President Lukashenko promotes the Belarusian model in Russia
The Russian Duma elections revealed the weakness of the ruling party United Russia and Alexander Lukashenko could not resist the temptation to promote his model of authoritarian welfare state on the Russian political arena. He did not exclude his potential involvement in Russian politics.
On December 13, President Lukashenko gave an interview to a Russian radio station Russian news service.
The interview proved that the Belarusian President remained faithful to the idea of social and fair authoritarian modernization, which he set-off to the Russian oligarchic capitalism. Lukashenko could not resist the temptation to state that the Belarusian orderly and comfort, as well as discipline of state officials and employees and in social sphere could easily be implemented in Russia.
Moreover, the Belarusian President made a tribute to himself for social stability in Belarus. He tried to emphasize the benefits of his stand to Russia, where, following the parliamentary elections a number of unprecedented mass protests was held. With reference to the October Revolution, Lukashenko suggested that the Russian government risked losing control over the protests: “Ten thousand people turned Russia upside down”. Thereby Lukashenko also promoted his tough methods of dealing with street protests in Belarus in June-July 2011.
Finally, Lukashenko made an unexpected move and sent a liberal message to his Russian counterparts and Russian citizens, namely he said that if he were in the shoes of President Medvedev, he would have come out to the protesters at the Bolotnaya Square in Moscow (i.e. the mass rally held there on December 10).
Lukashenko’s words should not be taken seriously – it was an obvious populism due to the fact that for many years he had not met voters directly and communicated with the protestors via the law enforcement.
Belarusian President believes that his main political asset is allegedly close relationship with the first President of the Russian Federation and the “father” of Russian oligarchs Boris Yeltsin. Lukashenko also reminded that while creating the Union State, Boris Yeltsin, in principle, opened the door for the Belarusian president to become the head of the new state. However many years have passed since the death of Boris Yeltsin and these arguments of Lukashenko could be used in “memoirs”. However, the steering body of the Eurasian Economic Union gives officials close to Lukashenko food for thought about their careers after 2015. For instance, on 13 December the President has appointed former Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky as a member of the board for industry and agriculture of the CES. Other officials are also curious who will be appointed for other leading positions in this body. At the same time the Belarusian President rules out any possibility of continuity of power in Belarus.
Therefore, the key messages President Lukashenko intended to send to his Russian counterparts are as follows:
- Russian oligarchic model of governance leads to the stratification of society and social protests;
- Recent protests threaten Russian political system with change, following the example of the “Arab spring”;
- Belarusian model of authoritarian social welfare state guarantees social justice and social stability;
- It is not yet too late for Russia to implement the President Lukashenko’s model.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.