No one will support Belarusians, who sit in their kitchens.
This comes from charter97.org web-site chief editor Natalia Radzina’s interview with a coordinator of the European Belarus civic campaign Dzmitry Bandarenka.
- We are speaking at the moment that the standoff is aggravating between Russia and Ukraine. It is obvious that the war will no end tomorrow. What is Belarus’ place in this conflict?
- The war between Russian and Ukraine was supposed to start in 1991-1992, like in the Balkans between Serbia and Croatia. The Soviet Union was an even more artificial formation than the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. It was only due to the genius of Yeltsin that a war was avoided. Or maybe because Russia as the center of the USSR was then especially weak. Now the Balkans-2 are happening in our region.
Belarus is considered a part of the “union state”. If today Russia wages a war against Ukraine and the West, then the calm, tolerant Belarusians also take part in this war, although they did not explain it to them yet.
This is for one. Another thing is that in the whole territory bordering on the European Union – from Morocco to Kaliningrad – a Great anti-oligarch revolution is taking place. There are wars in Libya, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Russia and Ukraine. The situation is unstable in Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt. This is a true global geopolitical earthquake. It is very naïve to hope that it well remain all the same in Belarus.
Remember, in the midst of the recent global economic crisis the Belarusian propaganda broadcasted that this would not affect Belarus, and then suddenly the citizens lost their bank deposits and their salaries and pensions dropped by three times.
Today the main Belarusian oligarch is again trying to put the blame on someone else, but this time he will not manage to escape responsibility.
- Today we are observing certain paradoxes. On the one hand, it is obvious that Lukashenka is an ally to the Kremlin. On the other hand, he attends the inauguration of new Ukraine’s president and tries to sit on both chairs.
- Again, there is nothing new. At the moment, when Serbia was being bombed by NATO aviation for the unlawfulness in Bosnia and Kosovo, its Yugoslavia ally Montenegro was making a profit on this war. There were sanctions against Milosevic, but there were none against Montenegro. President Dzukanovic earned not only political capital then.
Probably, Lukashenka is no less sly than Dzukanovic. But there is one main difference. Dzukanovic was always considered a pro-western politician, and a national currency in Montenegro was a German mark, now it is euro. Aliaksandr Lukashenka is Europe’s last dictator, a persona non-grata in the civilized world. Besides, as Stanislav Shushkievich recently pointed out, Lukashenka is Putin’s slave.
Putin will not simply observe his vassal making profits on Russian problems. They demand Lukashenka to be completely obedient in the military sphere and economic.
- Speaking with top-level Ukrainian politicians I understood that they do not trust Lukashenka. Why do they at the same time still keep dancing with wolves?
- Today Ukraine must become a regional leader due to its population, economic potential, territory and international attention. It should behave as a regional leader, have an active policy towards Belarus, Europe, the Caucasus.
But political elites in Ukraine today are mainly business people, these are oligarchs, who have quite a peculiar way of thinking. They say that Ukraine is a regional leader, but first of all they think about their pockets. This is our neighbors’ main problem.
- If you speak tough about the Ukrainian leadership due to the unprincipled attitude towards Lukashenka, you often face a reaction of the people saying we should not judge them, since in such a difficult situation Ukraine needs any allies, even such unreliable as Lukashenka.
- This is how they mask their personal business interests, for it is the matter of dozens and hundreds millions dollars. That is all.
However, we can see that during the war, and during the Maidan revolution before that, the new Ukrainian nation is being formed. I would say that today there is a war between Ukrainians and khokhols. A new Ukraine is being born, new political elites, and we are on their side.
There are people there, who understand that there cannot be a free and independent Ukraine without a free and independent Belarus, and they realize, who their true ally is.
- You mentioned business interests, which are obviously there in Belarus for a number of Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians. From the latest newsfeed, Belarusian cigarettes export to Ukraine has grown by 40 times, the export of alcohol – by eight. Is it only vodka and cigarettes?
