Staunton, January 23 – There are many ironies in the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka but perhaps the greatest is this: By his attacks on Belarus, the Russian leader has given the Belarusian one the chance to reclaim the independence them from the opposition and present himself as the only guarantee of that country’s survival.
“The authorities are seeking to unite the population around the idea that President A. Lukashenka is the only guarantor of Belarusian independence,” the Belarus in Focus review says, thus using Russian demands for greater unity between the two countries as a means to keep himself in power (belarusinfocus.info/by/kiruyuchy-klas/glava-gosudarstva-perehvatyvaet-temu-nezavisimosti-u-oppozicii-ukreplyaet-mestnuyu).
“The growth in tensions with the Kremlin are allowing the head of state partially to soften the criticism and activity of the opposition, especially the national democrats,” according to the experts Belarus in Focus surveyed. “This is already having a response among parties,” forcing them to unintentionally support Lukashenka’s position.
That in turn can “help the Belarusian leadership assume the dominant positions on the issue of independence in social networks where opposition figures had begun to occupy leading positions with their social-economic themes. It will thus be easier for the powers to justify tougher action against the opposition and independent media in the pre-election period.”
In brief, Putin’s campaign against Lukashenka will not only help Lukashenka retain power but make his regime even more authoritarian than it was before, something that will limit Lukashenka’s ability to appeal to the West and thus in another irony make him more dependent on Russia than he was before.
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