ROAR: Small chance for Belarusian president to change “inconsistent tactics”

The Kremlin has accused Lukashenko of inconsistency on the issue of the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as “the information war” continues.

The issue of the recognition of the two former Georgian republics has become another topic over which relations between Minsk and Moscow are deteriorating. President Dmitry Medvedev told journalists on August 3 that his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko, had promised “solemnly” to do everything in the shortest possible time to recognize the former Georgian republics as independent states.

Lukashenko stressed on August 13 that his remarks had been distorted. He said he had only noted that “it is not a problem for Belarus to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But I also enumerated all the problems that Belarus could have with the European Union, the US, and the CIS because of this,” Interfax quoted him as saying.

However, Russian presidential aide on international affairs Sergey Prikhodko said Moscow could make public “the transcript of a CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] meeting that contains the Belarusian president’s words on this account…We could also publish Aleksandr Lukashenko’s other remarks, which might be quite interesting to both the Belarusian and international public,” he added.

Lukashenko noted he wanted Russia to help Belarus in overcoming problems in the international arena connected with the possible recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On August 13, he also stressed that Minsk is trying to improve relations with the United States.

“If the US wants to improve relations with us, we are prepared for this,” Lukashenko said, adding that many issues in bilateral relations may be resolved. The Belarusian leader also mentioned a reset in the Russian-US relations. Asking a “a rhetorical question,” he said: “Have they been reset? It looks like they haven’t.”

Lukashenko added that Minsk wanted Moscow and Washington to have good ties. At the same time, he warned Russia and US not to reset relations with Belarus as regards democratization. If Russia or the US want “to break and rebuild everything, this won’t work,” he stressed.

“Russia and Belarus are continuing the information war, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. “Yesterday the exchange of ‘compliments’ between the two countries continued with the third documentary film of the Godfather (Bat’ka) series.”

Although Lukashenko seems to ignore the films, Minsk has taken offence, the papers said. Over the last two weeks, Belarusian state channels have been starting their news programs with reports about wildfires in Russia and Belarusian firemen who help to put them out, the paper said.

In their commentaries, Belarusian state media blame the Russian leadership for a great number of the wildfires and question its [the leadership’s] effectiveness, the daily noted. “Local observers do not expect the anti-Russian rhetoric in the Belarusian media to ease soon,” the paper said. “The Godfather (Bat’ka)-3, shown on the Russian NTV channel yesterday, narrates not only about excesses in Belarus, but also about the life of the Lukashenko clan,” it added. “The Belarusian president will not forgive this.”

“The relations between the Kremlin and the Belarusian leader have been deteriorating every day,” Argumenty i Fakty weekly said. After Lukashenko accused his Russian counterpart of distortion of his statement on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow “seems to be disappointed again in its partner,” it noted.

Moscow did not limit itself to the presidential aide’s statement and demonstrated the third part of the Godfather documentary, the paper said. “It showed in detail the fact of corruption in the Lukashenko’s family and how clans are created in Belarus,” the paper said. Moreover, the creators of the film even stated that Lukashenko is “a psychopath,” citing the results of medical expertise, the daily noted.

The continuing information war shows that Moscow may not support Lukashenko during the presidential elections that will take place in half a year, the weekly said. “Moreover, the Kremlin is seeking a concrete candidate for the position of the Belarusian leader,” it noted.

Different figures are being considered, but a particular candidate has not been named yet. It may possibly happen in the autumn when the Belarusian parliament will determine the final date of the elections,” it assumed.

“Thus, the nearer the autumn and the elections in Belarus, the quicker the finale of the story of the 16 years of the friendship of Moscow and Minsk will be,” the weekly said. “For it, Russia paid Lukashenko with money, oil and gas and receiving from him only promises to love Russia.”

The Russian president may ignore Lukashenko at the forthcoming informal CSTO summit in Yerevan on August 20-21, Kommersant daily said, citing diplomatic sources. However, Lukashenko may ignore the meeting itself, the daily noted.

His statement about distortion of his words “has become the first attack against his colleague,” the paper said, adding that earlier, the Belarusian leader fairly sharply criticized Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

It is unclear if the threats to publish transcripts of the meetings between the leaders will be realized, the paper said. “But the latest exchange of sharp statements between Minsk and Moscow show that the relations between the leadership of the two seemingly allied countries have reached a critical point.”

The fact that all integration processes in the framework of the Union State of Russia and Belarus have been frozen also shows the seriousness of the problem. The Russian leadership may have come to the conclusion that “there will be no closer ties with Lukashenko,” State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin told the paper.

Political technology used against Lukashenko is not effective, believes Aleksey Vlasov, general director of the Information and Analytical Center of Moscow State University. It would be useless to show transcripts or documentaries to harm Lukashenko’s image in Belarus, he told Gazeta daily.

“Russian leaders probably wrongly assess the level of Belarusians’ support for Lukashenko’s regime,” the analyst told Gazeta daily. “The majority of middle-aged Belarusians really support the president.”

The next step for Minsk in the information war will be determined by the tactics that Lukashenko chooses in relations with Russia, Vlasov said. “If the president plays on the economic union with Russia, he will make steps to remove the tension. But then he will have to publicly recant, because the Kremlin will receive nothing else: our tandem is too tired of the fact that Lukashenko constantly deceives Russia.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT