Failure in the current model of relations between Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, the threat organized by the Kremlin coup in Belarus and why in Minsk changed the rhetoric, including in respect of Ukraine, in an interview ONLINE.UA said Belarusian political analyst Ales Lahvinets.
ONLINE.UA How to explain the crisis around the supply of oil, other Russian actions against Belarus and, of course, the emotional tone of the last speech of Alexander Lukashenko (in which he sharply criticized the Russia — approx. ed.)?
Ales Lahvinets: We are witnessing a crisis of the model of relations that Lukashenko has built with Moscow. This crisis had to happen. This model of relations was beneficial personally Lukashenko and very tightly tied Belarus to the Russian Federation. The head of Belarus was hoping to receive cheap Russian oil and gas. However, the Russian Federation, starting with the first gas war in 2006, refuses just to pay for the support of the Lukashenko regime. For example, last year, there was the issue of deploying a Russian aviation base in Belarus. Lukashenko is afraid of the increasing presence of Russia in Belarus, because then the Kremlin will have more opportunities to deliver an even more loyal customer in Minsk. Lukashenka’s statement that Belarus will submit to the court in connection with the issue of short supply of oil, and the threat about the criminal case against the head of the Rosselkhoznadzor Sergey Dankvert is very symptomatic. Lukashenko is trying to contact some legal mechanisms, when the agreement between him and Putin political: give give! We expect that the price offered by Lukashenko, while that is unacceptable for the Kremlin. The same conditions posed by Russia is unacceptable to Lukashenka.
— How long can it last?
— A difficult question. We know about the military exercises “Zapad—2017” (which will be held this year in Belarus and Russia — approx. ed.). There is an explanation of the defense Ministry, which said it was preparing 4 thousands, 2 thousands of one-way and 2 thousand cars in the other direction, which will transport Russian troops and weapons. There is a danger that these forces will remain in Belarus. The situation is very ambiguous. On the other hand, Belarus has long had to build relations with Russia based on market principles and to reduce energy dependence because oil and gas have become the weapon of the Kremlin to gain political dividends. Lukashenka’s statements is, to a certain extent, something new. The man who in 1994 said he was on his knees ready to go to Russia in 2017 and says that the freedom and sovereignty is more valuable than oil and gas. It’s very interesting. This is contrary to the opinion of his nuclear electorate, but we have a new situation.
— How might this affect the political situation?
The regime still represses the opposition and civil society. The regime continues to crush the private sector economy. Although — for political game with the West — can do the regular cosmetic changes in the electoral legislation. Do half step forward and then two backward or to the side. The situation radically will not change, but it will serve as the forward movement. The regime has been sending signals that the local elections next year he may allow a certain number of opposition members to become members. This is a tactic of manipulative authoritarianism, which were used by Slobodan Milosevic. For Lukashenko this is something new, let’s see how long he will be able to play it. Regarding the conflict with Russia, then, in my opinion, Putin and Lukashenko is now forced to negotiate. I don’t think the situation has come to open conflict. So far, all on the level of verbal jabs.
— For example?
— Immediately after the statement about the criminal case against a Russian official, Russia has banned the import of beef from Minsk region, accusing the Belarusian side in the re-export of Ukrainian meat. This mutual blows. The escalation in the Donbas, but Moscow could not lay his hands on, leaving Lukashenko’s room for manoeuvre. He is afraid of Russia, but the Kremlin will find it difficult to simultaneously conduct war against Ukraine and against Belarus.
— Is there any point for the Belarusian opposition, when it can use new taxes such as a tax on the collection of berries and mushrooms, the tax “parasites” to improve their position?
— Tensions and discontent in society is. Economic stress acute. The problem is that no one can see out of the crisis. The only thing that could improve the situation on a certain moment, another large loan. But this is only to keep the situation. Tax on “social parasites”, in other words — “parasites” (non-working citizens — approx. ed), you have to pay before February 20. Lukashenko said that while cancel will not. This is the item which excites a society, but segmentsize it at the same time. I don’t think such a tax will mobilize the majority. The protest is a minority that will not get mass support. Although, of course, the decision unconstitutional. The economic situation is deteriorating. We have been away for two years of economic growth. Even in Ukraine there was growth.
