Staunton, October 28 – In an interview published yesterday, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey said that opening a Russian airbase in his country would “not lower the military-political tensions in the region” and that there were many other issues which should be addressed before such a base could be discussed (kommersant.ru/doc/2841884).
His comments came following a joint meeting of the collegiums of the foreign ministries of Belarus and Russia and they continue Mensk’s hard line against the establishment of such a base as articulated by the Belarusian president and Belarusian defense minister over the last month (belaruspartisan.org/politic/322299/).
The Belarusian opposition is also against the base – they demonstrated against it on October 4 (belaruspartisan.org/politic/319731/) -- and many commentators have suggested that Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he was opposed to the base both to undercut the opposition before the recent presidential elections and to win favor in Europe to which he has been turning.
But the attitudes of Belarusians outside of opposition circles in Mensk may be very different, Andrey Paratnikau, a Belarusian military specialist says; and that could allow Lukashenka to pivot quickly on this issue and still have the support of Belarusians in the regions (youtube.com/watch?v=oBhGGbIfP9s and belaruspartisan.org/politic/322303/).
In a comment on Belsat, Paratnikau says that “the attitudes in the regions” about the possible opening of a Russian base “differ from the opinions of ‘the Facebook part of society.’” That is because instead of considering Belarusian national interests as does the opposition, people in Belarusian regions are narrowly focused on jobs.
Were Russia to open a base, many Belarusians could expect to be hired in support positions and to be paid far more than they are making now, perhaps 60 to 70 percent more. Consequently, those who think they or their family members might get such jobs have a very different view of a Russian base than do those in Mensk.
For them, Paratnikau says, the issue of the base is otherwise a matter of indifference. It isn’t their “fatalism,” he suggests, but rather “their lack of information. They do not understand how this threatens them … [how] a base becomes a target and [how] several hundred rockets could leave the area for several kilometers around a lunar landscape.”
Unfortunately, the military analyst adds, they aren’t talking about this.
This distinction between the capital and other parts of the country is typical of many countries in the region not just Belarus, and it is a factor that needs to be taken into consideration both in analyzing political realities and in crafting how the West might deliver information in the most effective way.