Belarus · Information Warfare · Russia

Andrei Illarionov: Belarus is the №1 candidate for a Russian invasion

Andrei Illarionov Photo: ALDE Communication / Flickr

(Translated from Ukrainian by my Chrome browser)

If Alexander Lukashenko will go to the woods for mushrooms and interrupted communication with him for 24 hours, there is a serious risk for the sovereignty of Belarus, Andrei Illarionov said. In an interview with “apostrophe” Russian economist, adviser to Putin in 2000-2005 described the image of Putin Trump, the return of major league players and explained, the Russian military presence in Syria is fundamentally different from Afghanistan.

– What do you expect of relations between Russia and the United States Trump?

– The current US administration has recently begun its work, and the necessary information about the principles of its action was not enough. However, accumulated enough facts that allow a high degree of confidence to assert that hope Kremlin’s delicate cooperation between Trump and Putin will not be realized.

During the election campaign there was a regular “exchange of courtesies” between Trump and Putin. This practice public confessions suddenly cut short on January 17 this year, when Putin rather casually commented tracking the Russian special services, the availability dossier Trump, his relations with women. Unlike previous cases, Trump did not respond to Putin’s speech or three hours or a day or three. And it is this lack of response was quite revealing.

Then came the epic Putin Trump phone call with congratulations on his inauguration. Judging from what we saw in the public sphere, Dmitry Peskov, had to regularly remind the public of the White House desire Putin’s talk with Trump on the phone. Finally, this conversation took place on 28 January. Commentary which appeared at the White House on this conversation, particularly encouraging not name.

Despite the fact that in previous months, many Russian media said that Putin will meet with Trump almost immediately after entering office, it did not happen. In Washington, they say, if the meeting is possible within six months. This is a clear sign that Trump is in no hurry to meet with Putin. Compounding fact public humiliation of Putin’s press release of the White House, which has promised a meeting with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko “soon.”

The cascade of events that took place in the last three days, marks the full-scale diplomatic disaster for the hopes of the Russian regime. Monday was forced to retire most Kremlin-employee trampovskoyi Administration Assistant for National Security Gen. Michael Flynn. On Tuesday, spokesman Sean Spicer US president said Trump on behalf of the requirement to return the Crimea to Ukraine. On Wednesday, the mere Trump wrote on Twitter: “Crimea was captured by Russia during the Obama administration. Obama was too soft towards Russia? “In this situation, Putin remains no other options but to restore a confrontation with the US.

To this I would add another important event that took place in late January. As if by chance a Chinese social networks have photos of modern Chinese Dongfeng-41 missiles located in the northeast of the country where these missiles can easily reach Washington. The gesture from China – it is clear that a response to anti-Chinese plans for the new American administration. This marks an important exchange between the two main superpowers intervened third party – Russia – Comment of the Press Secretary Peskov that placing missiles in Heilongjiang China poses no threat to Russia, and that Russia and China – allies.
However, as we know, relations between Russia and China is not allied. In Washington, the words Peskov could not understand otherwise than as a statement that in case of confrontation between the US and China, Russia will be not on the US side and on the side of China. Peskov statement is contrary to the vision of the role of Trump, which he regarded as an important potential ally in its Chinese strategy.

So instead of a honeymoon in bilateral relations, the so expected in the Kremlin, there was a real diplomatic disaster. The unprecedented special operation to assist the election Trump, which Moscow regarded as an unprecedented victory, leads a grand failure. Instead of “reset” and the coveted “Yalta-2” is planned a new round of confrontation.

– And in the Kremlin understands how you feel?

– Of course. I recall an interview with Trump, conducted by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. It last napivstverdzhuyuchy, napivpytayuchy twice said: “But Putin – murderer”. What Trump did not deny, indeed, agreeing nodded his head. And then repeated several times: “there are many killers around.” Although he then spoke of the US as a country that “kills too many who” in his first instinctive reaction “a lot of killers” Trump chose the most unpleasant for Moscow significance of the word, the term “ordinary murderer.” These stylistic features were not hidden from the Kremlin, because almost immediately the same Peskov demanded an apology from O’Reilly.

