First Ukraine, then Belarus. What is the Kremlin’s plan
The Kremlin needs Lukashenko so that the independence of Belarus never becomes real, so that it is the “semi-independence” of the satellite
On the eve of the presidential election in the Republic of Belarus, the head of this country Alexander Lukashenko had a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Of course, they talked first of all about the Wagner private military campaign fighters detained in Belarus, who are suspected, in particular, of involvement in hostilities in the occupied part of Donbass. The Kremlin’s press service stressed that the fate of the detainees would be decided “in the spirit of mutual understanding, which is characteristic of cooperation between the two countries,” Vitaliy Portnikov wrote for Radio Svoboda.
Putin has expressed to Lukashenko his interest in maintaining stability in his country during the presidential election. Translated from Putin’s language, he promised not to destabilize the situation and to turn a blind eye to Lukashenko’s “stabilization” actions if the need arises. After all, we know what stability is like Putin. This is when people agree with the government that this government should not do. And this understanding of Lukashenko’s stability is quite satisfactory.
The conversation of the presidents reminded again: the Belarusian ruler can promise Kyiv anything, up to the extradition of “Wagnerians” who could fight in Donbass. But all these promises, I am convinced, are just an element of his game with the Kremlin. Lukashenko needs the Kremlin because it is the main donor to his regime, allowing Belarus not to reform for decades and leaving the country in a deplorable state of Soviet reserve.
And the Kremlin needs Lukashenko himself so that the independence of Belarus never becomes a real and inevitable independence of a sovereign state. That it was “semi-independence” of the satellite, which has to reckon with the “real state” in determining the fundamental points of its foreign policy. Russia will do everything possible to ensure that Belarus is never led by a person who is able to protect the national interests of the Belarusian people, rather than their own interests and the whims of the Kremlin.
This concept of limited sovereignty is the essence of Moscow’s approaches to neighboring countries. And its initiator is not Vladimir Putin at all. Its initiator was Boris Yeltsin, when 25 years ago he began a policy of “high-speed integration” of the former Soviet republics with Russia. He started with Lukashenko’s Belarus.
And what is multi-speed integration? This is when the former Soviet republics are moving towards Moscow – but at different speeds. However, sooner or later everyone must return. Belarus should be the first, but…
But the Kremlin would be the first to see another former Soviet republic, Ukraine. That is why they are in no hurry with Belarus. That is why the task of Lukashenko – or not Lukashenko, but his successor – is to preserve the “semi-independence” of Belarus until Ukraine becomes “semi-independent”.
And even then it will be possible to resolve the issue of absorption – oh, sorry, about the “integration” – of the two “fraternal republics”.
Published with permission from Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe, 2101 Connecticut Avenue, Washington 20 036, USA
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