[this analysis was written for the Unz review]
Some of my longtime readers might have noticed that I rarely (if ever!) wrote about Belarus or President Lukashenko. As always with the blog, there always is a reason for why I do mention something and no less a reason why I do not mention something. In the case of Belarus or Lukashenko, my reason for not writing about them was the exact same why I never wrote about the Ukraine before 2013: I was both uninspired and mostly disgusted with what I saw taking place there. And I did not feel strongly enough to write about it. That changed for the Ukraine with the Euromaidan.
Now the events in Belarus force me to address this very unpleasant topic: Belarus is facing a complex and dangerous crisis which might well result in a major crisis inside Belarus and even a loss of sovereignty. But first, before we look into what just happened, let me begin by a quick “mini-primer” about Belarus. Here is what I think everybody ought to know about this country:
- Belarus is a completely artificial creation, even more artificial than the Ukraine. At least in the Ukraine there were “westerners” (Galicians) who truly were not Russians at all (you can think of them as the “real Ukrainians” if you want) and whose hatred for everything Russian was every bit as rabid as the one of the Interahamwe of Rwanda. There is no meaningful equivalent to the Banderites in Belarus.
- Lukashenko was no more pro-Russian than Ianukovich. This is crucial. Lukashenko was always pro-Lukashenko, not pro-Russia. Both the West and Lukashenko like to say that Belarus is the only real Russian ally. This is false. Technically, Russia and Belarus are supranational union states. However, it is true that Lukashenko tried to use the historical identity between the Russian and Belarusian people to demand that Russia help him out over and over and over again. And until recently, Russia did.
- As a country, Belarus is a quasi perfect police state with an extremely competent and feared KGB (yes, in Belarus they kept the name) which controls everything and everybody. This is also crucial for reasons I will explain below.
- As for the Kremlin, it always wanted to foster a reunification with Belarus but this process was never fully completed due to regular problems, and even crises, between Moscow and Minsk. Russia poured immense sums of money to keep the Belarusian society from crashing.
- Finally, Belarus is really a poor country with very limited resources. For Russia, however, Belarus is a crucial military ally, one which plays a central role in Russian defense plans. If the US and NATO will be successful in taking control of the country, this will be a major strategic threat for the Russian security.
These are just a few pointers to compare and contrast Belarus with the Ukraine.
Now let me summarize what just happened.
The Belarusian authorities have declared that “hundreds” of men (supposedly Russians) have been sent to Belarus with nefarious intentions. Lukashenko has since officially confirmed that he got this info from the Ukrainian SBU. The men themselves were described as terrorists, insurgents, members of the “Wagner” PMC, subversives, etc. and their goals were described as killing Lukashenko, triggering a new “maidan” in Belarus, create chaos, etc.
Frankly, the Belarusian authorities never got their story straight and, frankly again, this really makes no difference at all. Here are two things which I consider as indisputable:
- Russia would never even consider using force or illegal covert operations against Lukashenko and/or Belarus
- The Belarusian KGB knows everything of any importance taking place in Belarus
I would even argue that argument #2 very much supports argument #1.
Whatever may be the case, it appeared that a group of Russian security guards had been recruited by a Belarusian firm to provide security in various countries (Sudan and Venezuela is often named). They traveled to Belarus and planned to fly out of Minsk for their final destinations. They were delayed, apparently deliberately, then they missed their flight and were told to go and rest at a hotel which happened to be located not far from the residence of Lukashenko. In the middle of the night, a KGB swat team moved in with flash-bang grenades and guns drawn and brutally arrested everybody in spite of the fact that none of the sleepy Russians offered any kind of resistance. No weapons of any kind were found, no evidence of any covert plans either, but the authorities declared that since these men were not drinking or harassing waitresses and since they kept to themselves, this was a clear proof that they were on a secret mission (I am not joking!).
All of the above is absolute and utter nonsense and we should not get distracted by the minutia of this clearly fabricated pretext.
Here is what really happened.
It now appears that the Ukrainian secret service SBU (which does nothing without Uncle Sam’s approval) mounted a complex covert operation to try to get Belarus and Russia into a confrontation. The entire operation, including recruitment, purchase of airline tickets, etc was, in fact, run from the Ukraine. This was also the biggest mistake the Ukies did: they did not hide their actions well enough and it took the Russians special services less than 24 hours to figure out the entire plan and leak it to the media (in Russian). The fine details are still being ascertained, but the bottom line is this: the Ukrainians pretended to be a security firm looking for men with proven combat experience, especially those who fought in the Donbass against the Ukronazi forces. Once recruited for some pretty typical guard duties, these men were to be flown to Minsk where they would miss their plane and be left waiting for the next opportunity to leave Belarus. At this point, the SBU seems to have contacted the Belarusian KGB and “warned” them about Russian “mercenaries” sent by Russia to kill Lukashenko or, at least, overthrow him.
It is also obvious now that the SBU specially wanted Russians which had combat experience in the Donbass to then ask Belarus to hand them over to Kiev. Such a demand was made almost immediately for most of the men in this group.
