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.
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.