Staunton, December 18 – In the past, Moscow has provided significant aid to Minsk in advance of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s re-election campaigns, allowing him to boost salaries and public spending and thus win support from the population. But this year, when Moscow wants something from him, it isn’t providing such assistance, Rygor Astepenya says.
The head of the Minsk Center for New Ideas says that the Russian side’s failure to provide such assistance is one of the major reasons why, all the talk about “deeper integration” between Russia and Belarus has not led to progress (thinktanks.by/publication/2019/12/19/rygor-astapenya-god-pokazal-chto-minsk-sovsem-ne-hochet-bolshogo-sblizheniya-s-rossiey.html).
In fact, the Belarusian analyst continues, research he and his colleagues have conducted shows, that “nothing is happening” to resolve the fundamental issues and that all announced progress toward integration has been just that, talk. Moscow isn’t helping Lukashenka and so Lukashenka isn’t prepared to help Moscow get what it wants.
Instead of helping Lukashenka, Astepenya says, Russia seems committed to adding to his difficulties because now any problems the Belarusian leader faces work to Moscow’s benefit in it opinion. At the same time, however, the analyst expresses doubt that the Kremlin was behind the Deutsche Welle film about the murder of Belarusian politicians in the 1990s.
Had that film appeared just before some Western leader was scheduled to visit Minsk, the situation would be different; but its timing, the Belarusian analyst says, casts doubt that Moscow had a hand in it.
But Astepenya’s words suggest that Moscow has decided to shift from carrots to sticks in dealing with Lukashenka, something that may prove counterproductive, particularly if the sticks it uses suggest to the Belarusian leader that he cannot count on Moscow to keep any promises it may be making about his own future.
As a result, Lukashenka may simply dig it, seeking allies abroad and even at home; and plans for a new union state are likely to be effectively put on hold for some time to come.