- Some make profits on a war. The Novaya Gazeya recently wrote well about it: Ukrainian tanks are filled with Belarusian diesel fuel made from Russian oil. Despite secret services being in power in Russia, corruption prospers there. For example, the head of the Rosneft Sechin does not want to lose several billion dollars to some war. This is the life’s truth.
But the war logic already makes the authorities in Russia and Ukraine think differently. The war will inevitably spread on the economies and this middleman business of Lukashenka’s will also go down.
We already can see the tension in the Belarus-Ukraine relations. Russians will demand Lukashenka to fully participate in the war against Ukraine and the West.
- By the way, about the West. Certain European officials have weird hopes for Lukashenka – allegedly they will manage to tear him apart from Russia. Despite this is a dictator, forgetting about the political prisoners, 19 December 2010, about the signing of the Eurasian Union agreement, the European policy towards the Lukashenka regime is going milder. Will he manage to cheat the EU once again?
- Once I was shocked by Zbigniew Brzezinski’s phrase from his famous book “The great chessboard”, saying that essentially the EU is an America’s protectorate. But the European Union is twice as big as the USA, it was a bigger aggregate GDP… But the American strategist is right in many ways, since the EU does not have its own military forces, in the NATO the main part of costs falls on the USA, Europeans do not have their own transport aviation and full-fledged rapid reaction forces.
The EU is largely an economic formation, which still does not have its political center. That is why the European bureaucrats think: since we are made for the economy (that is for profit), then from this we will come. They lack strategic thinking and decisiveness. The USA under the Obama administration, maybe, left Europe intentionally for the EU to become a geopolitical player and had its own share of responsibility for the security at least in its own region. Russia decided to use this America’s quitting. The USA as a country responsible for the global security had to promptly return and help the allies.
The EU leadership kept behaving infantile before the Boeing was shot down. Despite the slight disguise of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, European leaders urged Poroshenko to start direct negotiations with the terrorists. Thank God, Petro Poroshenko is a smart man and has a team of decisive military men.
After having lost Crimea, Ukraine’s leadership very well realizes that they should be a policy subject, not object. In that they are different form the majority of Belarusian opposition leaders, who willingly follow the advice of third-rate western clerks. Belarus’ national interests often do not coincide with the interests of European officials, who persistently try to re-educate the dictator in Belarus. The Belarusian democrats should not be extras in someone else’s game either.
Today the European Union is trying to establish relations with the Lukashenka regime without considering the opinion of Belarusians. Partly the blame for that is on the opposition itself. Citizens have the possibility to influence the leaders of the democratic forces by demanding them to be coherent and principled.
- You mentioned the instability along the European Union borders, cause by its own compromising policy as to dictators. If we follow their logic, the dictatorship in Belarus means stability. Sometimes noticeable is the desire of European officials to deal with those Belarusian politicians, who have actual scenarios of changing the situation in the country. How can we achieve these changes ourselves? Are there hopes for external support?
- Today’s EU policy will remain infantile for a while, until a strong leader emerges there. Maybe, Radoslaw Sikorski, maybe someone else, because neither Catherine Ashton, nor van Rompuy became such strong leaders.
I will not say anything new. Only Belarusians themselves can take responsibility for changing the situation in their country.
First. One must open their eyes and understand that they will not manage to stay low. Belarusians will have to fight for one side or the other. It is not yet our choice, because Lukashenka’s Belarus, as a part of the “union state”, de-facto participates in the war against Ukraine and the war against the West.
Second. Alternative elites must unit and become a political subject, which the authorities, Russia and the West will take seriously, and most importantly – active Belarusians will support.
Third. We must all understand that we must fight for our freedom and independence. We will, probably, have to pay a serious price for that. There is no other way. You will not help the cause by speaking about how bad European bureaucrats are. The West will only support those, who are a real player and has real power. If we want to be a people, have our own state, we must be ready to fight, be ready to sacrifice, have strong international allies and not miss the moment of the decisive battle.
No one wanted to support the Ukrainians, who gave up Crimea without fighting. Today the world is on the side of the people of Ukraine, which is fighting against the Russian aggression. No one will support Belarusians, who sit in their kitchens.
