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).
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.