Russia has no means to oust Lukashenka from power
Russia’s influence on Lukashenka is huge, but still not enough to prompt him to leave his post. Thanks to the domestic policy carried out by the Belarusian leader, Moscow no longer can stranglehold the Belarusian authorities. Statements about the alleged plans of the Kremlin to overthrow Lukashenka are insinuations aiming to put their respective owners in the spotlight.
During all 22 years of his rule, Lukashenka’s main goal was to strengthen and preserve his power. He created an efficient system preventing any challenge to his leadership inside the country.
Since coming to power in 1994, Lukashenka has held several purges among senior officials and the power block. Currently, the people, whose status roots in the existing political system with Lukashenka at the core of it, lead the country. Those who had the imprudence to demonstrate own ambitions, or dissent, or the support from the outside of the state apparatus, were promptly stripped of the real power. Including through the appointment to honorary positions, which seem important, but lack real levers of influence.
Both, the state apparatus and the law enforcement, including the security services, were reorganised. Belarus has incorporated a comprehensive monitoring system to control senior officials and directors of large enterprises. Loyalty of the law enforcement is ensured through internal institutional control and security and due to inter-departmental competition. The system has proved its efficiency, inasmuch as in the past 22 years not a single document leaked from the government system proving policy-relevant information.
In addition, time did its part: 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a generational change in the government leadership. Those having close ties with Russia have sharply decreased in number.
Statements about the alleged plans of the Kremlin to overthrow Lukashenka are insinuations aiming to put their respective owners in the spotlight. The objective reality is that over the years of Lukashenka’s rule, Russia’s abilities to influence the power landscape in Belarus have been reset to zero. In order to oust Lukashenka from power, Moscow would have to step into an open and sharp confrontation or even to use force. And the result would hardly be predetermined.
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.