So far so “good” (not really, but you know what I mean), but here is when the Belarusians and Lukashenko himself started to act really strangely.
The first logical step for the Belarusian authorities should have been Lukashenko calling Putin and asking for an explanation. Alternatively, the head of the Belarusian KGB could have called the head of the FSB and ask him for clarifications. But, instead of doing that, the Belarusian KGB organized this ridiculous “seizure” of the Russian “mercenaries” while the latter were asleep in their hotel and had no idea whatsoever what was going on.
Next, instead of working with the Russians, Lukashenko just gave a long interview to one of the most talented and most morally repugnant Ukie journalist, Dmitrii Gordon (who proudly proclaims that he is an SBU agent).
But then it only got worse.
Lukashenko pounced on the opportunity to, yet again, engage in his typically long-winded rants against Russia. He even went as far as to suggest that Belarus might extradite some of these Russian men to the Ukraine (which, as we now know, had provided a list of wanted men to the Belarusian KGB). From these actions it became immediately clear to the Russians that Lukashenko was playing some kind of dirty game in the last days before the Presidential election which took place on Sunday.
So what could explain the outright bizarre behavior of the Belarusians?
Reason one: Simply put – Lukashenko’s popularity is declining as fast as the disposable income of the Belarusians.
Reason two: The US is clearly engaged in major strategic PSYOP to seize control of Belarus.
Reason three: The Belarusian state in its current condition is simply not viable and never was.
Let’s take these one by one.
While nobody doubts the outcome of any election in Belarus, it is also pretty uncontroversial that most Belarusians do support Lukashenko. The point is not whether Lukashenko would win, but only by how much he would win? The elections yesterday yielded the lowest possible and acceptable result for Lukashenko: 80%. This figure is really meaningless, all it shows is how good the Lukashenko regime is at winning elections. This time, however, there appear to be more protests than in the past and, unlike what happened in the past, the protests are not limited to Minsk and they have now spread to other cities. So while Lukashenko was never at risk of officially losing the election, a maidan-like protest remains a clear concern for him.
But there is much more to this story.
Following a meeting between Lukashenko and Pompeo, the US will now open a (very big) embassy in Minsk. For years the West has been calling Lukashenko all sorts of names, and now it is suddenly “all smiles”.
Is that really a coincidence?
I very much doubt it.
But it even gets much worse than that: the US is sending one of its most capable and dangerous officials to subvert Belarus: I am referring to Jeffrey Giauque, a State Department intelligence official with a long track of successive destabilization missions.
Listen to him introduce himself to the Belarusian people:
In fact, it is now pretty obvious that the entire provocation with the Russian “terrorists” was carefully crafted and implemented by a joint US-Ukrainian. Had the Ukie SBU not been so sloppy with how they organized it all (it took the FSB less than 24 hours to get a full and accurate picture of what had happened) this plan might have succeeded. In fact, it still might.
But blaming it all on the US, the SBU and Lukashenko really does not tell the full story.
The truth is that Belarus is a completely artificial state, much more artificial even than the Ukraine, and it is a state which simply cannot survive by itself. Neither can it hope to survive forever on Russian aid. And while looking at the roots of Ukrainian nationalism is important and interesting, such an exercise is useless in the case of Belarus since Belarusian nationalism is something truly a-historical and artificial and which really has no foundation outside western ideological dogmas.
While the Soviet Union’s Marxist and generally russophobic ideology regime always fostered the emergence of local nationalisms (and even created previously non-existing “nationalities”), Belarusian nationalism was something which never got much traction, which is hardly surprising since any distinction between a Russian and a Belarusian is much smaller than the differences amongst Russians who now live in a very diverse and truly multi-ethnic society. Still, from the point of view of the Party Nomenklatura and their western curators, not splitting away Belarus from Russia while such countries as the Ukraine or Kazakhstan declared their independence was unthinkable, thus a kind of weird compromise was reached which was supposed to reassure both the people of Russia and those of Belarus. Some agreements were made, others were endlessly negotiated about (especially any energy deals!) and what eventually resulted from this all is this weird and artificial statelet of only 10 million people. As for its leader, he declared that Belarus will follow a “multi-vector” foreign policy which I would summarize as follows: pump as much money out of Russia as possible, while at the same time seeking support from the AngloZionist Empire.
[Sidebar: yes, I know, Lukashenko is called the “last dictator of Europe” and he is not popular in the West. My point is that his lack of popularity is to be credited to the West, and not to him. Over and over again, Lukashenko tried to get support (meaning “money”) from the West and now Pompeo & Co. have apparently decided to make “their” son of a bitch “our” son of a bitch. What I mean by that Lukashenko was the textbook case of the “our son of a bitch” phenomenon, but not for the West – for Russia. I furthermore believe that like all “sons of bitches” (including “theirs” and “ours”) – Lukashenko has now turned into a liability for Russia.]
