Putin and Russia are facing a very serious crisis in Belarus
Putin and Russia are facing a very serious crisis in Belarus by The Saker
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.
- Lukashnko 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!).