Staunton, September 12 – Despite Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s statements against Russian actions in Ukraine and the support he may be winning in the Belarusian population as a result, Moscow can seize Belarus whenever it wants because the majority of Belarusian siloviki are quite ready to take orders from Moscow, according to Vladimir Borodach.
Borodach, a former Belarusian security service officer himself who now heads the anti-Lukashenka Council for National Rebirth, says that this combination of Lukashenka’s words and the attitudes of the Belarusian officer corps means that Belarus is “defenseless before Russia” (belaruspartisan.org/politic/279761/).
And that situation may help to explain but in no way will change as a result Lukashenka’s recent dismissal of Aleksandr Konovalov as deputy state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council or his firing of Igor Aleseychik as deputy commander of the country’s air and air defense forces.
Lukashenka, like Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, “adopted a firm position on Ukraine” because the two appreciated that “the fate of Belarus and Kazakhstan hangs in the balance and together with it the authority of Lukashenka and Nazarbayev,” Borodach says. Both will benefit if the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict drags on.
“Putin cannot fight on three fronts” at once, he continues. That would raise serious questions about his leadership. Ukraine may prove too great a challenge for him as he is “already losing the initiative and time is working against him.” Consequently he will turn to Belarus and Kazakhstan and seek to form “a castrated union” to restore his image as a strong leader.
Then, Borodach says, Putin would “seek to defend Russian Cossacks in Belarus and Russian Belarusians inKazakhstan in order to convert these stages into federal districts or replace the heads of their governments with more pliant people. To do so would be simpler than in Ukraine” given Lukashenka’s isolation in Europe.
That isolation means that the Belarusian leader has to be concerned about the support he has within his own security services and military. There, the situation from his perspective and from that of the survival of the country is not good. “In many positions in Belarus there are chiefs who fulfill the orders not of Lukashenka but of Putin.”
Lukashenka has little hope of changing that anytime soon, Borodach suggests. The problem is that any moves he makes in this sphere will be viewed not as an effort to defend the country which might generate support but rather as an attempt to defend his own personal power, something that will do little to win him backing from the security services or others.
Up to now, he continues, Lukashenka has sought to rely on what are in effect mercenaries, people whose national self-consciousness as Belarusians is extremely limited but who “have their own Motherland” – Russia -- that he can’t take away from them with the kind of policies and statements he has made.
In short, Lukashenka “has become a hostage of his own hypocritical policy between the oprichniki and the as yet unformed nation on which he wants to base himself in the upcoming conflict.” It simply isn’t possible to shift from one to the other as quickly and easily as the Belarusian leader appears to believe.
What is needed now, Borodach says, “is a complex of extraordinary measures, including surgeons and crisis managers for the salvation of Belarus. That is because the question standing before it is more serious: will we remain in stagnation and isolation together with Russia or be in goodneighborly relations with the civilized world?”
And the Belarusian activist concludes with truly disturbing words: “In fact, what we see now in the Donbas is easy to do in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Latvia as well. Let us hope that made leaders are not eternal and that there will be an international tribunal which will serve as a restraining factor.”