Lukashenko secures himself against the power change in Georgia
President Lukashenko has made it clear that after the Georgian President Saakashvili party’s loss during the parliamentary elections, he is ready to cooperate with Invanishvili’s winning party “Georgian Dream”. In return, he offered Georgia his mediation support in relations with Russia, but Georgia is unlikely to be interested.
On October 4th, President Lukashenko gave an interview to the Interstate TV and Radio Company “Mir”*. To a significant extent, the interview was devoted to the past parliamentary elections in Georgia and the Belarusian-Georgian relations.
Belarus is interested in preserving Georgian support in international organizations, especially within the EU “Eastern Partnership” Programme and UN institutions. To be more specific, Belarus requires Georgian delegation’s political support in the Eastern Partnership’s Parliamentary Assembly EURONEST, where Belarusian parliamentary delegation has not yet been officially represented and moreover, is a subject to harsh criticism from the European Parliament.
In bilateral relations, it is important for Belarus to maintain cooperation with Georgia on migration issues: a visa-free regime de facto opens Russian border for Georgian nationals. Such a regime is one of the Belarusian geopolitics’ components, enabling the authorities to remain a “gateway” to the evolving Eurasian Economic Union. In turn, Georgia provided political support to Belarus at the Foreign Ministry level, particularly, during the acute phase in the Belarus – EU conflict in the spring of 2012.
Therefore, after the “Georgian Dream” won the parliamentary elections on October 1st, President Lukashenko felt necessary to send an unambiguous signal to Tbilisi about his desire to maintain continuity in bilateral relations. Lukashenko said that he saw no fundamental differences in the Ivanishvili’s and Saakashvili’s parties’ policies. The Belarusian President also offered himself as a mediator in the Georgian-Russian conflict over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The problem with this kind of mediation is that its success requires a common internationally recognized institution. President Lukashenko proposed that the CIS could play such role, bearing in mind potential Belarus’ chairmanship in 2013. However, after the armed conflict in 2008, Georgia is not willing to return to the CIS and a “Georgian Dream” representative has already made a statement in this regard.
Therefore, Belarus’ mediation efforts in the Georgian-Russian conflict, as well as the attempt of the Belarusian leadership to improve its international status within the CIS are futile. Probably, bilateral cooperation between Belarus and Georgia will remain at the current level, which is perfectly acceptable for the authorities.
* Interstate TV and Radio Program “Mir” is available in 14 post-Soviet states. Its overall audience is about 15 million people (analog broadcasting), 48 million (cable broadcasting), and about 25 million (satellite broadcast).
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.