This was the first time. Putin has repeatedly called killer – with bombing Chechen towns and villages, the invasion of Georgia, the Donbass destroyed by bombed Aleppo. Media around the world regularly call him a killer – at least in the sense of the head of state, giving appropriate orders to its troops and security services. At the same interpretation Trump repeatedly appeared another meaning of the word – “ordinary murderers.” Not surprisingly, Trump exhibited personal attitude to Putin caused such painful reaction that led to the initiative Vyacheslav Volodin on the preparation of a special law “on protection of honor and dignity of the president.” Never before nor Peskov, nor anyone else from the Kremlin demanded an apology from Arabic, Ukrainian, Georgian, Chechen, European, American, any other media for what they called Putin a murderer. In July 2014, after the terrorist attack that destroyed the Malaysian airliner MN-17 in Snow, European newspapers came out with huge headlines on the front pages of “Putin – murderer”. But neither then nor after the Kremlin has demanded an apology from anyone else.

– It hurt them.

– It is strongly impressed the master of the Kremlin. This requirement apology really, I think, was addressed not only O’Reilly as Trump. Because of all these developments, it appears that relations between the Kremlin and the White House both on content and on the emotional and psychological level significantly damaged.

– What could be the reason that the United States will take a tougher stance or at least the same, what was Obama’s position on Russia? It is clear that the inflammatory nature of both Putin and in Trump. Can it cause a character trait that they will become enemies?

– I would not hurry to give a description of the nature of Trump. We know how badly its head of state. We do not know him very well and as a businessman, as yet do not know what his state and unpublished tax return. We do not know what assets has and to what extent it controls them. But we do not know anything about what Trump as a state leader.
Of course, we can not completely rule out that his habits he has accumulated over the past decade of his life, did not disappear after the occupation of their White House. Yet it’s still a different position, different situation, other task. So do not hurry with some characteristics Trump. Now we can say a lot about him, about what and how he says. But words and deeds – it’s not the same thing. And until we do, I think, not quite solid grounds based on which we could make more or less reasonable predictions about the future relationship between the two men. You’re right that a lot depends on the personality traits of both. And it may turn out as one and the other side.

– A small clarify the relations between Russia and China. Do you think Trump hopes that Russia will take a position close to Washington than to Beijing justified? Or is it a vain hope when you said Peskov statement?

– When Trump during the campaign, and even right after his victory made statements on possible agreements with Russia publicly to the fore, he put forward the fight against “Islamic state.” Yet it was easy to see that this is just a cover for a much more serious operation, which he hoped – for China. In order to cope with IDIL, a great need in there. Even to act against Iran, Russia’s assistance is not particularly needed. Quite another matter concerning China. Without Russia to get involved in anti-Chinese confrontation to the US is now being almost impossible. And in Washington understand it. And, of course, Trump strongly hoped that Putin would help him in this case. But a sober analysis of the interests of the Kremlin without comments Peskov put into question such hopes Trump. After application Peskov it became all the more evident.

– What to expect from Russia in the context of the elections to be held in Germany, in France? After the American election are suspicions that Russia will try to intervene. How high is this danger?

– It’s a rhetorical question. Naturally, the Kremlin intervened, interfering and will not interfere. Inspired Brexit, the success of the elections in the United States, Bulgaria, Moldova, the results of the referendum in the Netherlands on Ukraine, inspired by the fact that you can effectively and successfully intervene in the electoral process in democratic countries with minimal cost and impressive results, the Kremlin, of course, will intervene and further. French and especially German elections – a goal №1 to the Kremlin, he will do everything possible to ensure that they defeated the candidate most favorable to the Kremlin.

– You mentioned the elections in Bulgaria, the referendum in the Netherlands, the elections in Moldova. Do you think that Russia’s role was so important in these cases? Or still are talking about a part, but not a decisive influence on the final result?

– You can not say with absolute certainty the extent to which part of the Kremlin influenced their results. However, let’s count how many important electoral events in the past year: the Dutch referendum, Brexit elections in the US elections in Bulgaria, the elections in Moldova. There were five major events politically important for the Kremlin and the hybrid part of the Fourth World War, which, according to the concept of the Russian General Staff, is on the planet. Of these 5 events in 5 cases won or candidates, or a decision favorable to the Kremlin.

