Staunton, September 16 – The leaks about the state of talks between Moscow and Minsk on the integration of the two state which appeared in Kommersant (kommersant.ru/doc/4094365), Yezhednevny zhurnal commentator Aleksandr Ryklin says, are “more important than their content” (ej.ru/?a=note&id=34190).
They are intended to send a message to the West that Vladimir Putin is not “a lame duck” but will be in office long after 2024 including possibly as head of a restored empire and another message to the Russian force structures, on which he has to rely to defend against rising popular anger at home, that no agreement he makes with Belarus will harm them, Ryklin says.
Putin’s need to extend his status in the Kremlin after 2024 and his obvious desire to build “’a new Russian empire’” are clearly behind the talks and the leaks because any such accord with Belarus will “immediately kill two birds with one stone.” But in pursuing any such agreement, Putin faces two problems.
On the one hand, Alyaksandr Lukashenka is perhaps the most unreliable partner imaginable, fully capable of appearing to agree to something only to reject it later. Leaks are obviously a way of trying to lock his position in place. And on the other, Putin can’t now afford to alienate the security services on which he relies.
Consequently, the leaks are all about economic issues and none about security ones, something that Russian force structures can be counted on to read as an indication that they aren’t the subject of the talks but will retain their current positions in a Russian state headed by Putin well into the future.
As Ryklin puts it, “the Kremlin doesn’t want too introduce unnecessary nervousness in the activity of structures, the significant of which given the growing strength of the protest wave has significantly grown.” Putin wants them to focus on “how to defend the powers that be from the anger of the people” rather than on Belarus.
Leaks like those in Kommersant are just the way to arrange that.