Staunton, October 2 – Many things taking place in Belarus make perfect sense, opposition politician Olga Karach says, if one remembers that Alyaksandr Lukashenka has always been far more concerned about the pro-Russian opposition which doesn’t care about Belarusian sovereignty than about the pro-Western one which does.
She adds that “this is connected with the fact that Lukashenka always fears precisely a pro-Russian competitor and consequently any opposition on this flank besides that of complete clowns and marginal figures, he directs in an immediate sense ‘fire and sword’” (rosbalt.ru/world/2019/10/02/1805698.html).
The Belarusian leader clearly believes that as long as Belarus is a sovereign country, he will be its ruler. Such sovereignty isn’t going to be undercut by what the pro-Western opposition does, but it could be by the pro-Russian one if that were to grow. And this is one of the reasons for his behavior and that of others on his team in recent weeks.
The most striking of these developments, she tells Rosbalt’s Aleksandr Zhelyenin, has been Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey’s tough remarks about Russian pressure on Belarus. Those reflect concerns about what Moscow wants with regard to deeper integration, but they also represent Makey’s positioning himself as a center of power alternative to Lukahenka.
Karach points out that an even more important development has been the fact that Lukashenka himself “ever less often makes comments on global issues of foreign policy and ever more focuses on certain petty issues, the kind dealt with by the third secretary of the deputy chairman of a rural soviet” while occasionally making grandiose and even absurd remarks.
This combination, she continues, has given rise to the sense that “in Belarus the transit of power is approaching and as a result, various interest groups are beginning to become more active and take action under the covers. Earlier Belarusian power was monolithic; there was a single center of power.” But now there are others, Makey being one.
According to Karach, Lukashenka is “beginning to lose his role as ‘the guarantor’ of ‘the stability’ of Belarus and is ever more occupied with gathering apples and other agricultural products.” Other players are responding and that is accelerating this process now that parliamentary elections are approaching.
Those who have tried to become alternative centers of power have typically failed, she acknowledges; but Makey is more careful – and his recent remarks reflect three judgments: the West will like what he has to say; Lukashenka won’t object because he doesn’t want any real union with Russia – he and Makey both view Moscow only as “a cash cow,’” and most people will ignore him anyway.