- How morally valid can you be speaking of sacrifices from emigration?
- Neither me personally, nor my companions-in-arms from Zubr or European Belarus ever went into hiding, got into jails, suffered losses and were always in the resistance vanguard. I reckon that Belarusians, who were forced abroad (first of all the media) are the democratic Belarus’ common asset. I can hardly imagine how it is possible to oppose the Lukashenka and Russian propaganda without media, which operate, in particular, from Poland. Many say that today Belarus is under occupation, whereas headquarters cannot be based in the occupied territory.
The main problem of the Belarusian opposition and the secret to the 20 years of existence of the dictatorship in our country is that we have not been able to get the support of the civilized world. Now there is a global clash of the Eurasian imperial Russia and the democratic world. We must not allow for Belarusians to be used as cannon fodder for the eastern despotism.
The democratic world today includes the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, the European Union. It is a world, in which people live decently and their rights are protected. We must become a part of this world. Only in this case will Belarus have normal future.
- You often toughly criticize the Belarusian opposition, claiming that today many of its representatives are controlled by Belarusian secret services. I know that even in Poland, where a most powerful Solidarity movement existed, some of its leaders cooperated with the authorities, according to the archives. This did not stand it the way of change in Poland. What can lead to the dismantling of the Lukashenka dictatorship?
- Yes, the dismantling of the communist system in Poland started as a result of contacts between secret services, Democratic opposition and the Polish Catholic church. By the time of the round table in 1989 there were no powerful democratic movement and protest manifestations in Poland. There was disappointment with the authorities and the opposition alike. Over a million Poles emigrated from the country…
But, as we know, a small dictatorship only exists as long as there is a large dictatorship. Despite the USSR had an army of over a million occupant troops in Central and Eastern Europe, the USSR lost the economic competition to the West, which was the push for reforms in Poland.
In my view the history is repeating itself now. In the nearest time Russia will face problems that will make it forget its imperial ambitions. Actually the GDP is already falling there and there is nothing to pay pensions with. The Russian Federation is to blame to for the sectoral sanctions on the part of the West, which will simply collapse its energy and financial systems.
In 2014 the Americans will get out of the Afghan trap. Not many know that most of the military equipment of the NATO countries is being transported today via the territory of Russia and Belarus on the railways to the Baltic harbors, because it is cheaper than doing it through Pakistan. When the Americans finally leave Afghanistan, the problem of stability in the Central Asia and opposing aggressive Islam will fall on Russia’s fragile shoulders.
Another instability point for Russia will be the Caucasus. There are practically no more Russians in Chechnya and Ingushetia. It is today a hundred times worse to be a Russian in Dagestan than to be a Russian in Ukraine. They are simply being pushed out of Dagestan. Almost 50% of the youth in the republics of the Northern Caucasus sympathize the Wahabits. Friendship the great China as an alternative to the relations with the spiritually deprived West will facilitate Russia’s losing the Far East and Siberia.
These processes could have taken much longer. Putin’s Crimea adventure has speeded them up by several times. Russia has entered the half-disintegration phase. Like in the late-1980s, Moscow no longer has anything to support its satellite dictators with.
At a certain moment a significant number of the leadership of Belarusian military institutions will remember their roots, will realize that their personal interests may be only connected with an independent Belarus. When these transformations start, they will inevitably have a reflection on the structures, controlled by law enforcers today.
Even the people, who are under the control of the secret services, are not complete puppets – they have been forced to cooperate by the means of blackmail, threats to the families and physical coercion. Many of them are Belarusian patriots, they have just got into such a situation.
Events developed in a similar way not only in Poland, but all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Russia at the same time will have to focus on its internal separatism, confirming the well-known truth about digging a hole.
- Isn’t it a too optimistic scenario?
- There is a different scenario. Russia starts a full-scale invasion in Ukraine, which will unite the whole world against Putin even more strongly, and require greater decisiveness of Belarusians.