And a half percent, but that after the fall in 2014 and 2015.
— Remember, we are not waging a war, between the EU and Russia. It shows that Lukashenko’s economic model is not working. Large enterprises require investment, much of it contains only to work in people. Lukashenko has built a system where profitable enterprises keep afloat loss-making enterprises. Lukashenko cannot politically agree to the restructuring and privatisation, therefore required dismissal. At the same time, this means that no investment will be. Anyway, people are fired or transferred to part-time. We can say that the society has frozen, it is not certain in the forces, excluded from the decision-making process. But the situation is very unpredictable.
— What is the attitude of Belarusian society to increase the military presence of Russia in Belarus?
Belarusian society is divided. On the one hand, there is a serious impact of the Russian media, quite a significant part of Belarusians perceive themselves as part of the “Russian world” may not be complete, but they look at the independence of Belarus through the eyes of Russia. On the other hand, even in the regime of so-called “statists” who speak about the importance of independence. Lukashenko said recently that “brotherly Ukraine is fighting for their independence” — it shows his state of thinking. Everyone understands against whom Ukraine is fighting for independence. Here Lukashenko faithful to his double game: he and Moscow says: I’m yours, and there is complimentary on Ukraine and its independence. This is a new situation. Previously, he could not afford such statements against the Russian Federation. It is clear that Lukashenko is not ready to withdraw from the Eurasian Union and go to the format of a free economic zone with Russia, to build civil society and to reform the state. Russia will try to influence Belarus through the creation of a larger number of clients, to create an alternative to Lukashenko. I think Russia has a great influence on the power structures of Belarus. Russia has the option of appearing conditional Sidorsky (Sergei Sidorsky, the former Prime Minister of Belarus in 2003-2010, approx. ed.), the former Prime Minister, who says: behold, I have agreed with Russia on the price of oil and gas, so support me, because the current leader is no longer able! I think that this scare Lukashenko. To the end hard to understand the actions of the Russians.
But the Kremlin could organize a coup?
Yes. It is in their power to make the revolution. Whether it is now? The issue is complex. In society there are tensions, and some people believe that Putin is a better option than Lukashenko. There is a part that believes that the independence, or otherwise, we have to stand up and walk in the path of civilized countries, because Russia is not interested in reform, modernization of Belarus. Unreformed Belarus is tied to the Russian market and energy resources. Access to the Russian market and energy resources is the leverage that the Kremlin is constantly trying to get from Minsk political concessions. Ultimately, concessions lead to loss of sovereignty. No wonder Zhirinovsky said, and he says that it is not always convenient to speak to Putin and the Ministers that if you want gas and oil prices on domestic prices, then connect the six regions of the Russian Federation, i.e. the Russian Empire.
— Alexander Lukashenko is often in opposition to the situation in Ukraine and Belarus as antiprimer and example. How stable will the new regime in Belarus, if you remove Lukashenka?
— I think that economically Belarus will be difficult to survive. Politically it would be a challenge, because the political system is built exclusively for Lukashenko and around it. Russia will try to impose their model: oligarchization sectors of the economy, and this is a big dependence on the Kremlin will become better propaganda, which will affect people. It is clear that the Kremlin failed to modernize and to ensure that the authorities in Russia and Belarus was more open and humane to its citizens. Lukashenka is holding back the income gap. Without it, this one will not hold. Although, we have now problems in education and health. Therefore, economically and politically Russian control over Belarus does not solve the problem in the medium term. See also: Zhirinovsky figured out what to do with Belarus: network excited In the short term, it is possible to keep the situation, throw in Belarus 5-7 billion dollars, but it will be like another injection of the narcotic dependent person. It will not lead to recovery. Belarus needs economic reform, a national consensus on political rules and civilized discussion about the future of the country. Of course, on the basis of the inviolability of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belarus.