Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Sochi Marks Real Beginning of Putin’s ‘Eating’ of Belarus by Mafia Methods, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 14 – Since the Union state was declared by Moscow and Minsk almost 25 years ago, it has gone through an evolutionary process. What began as a move to unify the two countries, then became a plan for Russia to “swallow” Belarus, and now is a different one in which Russia seek to take what it wants via mafia methods, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            With the Sochi meeting, the final stage in the evolution of the Union state between the two is beginning, the London-based Russian analyst says. “Unification is buried, and no one needs formal incorporation.” Instead, the Kremlin wants only to get as much as it can at the lowest possible price (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/evolyuciya-idei-soyuznogo-gosudarstva/).

            Thus, what is in prospect now, Pastukhov argues, is “not an Anschluss, but the transformation [of Belarus] by mafia methods. That is, the selective swallowing [by Moscow] of everything Lukashenka until now had managed to retain.” Faced with a revolution at home, Lukashenka has little left with which to bargain  against that outcome.

            This is only the latest stage in the evolution of the original idea of the Union state. When it was announced, Lukashenka thought he had a very good chance to head the combination of the two countries. Many in Russia backed what he was doing, and Yeltsin was clearly in a much weaker position. But Yeltsin chose Putin not Lukashenka and the unification was put on hold.

            After 2000, neither Putin nor Lukashenka had any particular need for unification. Putin not at all, and Lukashenka only as a prospect that could help him extract money and support from the Kremlin.  The idea of the union state became like a bottle that had once contained expensive wine and might again but was now empty.

            A decade later, Putin changed his approach, first because he thought that the creation of a deeper union state might solve his problem of eliminating restrictions on the number of terms he could serve. And Lukashenka exploited that idea to extract even more money and support from Moscow.

            But more recently things have changed again. On the one hand, Putin found another way out of his constitutional limitations. And on the other, Lukashenka who had seemed so successful earlier began to fail significantly. As Pastukhov notes, Lukashenka and Putin are often compared because neither is particularly attached to democracy.

            There is now, however, a major difference.  Putin by fair means and foul has always been able to win elections. Indeed, he would likely be able to do so even without falsification, albeit with far smaller majorities than he and his team consider necessary to justify his position in the Putinist state.

            Lukashenka in contrast has done so poorly at home that his massive falsification efforts could not hide from his own people the fact that he lost the last election. That leaves him in a much-weakened position, one in which the Kremlin will take whatever it wants away from Minsk even if Belarus remains nominally an independent country.

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