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Lukashenko becomes Saakashvili
17/08/2010 13:11
Giorgi Tsiklauri

President of Russia has no plans to hold bilateral meetings and communicate with the President of Belarus at the informal summit of the CSTO (the Collective Security Treaty Organization) in Yerevan on August 20-21. Kommersant newspaper was informed about this in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, it is quite likely that Dmitry Medvedev will not get a chance to pour scorn on "Batska", because Lukashenko can simply not go to Armenia. A year ago, he ignored a similar event in Moscow against the background of the "milk war" with Russia. But now, relations between Moscow and Minsk are even cooler, if not altogether hostile. The relationship between the leadership of the two allied countries seems to have reached a critical low point, as evidenced by the fierce information war where a leading role belongs to the Russian media.

It should be noted that on August 15th in prime-time television of the TV channel NTV was shown the movie "Godfather batska-3" - the third part of scandalous revelations about Lukashenko created by Moscow spin-doctors in the last period. And even though hardly anyone will risk to present Lukashenko as an angel in disguise - nature of the authoritarian regime established by him is well known - still bad publicity on NTV is so obviously artificial and blackening, that one can even feel embarrassed for such rough work. Particular zest is added to the situation by the fact that accusations are poured on Lukashenko not just anywhere, but on the Russian television and they are ordered (is anyone out there doubting it?) by the Kremlin regime beside of which all the sins of the Belarusian President pale into insignificance and look like small provincial pranks.

The threat to ignore the President of Belarus has been announced by Kommersant newspaper immediately after the open blackmail of the Kremlin. Lukashenko was threatened by publishing the transcript of his statements at high level meetings. According to aide of the Russian President Sergei Prikhodko, it is that part of the transcript of the meeting of the CSTO where Lukashenko made clear that he intended to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as other statements, which "will be of interest to the West". This was the reaction of Moscow to the statement of the Belarusian president of August 13th when the latter said that "his Russian counterpart in bad faith and dishonesty pulls certain things out of context" when speaking publicly about Lukashenko's promise to recognize the occupied regions of Georgia. "It is not for Alexander Grigorievich to talk about inconsistency of the Russian authorities - said Prikhodko - this category applies to him."

The threats voiced by the Kremlin - a thing unheard of in international relations, and more like squabbling at a bazaar than adequate response of a nuclear power that occupies one-eighth of the world. However, it illustrates how decisions are made in Moscow and on what Russia's foreign policy is based. Though one can understand the Kremlin's resentment. In the end, Alexander Lukashenko has directly insulted - called him dishonest and dishonourable - the President of Russia. And the circumstance that this unpleasant exchange is happening between the presidents of the countries that form the union state and united customs union can only increase bitterness of resentment.

But, in fairness it should be noted that the first to start washing dirty linen in public was Russia. Its President Dmitry Medvedev clearly should not have broken the rules and told the public about the details of closed meetings. According to the Russian President, Lukashenko promised to recognize the independence of the occupied territories of Georgia in the presence of heads of CIS states. "He said: "I solemnly promise that I will do this in the shortest possible time ", - said Medvedev. By this he gave Alexander Lukashenko an excellent opportunity to once again whip the Russian leadership. Batka did not miss the chance and told the press that "Lukashenko has never promised solemnly, nobody has heard about this. Solemnly means when it is done before crowds of people". Moreover, "the Russian leadership has a habit – not to continue after a coma".

In particular, the Belarusian President noted that when discussing the issue of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region he told Medvedev reasons for refusal of Minsk. "I outlined before him all the problems that would arise before Belarus with regards to relations of Belarus-EU, Belarus- USA, Belarus-CIS and so on, - said Lukashenko. - For two months we have been working on these problems and defined them - they were about a dozen. With this regard, I addressed Medvedev whether they were ready to understand these issues and to help us overcome them. It seemed that Russia was unable or the Russian leadership did not want to even-out or eliminate consequences that could arise for Belarus. That's what Medvedev did not say". It should be noted that this was the first time when Lukashenko directly attacked Medvedev. Until today he had carefully avoided a public debate with the Russian president and only fought publicly with Russian national leader Vladimir Putin.

However, verbal attacks are not the only thing that cast serious shadow on the Russian-Belarusian relations. Until now, rules have not been fully adjusted for the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Experts agree that this body will suffer the same fate as the customs union between Belarus and Russia that started in 1995 and which has failed to function. It's been more than a year since all the integration processes in the direction of the Union State of Russia and Belarus are frozen. It seems that development of the constitutional act on the basis of which it was planned to finalize the merger of the two countries and the issue of transition to the single currency are out of the agenda. Potential units of the union state have permanent trade and energy wars where Lukashenko wins. His last victory was moral and financial gain in the fleeting clash with Gazprom, as well as unexpected move to organize alternative oil supplies from Venezuela by tankers to the subsequent pumping through Ukraine. Such things are not forgiven by jealous Kremlin that is quick to take offence.

