Author: Emanuel Pietrobon – 13/07/2020
No one believed President Aleksandr Lukashenko when he claimed that foreign agents were behind riots in Minsk erupted soon after the release of the electoral results, but now the time has come to read again the events of Belarus for what they truly are: a mass protest that the West infiltrated in expectation of turning it into a color revolution.
The government is about to provide information of the alleged role which is being played by the Great Britain, Poland and Czech Republic, it is confirmed that dozens of foreign people were stopped from entering Belarus illegally to take part in the riots and others got to enter. Then, there are countries which entered the game and they are not even hiding their face with a mask: Lithuania and Ukraine. The former is the country where Lukashenko’s main opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, found a safe haven; the latter is the country to which belong some people arrested during the riots – and even the Azov Battalion confirmed its presence in Minsk on its Telegram channels.
It’s true that the relationship between Lukashenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin wasn’t very idyllic in the last year but the truth is that it never was. Lukashenko has always liked to play games with its powerful ally by taking advantage of the Kremlin’s fear of Belarus turning European in order to get some concessions and extra-credits, but it is questionable if Lukashenko is really interested in breaking apart a centuries-old symbiosis in favor of the West – something that would mean democratisation and stop to any plans to make his son inherit the leadership.
There is no doubt that a large part of the society wants a deep change and the discontent towards Lukashenko is pretty visible since his early days and although it is true that foreign agents are actively involved in the protests this fact doesn’t cancel the truth: what is going on in Belarus is a mass protest, and the West is skillfully exploiting it with the goal of resizing further Russia’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.
Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard is still underway and the West is close to the checkmate. The loss of Ukraine in 2014 set the foundations for Russia’s actual expulsion from Europe and for the loss of its European dimension, the next steps are Serbia, Moldova and Belarus. Whereas Serbia’s position in the Russian orbit seems immovable for now, Moldova is growingly exposed to the influence played by Romania – and to its evergreen dream of unification, by Ukraine, by Turkey – which is weaponising Gagauzia – and by the European Union and the United States.
But there is a reason why Belarus matters most than Serbia and Moldova put together.
In the aftermath of Euromaidan, Minsk turned into the last obstacle to the EU–NATO encirclement of Russia from the European side, and it is in this context that has to be read the White House’s strategic reorientation from Ukraine (whose protectorate has been given to two loyal allies, namely Poland and Turkey) to Belarus.
If the post-electoral insurrection should ever become a Euromaidan-styled color revolution, leading to the actual fall down of Lukashenko, we would witness to the rise of a new political leadership, as liberal as pro-Western, that has made no secret of its goals: rapprochement to the EU, de-russification, definitive stop to the plans of merger with Russia. The ultimate and natural consequence of would be Belarus’ entry into the Western sphere of influence.
The relationship between Lukashenko and Putin has never been idyllic and the arm wrestling of the last is the best evidence of this, but the alternative to the so-called last dictator of Europe is a Ukraine scenario. Indeed, the new political leadership represented by Tikhanovaskaya aims at replacing completely the old political class and at a diplomatic break with the past (that is with Russia); that’s why a try to infiltrate the transition process might reveal as hard as counterproductive, since the chances of positive outcome are largely inferior to the perspectives of failure.
And also, even assuming that the ongoing crisis can produce the unexpected effect to bring Lukashenko back to Moscow, at this point there is another factor to be considered: the riots are showing how much unpopular Lukashenko is – the foreign agents represent a tiny minority – and that the society wants a change; by backing Lukashenko the Kremlin would link its image to a regime which is seen with growing aversion by the new generation, that is by those who are going to take the country’s lead in the next future.
Emanuel Pietrobon, University of Turin (Italy) – Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg (Russia)