Written by The Saker; Originally appeared at The Unz Review
The situation in Belarus is evolving very rapidly, and not for the better, to say the least. A lot has been going on, but here is a summary of what are the most crucial developments in my opinion:
- Last Sunday was a major success for the Belarusian opposition: huge crowds took to the streets of several Belarusian cities and, in most cases, the demonstrations were peaceful.
- Belarus now has its own “Juan Guaido” in the person of Svetlana Tikhanovskaia – whose only “qualification” to lead the opposition is that is that her husband is in jail. Tikhanovskaia has already declared herself the “national leader” of Belarus.
- The Belarusian opposition formed a coordinating committee which is staffed by well-known and long-time rabid russophobes.
- The program of the opposition (they call it “Reanimation package of reforms for Belarus”) is simple: new “fair” elections followed by the following goals: Belarus must withdrawn from all the collective agreements she has with Russia (including the union state, the SCO, etc.). Instead, the national goal ought to be, what else, to join NATO and the EU. All the Russian military forces in Belarus must be expelled. The Belarusian language must be reimposed, Ukie-style, on the Belarusian society (including, apparently, the military – good luck with that!). Russian organizations will be banned in Belarus, and Russian TV channels forbidden. The border with Russia must be closed. Next, a new, independent “Belarusian Orthodox Church” must be created. Finally, the Belarusian economy will “reformed” – meaning that whatever can be sold will be sold, then the country will be deindustrialized (like the Ukraine or the Baltic states).
- At this point, it is pretty clear that the Western-controlled “opposition” has successfully taken over the control of what initially was a legitimate local popular opposition. This mechanism (the hijacking of a truly popular and legitimate opposition by western controlled agents of influence) is exactly what happened in the Ukraine, in Syria and in many other places (I would eve argue that this is what is happening to the USA right now). Some Belarusian ambassadors (Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden) have now sided with the opposition just like what happened with Venezuela, Syria and other countries.
To be honest, there are more similarities between the recent events in Venezuela and what is now taking place in Belarus, it’s not just Tikhanovskaia as the Belarusian Guaido. For example, Lukashenko made at least, if not more, crucial mistakes than Maduro and now there is hell to pay for it.
Now let’s look at Lukashenko’s actions:
- Now Lukashenko is fuming against the West again, to the degree that he actually moved the most capable Belarusian military unit (the 103rd Special Mobile Guards Airborne Brigade from Vitebsk) to the western border, and the rest of the military forces have been put on high alert. Lukashenko explained that by saying that there is a real risk of western military intervention (which is utter nonsense, NATO does not have what it takes to attack Russia, which is present in Belarus, and survive).
- Lukashenko and at least two of his ministers did go out to talk to the protesters, which is a courageous act which should not be overlooked (as in: Lukashenko, for all his very real faults, is no Ianukovich, and neither are many of his ministers). The meetings did not go well, especially for the two ministers who both clearly lack the undeniable personal charisma of Lukashenko.
- Lukashenko has also publicly admitted that he has to engage Belarusian special forces against some demonstrations. He gave no further details, but that admission is interesting as it shows two things: a) since special forces had to be used, it means that other police forces were either unable or unwilling to control the situation and b) elite Belarusian forces are still backing Lukashenko
- Lukashenko has also called Putin several times and he is now declaring that the current threat is not only a threat to Belarus, but also a threat to Russia. Clearly, Lukashenko is begging for Russian help.
- Lukashenko has publicly declared “unless you remove me there will be no other elections” adding that the opposition would have to kill him before it will get to destroy Belarus (again – the dude is no Ianukovich).
Now let’s also note what Lukashenko has NOT done:
- He has not fired his ministers of foreign affairs and the head of the Belarusian KGB (according to a pro opposition Telegram channel the Minister of Foreign Affairs did resign, but Lukashenko has rejected his resignation; this is one of the many rumors about Belarus inundating Telegram right now)
- He has NOT declared that his so-called “multi-vector policy” (i.e. courting the West) was a mistake or that it has now been changed or abandoned. Clearly, and in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Lukashenko still hopes that he can somehow sit between the two chairs of submission to the Empire or reunification with Russia.
