Cornered: the meaning of the words of Lukashenko about the war in Ukraine

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko broke out for themselves an unprecedented speech. More than 20 years positioning itself as an ally of Russia, entering in all of the integration projects with Russia, at the end of last week, he allowed himself the words that the Russian media have already announced a “betrayal.” Meanwhile, this event was preceded by several months of confrontation between Moscow and Minsk, anti-Belarusian campaign in the Russian media and the information that in the middle of the year, the defense Ministry intends to transfer to Belarus more than 4 thousand cars of military supplies. Belarusian experts believe that if the latter happens, it would mean virtual occupation of Belarus. Local observers, however, different evaluations of the seriousness of what is happening, but recognize that a long-time Belarusian leader feels the danger and would like to distance itself from Russia.

Lukashenko has backed himself into a corner

Addressing the scientific and scientific-pedagogical employees on January 27, Alexander Lukashenko has acknowledged the existence of the Russian-Ukrainian war, saying that their independence while Belarus is an economic war.

“Our independence is very cheap to get: all peoples have fought, are fighting our brotherly Ukraine. We should not be allowed to fight. We the people are peace-loving. Perhaps God set before us by these heavy tasks, we felt that such independence. To overcome this we can, only having United. And, thank God, the main direction of our struggle for independence is passing through the economy — not in the military sphere, not political,” — quoted Lukashenko BelTA state Agency.

Interestingly, this is actually the first time Lukashenko has dared to call phenomena by their proper names. Prior to that, his representatives, for example, in the UN General Assembly voted in solidarity with Russia. However, at the end of last year, the journalists found the tender, indicating the intention of the defense Ministry to supply to Belarus more than 4 thousand cars of military supplies ostensibly for exercises “West-2017”. This information excited the Belarusian society and even led to the arrest of the three promoters with the Belarusian passports, who wrote in a reactionary of the Russian edition about the rapprochement of the Belarusian government with the nationalists, creeping Belarusization, “leaving Belarus to the West” and threatened a repetition of “Ukrainian scenario”.

After marginal resources hard to criticise Belarus at all and Lukashenko in particular steel and of Federal Russian TV channels. As for the information about the intentions of the Russians to enter into the Belarus military equipment so that any exercises it is impossible to explain, after a few failed attempts to refute, say, 4 thousand and 400 cars, the plans of the Russian Federation recognized and Pro-government experts. So, in the beginning of the year, a report of the Center for strategic and foreign policy studies “Unilateral actions of the Russian Federation in respect of the Republic of Belarus to 2017”, in which Russia is presented as a potential aggressor, Lukashenko is presented as a defender of Belarusian sovereignty, and the opposition declared Russian agents.

However, how strict the speech of the head of Belarus did not expect, even those who by profession are supposed to keep track of any statement of the leader of the state.

So, according to the leader of the solidarity movement “Razam” Vyachaslau Siuchyk, a statement Lukashenko is not like all the usual statements.

“Before that, speaking on topics related to the independence of Belarus or the Russian-Ukrainian war, he’s used language that is acceptable for Russia and its leader personally. And then a government Agency gives a quote Lukashenka harshly doesn’t sound Russian view: “independent — value”, “we are fighting for it in the economy” and not “brotherly Ukraine”, “the necessary consolidation of all forces”, — he told in the comment “Apostrophe”.

“Of course, this is not what the opposition says since 1994, but some unusual Lukashenko. I think that the change in rhetoric caused a real danger to independence of Belarus. On this danger, experts say for several years. But after the annexation of Crimea is clear to everyone that the threat of annexation and the warrior is no longer a theory. Repeatedly sounded and specific predictions. Lukashenka becomes hostage of his own policy of building a regime of personal power as the Pro-Moscow dictatorship. Belarusian destroying education and forcing the Belarusians to get an education in Russian, Belarusian punishing the patriots, barring national symbols, eliminating the Belarusian parliamentarism and depriving citizens of basic rights and freedoms, the dictator himself has painted themselves into a corner”, — said Siuchyk.

In his opinion, the ability of Lukashenko to resist Russian expansion in doubt.

“The coming months will answer the main question — can the current government at least for their self-preservation to stop the policy of Russification and repression of Belarusians. While we hear only words. As time goes on,” — said the Belarusian opposition.

In turn, the Belarusian political analyst Vadim treasurers confirms that Lukashenko feels is clearly not in his element:

“Of course, Alexander Lukashenko concerned about this problem, and rightly so. The fact that it is its longstanding policy, in particular geopolitical orientation to Russia brought the case to the fact that in Belarus, after a quarter-century after gaining independence, is still under discussion the question of state independence — is another question. As well as the excessive influence of the Kremlin on the situation in Belarus. However, in the line of Russian occupation Lukashenko, of course, not interested”.

