy and control Russian anti-access/area denial weapon systems in Belarus in September.[5]

    So to Karlin I say: Lukashenko will resist economic integration because, as one comment put it somewhere, he enjoys being the only oligarch. But there will be some modest moves on the direction of economic integration too.

    • Disagree: Daniel Chieh
    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  6. @Nolin

    Those think tanks are always overtly rosy on the Kremlin’s effectiveness in the interest of arguing for more student measures against their Great Evil.

    • Replies: @Shortsword
  7. JasonT says:

    Putin wants a friendly neighbour, not a lackey. Lukashenko in power is a win for Russia no matter how independent Lukashenko wants to be.

  8. @JasonT

    No, it’s not, because every year that Lukashenko stays in power is a year in which cultural zmagarism (promoted by Lukashenko himself) gains influence and younger cohorts are drawn into the Western sphere.

  9. @Daniel Chieh

    They only do that half the time. The other half is saying that Great Evil is destined to collapse any minute now.

  10. WhatAfool says:

    Anatoly,

    If what you are saying is true, then Lukashenko is a fool and deserves the Russians contempt.

    I do not think that the Kremlin trusts him at all and I disagree with you saying that they panicked and helped him too soon.

    Also,

    Can you add anything about the media? I understand the media was taken over by Russian journalists. Is that still the case.
    Control of the information space is important to ensure that the pro – western/anti Russian ideas can be fought especially amongst the young fools.

    • Agree: Aedib
  11. @JasonT

    Putin wants a vassal. He want Luka to pledge personal fealty to him the way Kadyrov does. Russian governing clique has a feudalist mindset, and doesn’t seem to grasp how modern politics operates.

  12. At this rate of repeating the same mistakes over and over again , the stupidity and the impotence of Putin when it comes to dealing with Lukachenko is simply mind blowing.

    Russia must do everything to overthrow him now, at least its clear we have no choice. The EU also wants him out, so this could be an opportunity to rebuild ties with EU and some countries like France in particular. Russia might even ask something in return for toppling him, like sanctions on Ukraine for violations of Minsk agreements. Everybody would happy. Europe defeats the ” last dictator of Europe ” and saves its face and Russia gets rid of a strong and independant opponent, weakens the Belarus state and prepares it for reunification.

  13. Dreadilk says:

    I wouldn’t worry if Luka tries to go back on his promises. Russia can wait him out and their aid to him was not on the order of magnitude where Russia will feel it as a big loss. The worst is probably the financial cost.

  14. Coconuts says:

    Luka’s grip on power still seems quite brittle at the moment, he keeps reaching for expedients to try to put an end to all the mini-protests and disorders that still keep happening, using the military and ex-soldiers is the latest one, sacking university admin and excluding students, continuing militia violence that is then filmed… you hear some negativity towards Russia mainly in relation to the way Russia is perceived to have helped keep him in place.

    If Luka starts pushing a pro-Western orientation again it will probably just contaminate that by association with him.

  15. The usual case of Russia (Lavrov?) overusing a short term advantage to long term negative effect. Smuggling gone. Fair enough; Russia gives Belarus a loan to cover raised oil prices, a poison pill; Russia demands transfer of Belarus tractor factory, arrogant heavy handedness typical of Lavrov; also a comprehensive set of measures to make a Union State irreversible. More arrogance. Russians don’t negotiate with the long term outcome in mind, always the short term advantage. They had Lukashenko on the hook but are trying hard to lose him. Sack Lavrov.

  16. Aedib says:

    I see a slow death of Belamaidan. May be Luka would want to play its old tricks again, but it cannot go too far from Russia. Do not expect a hurry Union state. Just a slow and carefully transition to a next president that would be palatable for both Luka and Moscow.

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