- He has not apologized to Putin and/or Russia for all the false accusations he was hurling at them just a few days ago.
- Paradoxically, following the numerous cases of wanton violence which the Belarusian cops used initially, now the streets are almost entirely free from any police forces. On one hand this is good, the violence used initially did A LOT of damage to the government and it got people very angry. Furthermore, the amount of violence by the opposition did dramatically decrease too, which is also good. But the problem is that there are now very clearly special organized groups, not necessarily formed by locals, who are now trying to seize power illegally and by violence. It is vital that the Belarusian KGB now locate and arrest these people. My fear is that the Belarusian KGB has been infiltrated by pro-western elements who will be hard to neutralize.
Now let’s look at what the “collective West” has done:
- The West has clearly taken a consolidated, common, position towards this crisis. The West does not recognize the outcome of the elections and the West has now thrown its full weight behind the so-called “opposition”.
- Western leaders have called Putin, apparently to demand that Russia not intervene in Belarus. Putin apparently told them that what is taking place is Belarus is none of their business, thank you.
- It is now clear that the West will accept nothing short of what we could call a “Ukronazi outcome” and that the Empire will use all its resources short of military action to try to seize control of Belarus.
Next, let’s look at what Belarus’ neighbors are doing:
- Very predictably, the Poles are clearly thinking that they will restore something which is know by the evocative (to some..) concept of “Rzeczpospolita” in Polish and which roughly translates as “Polish Commonwealth” (see here for a quick primer). In this context, it is very important to understand that modern Poland is an ideological heir to the infamous Józef Piłsudski (here for details). This means that Poland’s ultimate goal is to break up Russia, restore the Polish Commonwealth, and become a willing prostitute to the western power, especially the USA (it is just as easy for the current Polish pseudo-patriots to prostitute their nation to the USA as it was for Piłsudski to prostitute himself before Hitler). If some of you bump into the concepts of “Prometheism” or “Intermarium” then click on these words for more details. It is hardly surprising that the nation Winston Churchill called the “the hyena of Europe” would pounce on Belarus: the Poles always, always, attack when either think that a) there is some big guy behind them and b) that their victim is weak. I fully expect the Pope to publicly “pray for peace in Belarus” and express his “distress” at the violence. Truly – this has been the same gang for almost 1000 years (see here and here) and they are still at it. There is really nothing new under the sun…
- The clueless Balts also want to join the Rzeczpospolita for a very simple reasons: they are terrified that the West will eventually dump them and they know that by themselves they will never achieve anything. So as much as the Poles like to hide behind the USA, the Balts like to hide behind Poland. Finally, these countries probably realize that even Belarus alone could prevail militarily over them, nevermind Russia, so the figure that united and protected by Uncle Shmuel they will seize Russia like they seized the Ukraine and finally (!) become the (collective?) “Prometheus” they think they are, but which history never allowed them to become.
- As for the EU gerontocrats, they are just doing what they know how to do: try to impersonate some kind of (moral?) “authority” which gets to decide which elections are fair, which are not, which regimes get to beat up demonstrators (Macron anybody?) and which ones must immediately yield to the demands of a carefully controlled “opposition”. It is especially touching to see Merkel who clearly does not realize the utter contempt the Russians feel for her and for what she stands for.
Lastly, let’s look at what Putin and other Russians are saying:
- Putin and Xi have both recognized the outcome of the elections. Frankly, I don’t know of any halfway serious source which would dispute the fact that Lukashenko beat Tikhanovskaia by a wide margin. Yes, I also seriously doubt the frankly silly 80% vs 10% figures, but I doubt those who say that Lukashenko lost even more. Neither Putin nor Xi will “unrecongnize” these elections. Which means that neither Putin nor Xi will ever accept the western narrative about what happened or what is happening now.
