Staunton, October 9 – Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s turn to the West, reflected by his expressed refusal to accept a Russian airbase on his territory and reports that the EU will be lifting some sanctions against him, has infuriated Moscow and prompted the Russian authorities to make plans to overthrow him, according to Yury Tsarik.
Tsarik, a Belarusian analyst at the Mensk Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research, tells NR2 journalist Kseniya Kirillova that Lukashenka’s shift is strategic rather than tactical and that Moscow understands it as such.
Lukashenka is convinced, the analyst continues, that allowing a Russian base on the territory of Belarus would undercut “all the achievements of Belarusian foreign policy over at least the last two years,” including its role in the Minsk Process, the normalization of ties with the West, and “of course, a strategic partnership with China.”
“All three of these directions are currently developing in dynamic fashion,” Tsarik says, “along with the preservation of allied relations with Russia from the basis of Belarusian foreign policy.”
The analyst adds that one of the most important parts of Lukashenka’s October 6 declaration about his opposition to a Russian base was his warning to Belarusians that there may be “various kinds of provocations from any side.” What this means, Tsarik says, “is that Mensk expects and is preparing for harsh actions above all from Russia.”
Had Lukashenka agreed to the base, the Belarusian opposition would have taken to the streets. “In part,” these would reflect real feelings; “in part,” they would be “controlled by Russia under the cover of which would act professional provocateurs and militants.”
But now that the Belarusian president has rejected Moscow’s demand, “the threat [of violent protests] has not passed,” Tsarik says. Instead, they may have intensified because “all of Russia’s actions will one way or another be directed at the overthrow of the current [Belarusian] president.”
Moscow will make use of elements within the Belarusian government itself, he continues. But Tsarik argues that “the Belarusian leadership is not so defenseless and uninformed as many in Moscow and even in Mensk would like to think.”