However, the judge is not sure that we are talking about the upcoming occupation.

“For its part Russia, especially in a difficult economic situation, wants to achieve an easing of sanctions. What kind of mitigation would be to say during the occupation of Belarus — that is not the annexation of territory of a neighboring state, and the accession of the state as a whole? No trump will not allow. It is totally scrapping the system of international security. But there is also the economic component, which, apparently, were the main that the Kremlin has abandoned the project “new Russia”. Large subsidized region, in which Russia would have to bear direct responsibility. In Belarus such happiness is also not necessary”, — said the political expert.

Treasurers notes that Lukashenko is satisfied with the Kremlin as an ally.

“As the “last ally” (as often is positioning Belarus “the father”), though sometimes obstinate and headstrong, but still satellites Belarus Russia, I think, quite satisfied. Let’s not forget aggression against Ukraine was due to radical change of its geopolitical orientation. For Belarus this is not the question and the Lukashenka regime is unlikely. For the same RF in the coming years will be relevant to the question as it to remain within the existing boundaries. And not some increment of territories. Therefore, the option of direct brutal military occupation, it seems to me extremely unlikely,” said the treasurers comments for “Apostrophe”.

Ukrainians should not be overestimated

Another political analyst from Belarus Pavlyuk Bykovsky believes that Lukashenko said were addressed more Belarusians:

“The President of Belarus has mentioned the situation with Ukraine in the context of the need to protect Belarus’ sovereignty. I would place the Ukrainians do not overestimate this statement. We are talking about what is happening in Belarus, and not about supporting Ukraine’s struggle for territorial integrity. On the other hand, Lukashenko sensitive to the mood of the population and usually speaks in the same vein as the majority of inhabitants of Belarus. So if the President of Belarus natural sounds that “our brotherly Ukraine is fighting for independence,” is a signal which shows the drift of public opinion from the Russian picture of what is happening in Ukraine, the Belarusian”.

Journalist Severin Kwiatkowski also notes the roll of Belarus from Russia: “the Main focus of our struggle for independence is passing through the economy”. This statement is key in the speech of Alexander Lukashenko. The economy of Belarus is obviously going downhill, but still I would emphasis on the phrase “our struggle for independence.” Independence from whom? From Russia, with which Lukashenko has closely tied Belarus both economically and politically, and militarily. From the Kremlin, the year that insists on the presence in Belarus of Russian military bases. For Lukashenko and the country such a presence would mean the loss of subjectivity. Belarus de facto lose its foreign policy, and domestically, Lukashenka will be under the muzzles of Russian weapons and will be forced to follow instructions from the Kremlin”.

In addition, from the speech Lukashenko, the journalist highlights the words “our struggle”:

“All the previous twenty-two years, Alexander Lukashenko behaved with the citizens of Belarus as the chief with subordinates. Here, in fact, appeal to the team. And asks Lukashenko to the Belarus elite. He’s probably already made the decision that we don’t know. May not be joint exercises. It may be the fundamental cooling of partnership relations with Russia. Probably, Lukashenko knows that the economic situation will worsen this year, and Russia as before will not help in return of its military presence, and Belarus will not go for it. In any case, the recognition that Ukraine is not ATO, and the war for independence, and that the Belarusians are already in their struggle for independence, demonstrates the desire of Lukashenka to leave the orbit of the Kremlin,” — said Kwiatkowski “Apostrophe”.

However, political scientist Sergei Martselev believes that Lukashenka’s words if necessary can be interpreted in a completely different key.

“If you wish, the official Minsk may say that we are talking about the civil war in Ukraine, which is well within the Pro-Kremlin discourse. Arguments about independence, if desired, can be taught as a struggle against dependence on NATO and the West”.

However, the analyst doubts that the Belarusian leadership will do that.

“A prolonged oil dispute with Moscow makes the Belarusian regime to perform contradictory steps. First, Minsk has agreed to give Azerbaijan a Russian citizen, blogger Lapshin. Despite the fact that over the last said the Minister Lavrov. Secondly, according to the Pro-Kremlin Agency “REGNUM” in Minsk was an official delegation of Russian negotiators on gas. The outcome of the negotiations is unknown, but judging by the words of Lukashenka about the “war in the economic sphere” and ambiguous statements about the “war in fraternal Ukraine”, they were not particularly successful. However, stepping on the corns of the Kremlin, the Belarusian regime shows a stick. Head of the presidential administration talks about “brotherly Russia as a major partner,” in a similar vein, expresses the speaker of either house of Parliament. The price of all reverence Lukashenko to Ukraine — contract with Russia on hydrocarbons. Of the Russian Federation, according to leaks, wants to replace the base. But Lukashenka’s regime understands that in this case he is doomed and this is the start of creeping Crimean scenario” — said “Apostrophe” Sergey Martselev.