Of course, we can say that this was the will of many citizens. Yes, but the Kremlin’s interest in that scenario is also not in doubt.

– What impact do you think will win from Fillon or Le Pen in France? Of course, that particular danger comes from there.

– It seems that in the last row Fillon may not take place in the final, and then a meeting between Le Pen and macron. In this case, there are chances of winning macron. However, regardless of the election results, we see that the presence Fillon, Le Pen, Sarkozy, a large part of the political elite in France rather strong Russophile, kremlefilskyy, putinofilskyy character. And from this point of view France appears one of the weakest elements of Western society. And the position of the current president of Ukraine concerning the protection and countering Russian aggression is quite restrained.

– Recently passed a new round of peace talks on Syria. What do you think of giving that it initiated this new round, and that it connected to Iran and Turkey? It is clear that Russia wants to major league players. Are there signs that Russia is succeeding?

– Strictly speaking, it has returned. When a half years ago, Putin began this adventure Syrian, many believed that this is the way to a standstill. Eighteen months later, it became apparent that despite all the terrible consequences of the bombing and the death of many people, it seems that Putin will win this campaign. Russia entered the circle of global players, she returned to the Middle East. And back in the same form in which it had in the affairs of the Middle East did not participate. Even in Soviet times, Moscow sent in the same Syria, Egypt and other countries only group of advisers. Regular armed forces of the Soviet Union in fighting their flag did not. Now it happens. In the Soviet Union never had military bases in the Middle East. Now they are.

Obama’s decision in September 2015 “invite” Putin’s Middle East contributed to squeezing the US and the entire Western coalition in the Middle East. Thus, negotiations were held with the participation of Russia, Iran and Turkey until proved fruitless. Perhaps more than one next series of talks will not give immediate results. But the start has and this means that the US, Britain and France, which until recently were trendsetters in the Middle East, the authority of the supreme arbiter of peoples and countries are moving to another three – Russia, Turkey and Iran. And after a while the fate of the Middle East settlement will solve other states and other leaders.

– Barack Obama never tired of repeating that “Russia is mired in Syria, as in a swamp.” Do you agree? Or still hope that Syria will become Russia’s second Afghanistan naive?

– Barack Obama said much of what was a weak relationship to life. Does the Kremlin mired in Syria? The first half of the year showed faster progress of the operation for the Kremlin. Why until it was more successful than in Afghanistan? Perhaps due to the fact that intervention in Syria has little ideological character unlike Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union was trying to impose a new political, economic and ideological system that is not in Syria. In Afghanistan, overthrow the local government was a Soviet special forces. In Syria, Russian troops operating at the invitation of the local government for part of the Syrians, it is legitimate. Next, for the Alawite community, which is the leader Assad, Syrian Civil War is a matter of physical survival.

The loss of power by Assad possible withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria means the risk of physical death alavitskoyi minority. Therefore, among the population of Syria Russian participation in the war has the support base, which the Soviet leadership in Afghanistan has never had. What then will be the fate of the Syrian or continue it as an entire state, or will its differentiation in the form of federation or confederation of separate states is unknown. However, in today’s ally Syria are vitally interested in the presence of its troops in Syria. This fundamental difference from Afghanistan.

– Who should wait for the next intervention in, if there are reasons to expect an invasion?

– There is a difference between conventional and tools nekonventsionalnymy invasion. Especially important is the difference for those who revealed the victim intervention. One thing – nekonventsionalne intervention in the US election campaign in the years 2015-2016, and quite another thing – conventional occupation and annexation of the Crimea in the war in eastern Ukraine. It is obvious that no country in Europe can not be fully isolated from possible aggression of information, corruption, propaganda, spyware, hybrid nature. As conventional interventions, at the moment №1 candidate for this kind of invasion – is Belarus.

– How high do you assess the chances and what it will depend primarily?

– This will depend primarily on the health of Alexander Lukashenko. And the stability of its clock communication with other members of the Belarusian leadership. If Lukashenko will, for example, forest mushrooms, and communication with him interrupted for 24 hours, and the ministers of defense and internal affairs of Belarus will not be able to get through it, then there may be serious risks and temptations.