However, Lukashenko himself is not embarrassed to frankly tell about the essence of the confrontation with the Russian leadership. "Russia... is trying to make the president of Belarus, above all, to line up and bend before known political events (before the upcoming presidential elections in six months). But you also know me long, I do not change when it comes to this - trying to bend me is futile and useless "- he told reporters and immediately demonstrated his special multi-vector foreign policy, saying that Belarus has an ability and wants to normalize relations with the United States. "We are not just ready, we have already done a lot in this direction, - said Lukashenko - If the U.S. wants to improve relations with Belarus our country is ready for this. We have many topics for negotiation. There are proposals from our side and there are proposals from the American side. I think that all these issues can be resolved through negotiations ".

As to suggestions of some political analysts that the Russian-American "reset" can lead to joint pressure from Moscow and Washington on Minsk, Lukashenko showed that he keeps his hand on the pulse and maintains contacts in the respective capitals. Firstly: "have they had reset? In my opinion, not really ... ". And secondly: "There are no secret agreements between the Russian leadership and the administration of the U.S. President over Belarus. This I know for sure".

While in Moscow disapproval of Lukashenko started to turn into hysteria so characteristic of Russian political thought. Following statements from the Kremlin and black PR on NTV the Duma and near-Kremlin expert community started to stir as well. One of the bright representatives of the latter two categories Konstantin Zatulin said that "Russia came to a conclusion that there will be no closer relations with Belarus with Lukashenko in power". Head of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs Alexei Ostrovsky altogether sent Lukashenko "to a doctor." Thus the president of Belarus unexpectedly found himself in the same boat with his antipodes from the countries of "colour revolutions" as before Moscow used to send only Saakashvili and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to a doctor. If in addition to all this a pornographic movie is shot about Alexander Lukashenko then Belarus will clearly need to prepare for a military invasion of Russia. However, Tbilisi can only dream of the volume of armament that is in possession of Minsk so possibility of Russian aggression in the Belarusian direction, taking into account the "Georgian" experience of the Armed Forces of the Russian federation, seems like an absolutely crazy idea. This, unfortunately, does not comlpletely negate the possibility. Russia's leadership has proved too many times irrationality and adventurousness of its foreign policy.

Another detail that Lukashenko and Saakashvili have in common is unacceptability of the Belarusian president advertised by Moscow propaganda. As they say, neither Russia nor the west accepts him. He is an outcast for everybody. As if on purpose to make the analogy quite complete, the same thesis has been voiced by the Belarusian opposition. With respect to Georgia, such conversations had to be stopped after a series of high-level visits which was received and made by President Saakashvili in 2010. What awaits Lukashenko in this context time will tell. At least, he played the ball from his field, having declared readiness to talk and negotiate with the west and this, it seems, has not gone unnoticed there.

For Georgia, all these Russian-Belarusian twists and turns have quite tangible benefits, and in different directions at that. In economic sphere, there has been development of trade. After relevant visits and meetings priority areas of cooperation were announced. Georgia may become a good buyer for a number of engineering products of Belarus, especially in the agricultural sector. In turn, there is no need to advertise Georgian agricultural products - wine, mineral water, citrus ... to Minsk. In the political context Lukashenko will certainly not recognize Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" and indeed by this example, it will further strengthen the negative attitudes of other former Soviet countries to the issue. But the most important sphere, which may be affected by the Georgian-Belarusian cooperation, is military-technical cooperation.

As already mentioned, Minsk has a very serious arsenal for almost all types of troops, that was left in the country since Soviet times and have been maintained in good condition. Their ability to sell, for example, powerful anti missile systems to Georgia cannot not be a strong argument in the dispute between Alexander Lukashenko and Putin and Medvedev. But there are other, usually hidden opportunities of military-technical cooperation. One of the largest suppliers of arms to Georgia is Ukraine, whose military industrial complex is not frozen in the Soviet past and offers good analogues of the Western arms at affordable prices. For example, anti-tank missile system so badly needed by the Georgian army. Information about the supply of new Ukrainian anti-tank missile system Skif (created, incidentally, in cooperation with Belarus) to Georgia was already officially confirmed. There are rumours about test delivery of several new T-84U Oplot tanks. However, the military-industrial complex of Ukraine is closely connected with their counterparts in Belarus and the latter provides some accessories for the Ukrainian military equipment. Experts also point out that the Belarusian military-industrial complex is largely controlled by Russia, which may influence the Georgian-Ukrainian military-technical cooperation. If the confrontation between Moscow and Minsk will lead to Alexander Lukashenko removing some barriers and agreeing to military-technical cooperation with Georgia, then new opportunities in the arms market will open before Tbilisi. Opportunities that will clearly displease the occupants.


 
 
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