There is another very worrisome development taking place now: in this entire business the Belarusian KGB was either hopelessly incompetent (which it ain’t!) or penetrated by western agents. I find the second explanation much more likely.
If we now assume that the Belarusian KGB has been penetrated and compromised, then this is very bad news for Lukashenko who might find himself in the same situation as, say, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who was betrayed by his own secret services (we can also remember how many US/Israeli agents were in high position around Bashar Assad until the war in Syria forced them to pick a side).
Frankly, while the CIA and the rest of them are not very good at some things, they are truly world-class masters in the art of corrupting officials and this might have already happened in Belarus.
Right now, there are riots in Minsk and in other cities and while in the capital the riot police has things mostly under control, there have already been cases of riot cops running for their lives to avoid being lynched by the mob. As of the time of writing this (Monday 21:50 UTC) the Belarusian KGB has declared that they are hunting down the worst agitators and rioters, but considering how easy it has been for the Ukrainian SBU to trick (or, worse, infiltrate) the Belarusian KGB, I am not feeling very reassured by this verbiage: special services are here to take care of dangerous problems, not to make big statements.
Right now, the latest we hear from the Belarusian KGB is that they prevented the assassination of the main opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Heck, this might even be true, considering that the (clueless) Tikhanovskaya would make a perfect “sacrificial lamb” (and an terrible politician, should she ever be elected). But this also looks like some interests inside the Belarusian KGB are courting Tikhanovskaya. Both versions are equally bad, I think.
How serious is all this?
There are already (false) rumors spread by Polish media about Lukashenko having fled Belarus in his aircraft. This rumor is clearly designed to create the (wrong) impression that Lukashenko is the next Ianukovich: while I equally dislike both of these men, Lukashenko is a much tougher man than Ianukovich ever was.
Furthermore, the kind of media-campaign waged now by the western, Polish and Ukie media is unprecedented in its magnitude and it will be very hard for the regime to regain control of the country.
As for Lukashenko, he now seems to have reversed his tune somehow: after accusing Russia of treating Belarus not as a brother, but as a partner, now he says that he spoke to Putin and got a 5 page document explaining it all, and now he says that Russia and Belarus will be brothers after all.
Not very convincing, to say the least.
Quite logically, Lukashenko’s popularity in Russia, which was never that high to begin with, is now rapidly degrading and many analysts who, in the past, praised Lukashenko for his (supposedly) “firm” policy towards the West are now openly voicing their disgust. An increasing number of Russians are now openly wondering with this entire “supranational union state” concept. As for Lukashenko’s much vaunted “multi-vector policies” they look like a banal case of trying to sit between two chairs.
It now appears pretty obvious that the leaders of the Empire stopped hating Lukashenko only long enough to give a short lived and semi-credible appearance of benevolence; now they are already talking about reintroducing sanctions on Belarus and on Lukashenko personally.
This is all extremely dangerous for Russia for the following reasons:
- Lukashenko is an absolutely terrible “our son of a bitch” (they always are!) to back and his latest antics have shown the Kremlin that Lukashenko is very much part of the problem, not of the solution.
- If Lukashenko remains in power, it will be only thanks to his (mostly very effective) repressive apparatus which might be enough to silence the opposition, but not enough to make Lukashenko truly popular.
- Lukashenko himself is clearly both dishonest and unprincipled. He does not care one bit about Russia (or Belarus for that matter), he cares only about himself. In other words, as long as he remains in power, Belarus will be a major concern for Russia.
- If Lukashenko is overthrown, be it by a KGB plot or a Maidan-like violent insurrection, we can be pretty darn sure that whoever comes to power will be 1) vetted by the USA and 2) rabidly anti-Russian.
- Belarus does not have much of an economic significance for Russia, but for security and, even more so, military reasons Belarus is absolutely vital to the Russian security
This last point needs to be further clarified. Not only is Belarus located in a strategically crucial location, the Belarussian armed forces are very well trained and equipped (no comparison to the Ukie forces) and they represent a major military asset for the Kremlin. There are also Russian forces deployed in Belarus. Finally, the contacts between the Belarusian and Russian military are very friendly and very deep. To have NATO take over Belarus would truly be a major problem for Russia (one that she can deal with, but it would require a major re-thinking of the threat from the West).
So where do we go from here?
It seems to me that if Putin does “more of the same” Russia risks seriously losing Belarus which, at a time when the Ukrainian Banderastan is falling apart, would really be a crying shame. Right now, Russia needs to contain the “Ukrainian infection” while, at the same time, preparing an after-Lukashenko (before it is too late). Obviously, Lukashenko will not gracefully resign, so Russia needs to find a tool in her toolkit to force him to do so.
Personally, I have always believed that fully reincorporating Belarus into Russia would not only solve the “Belarusian problem” but that it would also solve the “Lukashenko problem”. I am confident that Russia has more than enough influence and resources in Belarus to force a change. Yes, that would be both difficult and dangerous, but not doing so could result in a much worse outcome. Russia needs to act. Quickly and resolutely.