- Putin’s reaction to Lukashenko’s phone calls appears to be a special kind of “restrained goodwill” or “polite benevolence”. Clearly, nobody in Russia has forgotten what just happened and I notice a very clear trend on Russian talkshows, news reports and articles: while most Russians sincerely see Belarusians as fellow Russian brothers, the level of frustration and even disgust with Lukashenko is hard not to notice, and it is only growing. Even very pro-Kremlin commentators are losing their cool with what Lukashenko is doing (they are no less angry at what Lukashenko is not doing), I think of Igor Korotchenko, the head of the Public Council under the Ministry of defense of the Russian Federation, a typical Kremlin-insider, who has now declared that the Belarusian Foreign Minister is a “foreign agent of influence” (which I don’t doubt) and that Russia ought to demand that he be fired. I can only agree with him.
- Crucially, in the official summary transcript of the telephone conversation between Lukashenko and Putin the latter repeated that the integration between Russia and Belarus must continue. Here is how the Kremlin put it: “The Russian side reaffirmed its readiness to render the necessary assistance to resolve the challenges facing Belarus based on the principles of the Treaty on the Creation of a Union State, as well as through the Collective Security Treaty Organization, if necessary“. In other words, Putin is laying down the legal framework under which Russia might intervene in some manner, especially if such an intervention is officially requested by Minsk.
Now let’s summarize what is really taking place, I will also do that in the form of a bullet-point list:
- There is no doubt that many Belarusians are fed up with Lukashenko
- There is no doubt that many Belarusians still support Lukashenko (if only as a guarantor against a Ukraine-like collapse).
- There is no doubt that the legitimate Belarusian opposition was quickly and effortlessly co-opted by western and, let’s call them “Promethean”, special services.
- Lukashenko was so sure of himself, that he never bothered to really campaign, to talk and plead with his own people. He entered this election cocky sure of himself, only to find out that what is immediate entourage of yes-man (they stand when they report to him) either was lying or was clueless.
- Next, it is also clear that Lukashenko was sure that between his KGB and the Belarusian riot police, he could easily clear the streets. And while this seemed to work for 24 hours, the last couple of days are proof that the regime has lost control of the streets and/or is clueless as to what to do next. Furthermore, while you can use riot police to disperse demonstrators, you cannot use this riot police to force anybody to work: there are many consistent reports of strikes in major Belarusian plans and corporation. How will Lukashenko force these people to work? He cannot. In fact, he specifically said so when he declared that strikes will destroy Belarus. There are now even reports that the company Belaruskalii, one of the most profitable companies in Belarus (it produces potassium fertilizer) has now stopped working (this just in: the workers of Belaruskallii have agreed to resume work).
- In extremis, Lukashenko began calling Putin and he even said “we, Russians” during a public meeting. Right now I know of no respectable analyst in Russia who would believe that Putin owes Lukashenko anything.
- The blame for what just happened cannot be placed solely on Lukashenko’s infinite arrogance, the infiltration of the Belarusian KGB or on Ukronazi provocations: it is possible that the SVR and GRU dropped the ball in this instance, in spite of the fact that what happened was easy to predict (and many did predict this). Had it not been for the superb work of the FSB, it is quite possible that by now some Russian citizens would be sitting in Ukronazi jails. The Russian Foreign Ministry also appears to have been caught off guard. I don’t necessarily feel that “heads should roll” at the SVR/GRU, but at the very least there ought to be a full internal investigation on why this crisis apparently caught the Kremlin off-guard and some “organizational conclusions” ought to be drawn. By the way, there is also the possibility that the SVR/GRU and Ministry of Foreign Affairs *did* provide timely and substantive (actionable) warnings. In this case, the problem is with the heads of these services, the Russian government and the President. It is sometimes said that the process of intelligence involves three phases referred to as the “three As”: acquisition (data collection), analysis (data management and interpretation) and acceptance (convincing the political decision makers). I do, obviously, not know at what level this failure happened, but I see it as a clear sign of a major problem.
