Minsk anticipates stronger financial support from the Kremlin in exchange for support on international arena
President Lukashenka hopes for greater support from the Kremlin in exchange for supporting Russia on the international arena with its harsh criticism of the US and EU foreign policies. In addition, he attempted to change his international image and talked about traditional Christian values in order to soften the pressure of the international community with regard to his domestic policies and the ongoing presidential campaign in Belarus. Official Minsk is likely to see another round of complications with Western capitals in connection with the planned deployment of a Russian military air base in Belarus.
At the UN General Assembly’s 70th session, President Lukashenka talked about the signs of a new grim conflict and about the threat to traditional families.
In his speech, Lukashenka criticized foreign policies of the world leaders and called on the UN member states to a broad discussion of future co-existence of nations and peoples.
President Lukashenka has harshly criticised Western countries and accused them of destabilizing the situation and initiating conflicts in some states: “Under the pretext of Iraq having nuclear weapons, some states decided to democratise it. And where are the nuclear weapons? Where is democracy in Iraq? Why the president of Iraq was assassinated? Where is the country now and what is the future of the Iraqi people? Do people have better lives in this state? No. You, the guilty ones, will say you were wrong and should have stopped. But, no, you went further. You started in Tunisia and finished in Libya. The scenario is the same. President Gaddafi was crucified and the state destroyed. Is it better in Libya now? No. And where is Libya as an integral state? Gentlemen, may be that’s enough? No. You have rushed to Syria...”
Before delivering his sharply critical speech at the UN, President Lukashenka met with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. At the meeting the IMF head emphasised the importance of “a comprehensive reorientation of the course” in order to restore stability in Belarus, which could have been interpreted by the president as an attempt to attach political demands to financial support.
In addition, President Lukashenka has updated his image as a peacemaker and his role in resolving the conflict in Ukraine by calling upon the world leaders to prevent a possible military conflict in Europe. President Lukashenka also requested not to impose Western values in Belarus, namely human rights, which in his opinion could destabilize the situation in the country.
The president has diminished the role of democratic values by focusing on social protection a state should provide. He referred to some successful examples of the Belarusian socio-economic model: “We have no maternal mortality, and infant mortality rates are the lowest in the world. That is democracy, and not something that our western teachers are trying to impose on us”.
Moreover, in his speech, Lukashenka talked about the world problems through the prism of Christian values in order to soften the criticism by the international community of his domestic policies and election practices. Upon his return to Belarus, the president continued developing his image as a supporter of traditional Christian values. For instance, last week he took part in the "Prayer for Belarus" event.
Overall, official Minsk has toughened rhetoric against Western capitals and in fact has become the Kremlin’s defender on the international arena in order to gain support from the Russian government after the elections.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.