Two things pop out at me as an experienced Russia watcher after reading this fine article by Paul Goble.
First, I’m sure the anti-Lukashenka protests in Belarus are not spontaneous. Most likely there is very little real dissatisfaction with President Lukashenko (emphasize the word real). Most certainly Russia is fomenting dissent.
A picture of a witch’s cauldron comes to mind, with Russia stirring the pot.
Second, Moscow may feel compelled to reassert peace and stability by inserting troops, tanks, and so on. Okay, that is probably their plan. A preemptive Belarus takeover to restore ‘peace and stability’.
Bullcrap. Russia wants to reabsorb their former republics, it’s a land grab. Belarus has allowed Russia certain unique rights, but Russia is pressing for more. President Lukashenko knows that Putin wants Belarus, who has the weakest military and economic position of any nation bordering Russia in the region.
Expect more protests, incidents, and lots more ‘news reports’ of unrest, instability, and cries for Russian assistance. Fake, of course, typical of most Russian excuses for taking over other countries. This may be the first time in recent history that Russia attempts to take over a whole country instead of just Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, or Donbass.
The information war against Belarus has already begun, the conditions are being set by Russia.
History? This has been done before – by Russia/USSR. Afghanistan 1979–1989, Czechoslovakia (1944, 1968–1989), Hungary in 1944 and 1956, Kuril Islands 1945, Korea 1945–1948, Manchuria 1945–1946, Austria 1945–1955, East Germany (1945), Northern Norway 1944–1946 / Bornholm 1945–1946, Bulgaria (1944), Romania (1944), Northern Iran 1941–1946.
This is a tradition that Russians grow up living, breathing, knowing, and learning. If Russia wants it, Russia takes it. The petulant child may be out of control and nobody is standing up to what is now a playground bully. This is all Russia seems to know, childish, brutish behavior. If an adult speaks harshly to Sergey Lavrov, he reminds us “we have nukes”, like a child-bully says “I’ll tell my father or my brother”.
The world needs an adult, or perhaps a group of adults, to stand up to Russia and say, with real meaning and absolute conviction – “this stops now”.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Staunton, February 19 – One of the most curious characteristics of revolutions is that they often begin when something happens that ordinarily would be quickly dealt with and contained but then capture the mood of the population of the moment and quickly grow into a fundamental challenge to the existing system.
That happened in Petrograd in February 1917 and in Kyiv in 2013, among others, and it now appears to be happening in Belarus where anger about a foolish effort by Minsk to tax those without jobs has prompted not just the largest protest in Minsk since 2010 but also demonstrations in other cities of that country over the last 24 hours.
It is, of course, possible that the Lukashenka regime will manage to suppress this popular rising or that Vladimir Putin will exploit it to achieve regime change or even annexation there, but it is absolutely clear that the Belarusian people have had enough of their incumbent dictator and are prepared to go farther and faster than even opposition figures had thought possible.
The demonstrations in the Belarusian capital on Friday were the largest and the most vocally anti-Lukashenka of any there since at least 2010 (belaruspartisan.org/politic/371381/ and naviny.by/article/20170217/1487356921-marsh-vozmushchennyh-belorusov-v-strane-ozhivaet-politicheskiy-protest).
But what is perhaps even more important is that similar protests are taking place in the Belarusian cities of Mohylev, Homel, and Hrodno as well, attracting far more people than even their organizers expected and with participants expressing far more radical and anti-regime views than many had ever done before (belaruspartisan.org/politic/371452/).
The reason this spread of protest activity is so important is that Lukashenka, like his fellow dictator Vladimir Putin, has always relied on the support of people outside the often restive capitals. If the Minsk leader has now lost that – and the protests outside of Minsk suggest that he has – then he is in a far weaker position than many have assumed.
What happens next will depend not only on how Lukashenka responds but also and perhaps even more importantly on how Moscow decides to react. In today’sKomsomolskaya Pravda, commentator Aleksandr Grishin provides some clues as to how Russian officials now view what is happening in Belarus (kp.ru/daily/26645.7/3664336/).
In a lengthy article, Grishin argues that the situation in Belarus now is proceeding in exactly the same way it did in Ukraine in the lead up to the Maidan; and he places the blame on Moscow’s favorite usual subjects: the West for stirring the pot, the intelligentsia for politicizing that which shouldn’t be politicized, and Lukashenka himself for his “playing” with the West.
In short, the Moscow commentator says, Russia and the world are seeing in Belarus what they have seen so many times before, “in Yugoslavia, Serbia, Georgia, Armenia, Georgia [again], Ukraine and in Egypt,” Western efforts to promote a color revolution and the need for healthy forces to do something about that.
Moreover, and this may be especially indicative of how Moscow is evaluating the events of the last 48 hours, Grishin says that after trying to work with Lukashenka, Western governments and NGOs in recent weeks have been urging their Belarusian counterparts in Minsk to expand their contacts with people in other cities and regions of that country.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda commentator writes: “It was even said at one time that those NGOs who shift from work with the capital intelligentsia to efforts at influencing the young in the Belarusian provinces will have the best chances to receive Western grants.”
And Grishin continues by observing that “the fruits of such work already are in evidence. On social networks, ever more young people from Belarus” are becoming anti-Russian, pro-Kyiv and pro-European,” a trend that those behind all these demonstrations in Belarus are planning to extend with more marches in the future.
The message from Moscow would seem to be clear because it is the same one Vladimir Putin delivered to Kyiv three years ago: Lukashenka must restore order quickly before the situation truly gets out of hand or Moscow one way or another with him or without him will take steps to do so.