– Are there predictors of changes in Russia’s relations with strategic allies in the post, roughly speaking, is there evidence that this alliance is broken relations with Belarus, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan?

– Uzbekistan is not a CSTO member. And so the term alliance probably have to be careful. Often it’s more like the relationship between the Empire and the customers.

– In what sense?

– Real ally have greater freedom of action. Yes, he understands his interest in the union, but if something goes wrong, it may decide to withdraw from the Union. Let us ask ourselves: Can Armenia to withdraw from the union with Russia? The answer is quite clear.

– Can not. It follows that these alliances, CSTO and EurAsEC is being stillborn in terms of economy and security, still have a future? Or shall we say: do the chances of the member states of the union to withdraw from these unions?

– I would not call them stillborn, at least in the area of security. In the case of Armenia is not stillborn union, a reflection of the realities of today and long history. Armenia may reject this?
The answer is no, can not. As for the Alawites, and for Armenia’s alliance with Russia is a matter of life and death. The Russian leadership, using the difficult geopolitical situation, which are or that country uses those relationships and partly to satisfy their interests.

– Still Yerevan is disappointed that Russia does not ensure the full protection of its interests, including selling a large number of weapons in Azerbaijan. And even despite this, there is no chance that Armenia will abandon the alliance, I understand you correctly?

– Yes, Armenia dissatisfied with Russian sales of arms of Azerbaijan. But Armenia has provided base in Gyumri for the deployment of Russian troops. The base is close to the Armenian-Turkish border. At the border is not only Armenian but Russian troops. Armenia is in a difficult geopolitical position. On the one hand – Turkey on the other hand – Azerbaijan and relatively narrow strip of border with Georgia. Georgia, with all due respect to her, still not a great military power, military potential comparable with Turkey, and especially with Turkey together with Azerbaijan.

Compared with the Ukraine, despite its difficulty and complexity, is much more favorable geopolitical position. If we compare the last two wars that occurred and are occurring before our eyes (the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 and the Russian-Ukrainian begun in 2014), we see how vulnerable it was and remains the position of Georgia as the limited resources of Georgia, as modest strategic hinterland. But Ukraine is in a relatively favorable position, with large areas, demographic, military, economic, infrastructure capacity. In Ukraine there are other traditions of warfare, more in number and level of training of military cadres capable of organizing professional resistance.

– We figured out that Armenia has no chance. And what about Kazakhstan and Belarus?

– In Kazakhstan a global choice – either focus on Russia, or China. The current generation of Kazakh elite chooses to. Maybe after some time come to power other forces, which will be a different world view. In the immediate generation of Kazakhstan orientation toward Russia is likely to continue. As for Belarus, the Belarus membership in the Union State of Russia and Belarus is due to only one – the person of Mr Lukashenko. Almost every other Belarusian government will head for European integration.

– Does this mean that Russia will try, for example, put their man in place of Lukashenko in the coming years, given that Lukashenko still trying to achieve better conditions and is not an easy partner in talks on oil, gas and other aspects of bilateral relations?
– The particular choice of the Kremlin allows several options – replacing Lukashenko to another person, group of people while maintaining the formal national independence or full integration of the country into Russia. In any case, Belarus is now in the center of the most careful attention.

Vladislav Kudryk



2 thoughts on “Andrei Illarionov: Belarus is the №1 candidate for a Russian invasion

  1. I have been warning for almost two years now that the main target of any new Russian aggression would not one of the Baltic countries as they are NATO members: Putin is not mad. It won’t be Moldova which Putin expects to bring back in the Russian sphere of influence through a legal parliamentary process. It is Belarus where Russian troops and bases are present, allowing a Crimea-like invasion. Lukashenko has been for the past two years trying a rapprochement with the West. The EU has suspended sanctions after the release of political prisoners. Lukashenka has refused to accept the annexation of Ukraine, has been refusing for about a year and a half the building of a new Russian AFB in Belarus. He has severely criticized the Eurasian economic alliance with Russia and Kazakhstan, saying it benefits only Russia. Russia increasingly wants to get rid of him through an internal coup supported by Russian troops.

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