Now lets look at the core of the “Russian problem in Belarus”: it is simple, really: Belarusians are Russians, even more so than the Ukrainians. Not only that, but judging from the footage from Belarus (on all changes and from all sources), while the (supposed) “leaders” of the so-called “opposition” are all rabid russophobes, the vast majority of those who protested against Lukashenko are not.
The problem here is that it is impossible to get truly reliable numbers. Official Belarusian polls are a joke, but “opposition” polls, or western run polls, are probably even MORE unreliable. Then there is the fact that Minsk is somewhat of a special case amongst Belarusian cities. Furthermore, there is a difference between urban and rural Belarus. And, finally, the opposition itself is not monolithic at all, and when somebody is asked whether he supports Lukashenko or not, there are many possible reasons why somebody might reply “no” (heck, many Russians in Russia do not support Lukashenko either). So we have to accept that until some kind of normalcy return to Belarus and truly free elections are held, nobody will know for sure what percentage of Belarusian think about this crisis or Lukashenko.
Then there is the fact that, just as in Syria or the Ukraine, the initial protest were legitimate, both in terms of having many valid reasons to protest and in terms of being truly local, not controlled from abroad. But then, just as in Syria and in the Ukraine, these protests were infiltrated and co-opted by foreign agents. Ideally, Russia would want to support the original/real demonstrators as much as possible within reason and counter-act the infiltrated subversives. But how can the Russian separate them unless they themselves make it happen?
One idea circulated here and there is that Russia should intervene very openly, in the context of the Union State between Russia and Belarus and, even more so, under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Putin did mention this organization already, so this is definitely an option for Russia. But would that be a good option?
To be honest, I am not even sure that there are ANY good options left for Russia. I mentioned several times that I personally came to conclusion that the only possibly way for the Belarusian people to remain free is to join Russia. I still think that. However, I am not at all sure that this is even really possible right now, if only because the only interlocutor of Moscow in Belarus appears to be losing control of his own government and because there is no easy way to make progress on this issue while Belarus is at the very real risk of complete collapse.
The root cause of it all?
Corruption. As always.
It is often said that the Ukrainian leaders since 1991 were terrible, and that is true: every one of them seemed to be acting in some kind of toxic freak show. And yes, in Belarus, people feared the cops and the KGB a lot more than the did in the Ukraine. But that does not necessarily mean that Belarus was less corrupt. All this means, is that in Belarus the government did a great job running a semi-feudal system of protection which only guaranteed that only officials and their “business partners” got to make good money.
And this is not a Belarus or Ukrainian problem only. The exact same thing took place in Russia in the 90s. It is not even a personality problem, it is a class problem, in the Marxist sense of the word.
We need to remember that the CPSU and its Nomenklatura was a fantastically corrupt organization, not necessarily at the member level, but as a whole. I would summarize the “integrity” of these people as so:
- First they betrayed Stalin and the ideals of Marxism-Leninism (Khrushchev years)
- Then they betrayed their own USSR and CPSU (Brezhnev & Gorbachev years)
- Then they disguised themselves as patriots (or even nationalists, like that hardcore communist ideologue Kravchuk did!).
- Next, they deeply penetrated the West to seek protection, hide their real revenues and obtain the right to rule.
- Next, they sucked their countries dry of all their wealth while their personal worth skyrocketed.
- Finally, they all volunteered to prostitute themselves and their people before the West.
These guys have no more morals than am amoeba and they are as ruthless as any psychopath. They used to prostitute themselves before their Party bosses, and now they do the same to their AngloZionist ones.
So here is the question: how could Russia remove this ruling class without a) major bloodshed and b) making it look like what Russia is really doing is trying to save Lukashenko?
What Russia really needs now is for the West to do something as terminally stupid as when the US tried to overthrow Erdogan. But that would only be sufficient to bring Lukashenko to heel and get rid of some of the most dangerous elements in his entourage. The bigger problem is how could Russia help the Belarusian people?
