Staunton, October 5 – The United States is seeking to deal with Alyaksandr Lukashenka in much the same way it dealt with Mikhail Gorbachev, but this approach will fail, Aleksandr Nosovich says, because the Belarusian leader isn’t like the Soviet one and won’t make “’concession after concession’ in exchange for beautiful promises alone.”
In a commentary for the RuBaltic portal today, Nosovich argues that in the wake of the Belarusian parliamentary elections, Washington has intensified its political pressure on Minsk even as it “at the same time leaves the Belarusian leadership with space for political maneuver” (rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/051016-ssha-lukashenko/).
“On the one hand,” he says, “the US does not intend to eliminate sanctions against Belarus and send the American ambassador back to Minsk.” But “on the other, the State Department noted positive steps in the political system of Belarus,” US experts talked about the need for Belarus to remain neutral, and the IMF offered new credits.
In short, Nosovich concludes, “the Americans are working with Aleksandr Lukashenka exactly as they worked with Mikhail Gorbachev 30 years ago, even though Lukashenka is not Gorbachev” and will not fall into step in the ways that Washington seems to believe he eventually will.
Lukashenka not only can look back to the ways in which the West did not live up to its promises to Gorbachev, but “in a well-known sense,” Lukashenka is “not Gorbachev.” In fact, he is “the anti-Gorbachev,” something some in the West do not understand, Nosovich says, and thus are pursuing an impossible dream.
“Gorbachev destroyed Soviet civilization. Lukashenka restored it on the territory of the Belarusian SSR. Gorbachev divided up the Soviet Union. Lukashenka from the moment of his coming to the position of president of the Republic of Belarus has begun work on the restoration of lost integration connections among the former Soviet republics,” the RuBaltic writer says.
Nosovich continues: Lukashenka isn’t attracted to suggestions that he can be part of the Western club. He has always reacted in a calm way to sanctions against his person. Consequently, he won’t change sides just by being offered the chance to travel and join the closed elite of the West.
If the West wants to attract Lukashenka to its side, it will have to offer more than it has so far, he implies. Indeed, it will have to reverse course on such issues as beefing up NATO’s presence near Belarusian borders. That doesn’t seem likely, and so the notion that Lukashenka is about to change sides is unconvincing.
Three things make this commentary intriguing: first, it is a rare Russian defense of Lukashenka and suggests that at least some in Moscow very much want to curry favor with him rather than criticize the Minsk leader’s actions as has been the norm over the last several years.
Second, Nosovich’s words suggest that Moscow views Belarus as a card it can play to try to get the West to do what it wants rather than as a problem it has to address by various means up to and including military intervention or hybrid war.
And third, this article also unintentionally underscores what many in the Belarusian opposition have said for years: If the West wants Belarus to change sides, it will have to wait until Lukashenka exits the scene. Otherwise, there aren’t going to be the changes in Minsk’s domestic or foreign policy the West says it wants.
Поэтому технология, сработавшая четверть века назад с Советским Союзом, при попытке вновь применить её на оставшемся от советской цивилизации белорусском осколке может дать сбой.