Just tossing more money at the Belarusian regime makes no sense and does not work. Been there, done that.
Using military force is possible (I don’t expect anybody in the Belarusian military, at least key commanders and units, to object to this). But that is very tricky and outright politically dangerous. It might also not be correctly understood by Belarusians and by many Russians too.
The first conclusion I personally am coming to is that Russia must not do anything which could be credibly construed as “saving Lukashenko”. Lukashenko needs no “saving”. Belarus does.
Second, while in military terms securing Belarus would not be a problem for the Russian military, in political terms it would be a major crisis as the West would, no doubt, pounce on that to not only impose more sanctions (that is not really a problem) but also to create a New Cold War in which mentally sane and patriotic Europeans would be “shouted down” by hysterical mantras about “the Russians are coming! the Russians are coming!”.
I am also concerned about the recent military moves by Belarus. To forward deploy high readiness forces near the Polish border is a very bad idea: considering the historical record the Russians should *never* assume that any Polish leader won’t do something fantastically stupid which will end up as fantastically tragic. I don’t believe for one second that NATO has plans to invade Belarus. If anything, Lukashenko and Russia ought to leave what is called a “tripwire force” in the West while preparing their strategic defenses in depth. There is NO need to go and provoke the Poles, the Balts or anybody else in NATO.
If given a choice, Putin would probably want for both Lukashenko and the so-called ‘opposition’ to go (this reminds me of the Argentinian “que se vayan todos” or the Lebanese كلهم يعني كلهم both of which can be roughly translated as “they all have to go”and “all means all” – including both Tikhanovskaia AND Lukashenko.
At the time of writing this (Aug. 19th) it appears that Lukashenko will now have to chose between the “civilized West” and “Putin’s bloody Mordor”. Truly, he really has no option other than to choose Moscow, but that does not at all mean that Moscow thinks that there is anything salvageable from Lukashenko’s regime. His latest “zag!” back to being a “Russian brother” is way too little and way too late. And if his foreign minister and his head of KGB are still in the next government, all this talk will also become irrelevant and meaningless.
Simply put: if Lukashenko wants to remain in power he has only one option – beg for Putin’s mercy, not publicly, of course, be most emphatically and as sincerely as he can pretend to be. Then he needs to purge his government from every single name Putin (or the Russian special services) will hand to him. Yes, that means that he has to truly and really relinquish control. As for Putin, he needs to address both the Russian and the Belarusian people to explain whatever decision he comes to. This is, yet again, a situation where Putin’s biggest weapon might be his very high popular support (not only in Russia, but also, by all accounts, in Belarus).
Right now it appears that the West seriously fears a Russian intervention: they probably (correctly) realize how easy it would be for Russia and how there is absolutely nothing anybody, including NATO or, even less so, the EU could do about it. Trump personally has much bigger fish to fry and I doubt if he cares much. But his narcissistic Secretary of State probably feels like he can turn Belarus into another US-run Banderastan.
So what can happen next?
I think that it is crucial that Russia reach out to the non-US-controlled opposition in Belarus, publicly, and try to establish some kind of dialog. Russia also has to publicly warn the people of Belarus that if they allow the current US-controlled “opposition leaders” to come to power, Belarus will collapse just like the Ukraine did.
This might be the strongest argument Russia could repeat over and over again: as bad as Lukashenko was, if he is overthrown in some kind of Maidan-like coup, then Belarus will become the next Banderastan. This will be a major headache for Russia, but Russia can easily survive this. Belarus cannot.
But simply keeping Lukashenko in power is no solution either: whether he did or did not win the latest elections is not even the real issue anymore – the real issue is that he did lose his credibility with pretty much everybody involved. For this reason alone – Lukashenko has to go. Next, some kind of government of national unity which would include the main political forces in Belarus except the ones controlled by the West should probably be formed. Finally, whoever is in power in Minsk needs to set a course on a full reintegration of Belarus into Russia. That remains the only viable long-term solution for the people of Belarus.