17 June 2021, Thursday, 21:05
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Sivitski: Lukashenka Preparing Plahotniuc Option

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Sivitski: Lukashenka Preparing Plahotniuc Option
ARSENI SIVITSKI

He found himself in a geopolitical trap.

Director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies Arseni Sivitski told the Belarusian Partisan about this.

- The Belarusian authorities, through the mouth of Protasevich, accused oligarch Mazepin of financing the Telegram channel, which was recognized as "extremist." What do you think about this situation?

- This is an attempt by the Belarusian authorities to hint at a Russian trace in the political crisis in Belarus. But the attempt is clearly unsuccessful.

Even at the start of the presidential campaign last year, it was clear that it was not easy for the Russian oligarchs to semi-autonomously support the campaigns of the three most popular alternative candidates, but that it was the Kremlin that was interfering in the internal affairs of Belarus in order to destabilize the internal political situation.

If we talk about Telegram channels, on the eve of the elections, a whole network of channels was deployed, sponsored from various sources, but with the coordinating role of the Kremlin and the Security Council of the Russian Federation.

Obviously, not only Russian oligarchs (Mazepin, Prigozhin, Deripaska, Usmanov), but also a number of state corporations (Gazprom, Rosneft, etc.) were involved in interfering in the internal affairs of Belarus. All of them, one way or another, are united by political and economic interests in Belarus.

Let me emphasize: these were not independent interventions at all, these actions were initiated and largely coordinated by the Kremlin.

The Belarusian authorities could play on this before the presidential elections - in order to mobilize international support to curb the Russian interference.

But now, after the strategic situation has changed (Russia and the United States have entered the trajectory of normalizing relations, as well as the red lines passing by Minsk), it becomes meaningless to play on the Russian factor.

For Western capitals, Russian interference was obvious from the very beginning, but now it is not perceived as harmful, as it was in the period 2014-2020.

The Belarusian political crisis has finally transformed into an international problem. After the incident with the forced landing of the Ryanair aircraft, Belarus is seen as a source of threats to international peace and security. Unlike Russia, which is paving the way for the normalization of relations with the United States.

- There is information that political prisoners are offered to write letters of repentance on the eve of the amnesty on July 3. Why might the authorities need it?

- It is obvious that the leadership of Belarus understands that it is at an impasse due to the growing pressure from both the East and the West, therefore it is trying to play the traditional card of political prisoners trade in order to restrain pressure at least from the West.

One of the elements of this game were hints of the Russian interference in Protasevich's "interview". The purpose of the combination is to push the West to soften its position.

But if in past crises this tactic worked, then under current conditions, both because of the numerous strategic mistakes of the authorities and because of the change in the strategic international situation, this tactic will not be a success.

I think some of the political prisoners can be released. But the effect of achieving normalization of relations with Western countries will be minimal.

There is a consensus in the international arena that the only way to force Belarus to normalcy is through the policy of sanctions pressure in order to prepare conditions for regime change in Belarus. It also implies that no new normalization of relations with Lukashenka is possible.

At the same time, the delay of the Belarusian authorities in the implementation of steps to de-escalate the situation only worsens the position of the country's leadership and personally Lukashenka in the international arena.

Belarus found itself in a geopolitical trap. The Kremlin and Western capitals are now actively discussing the reproduction of a pragmatic constructive experience of interaction between Moscow, Washington and Brussels in Moldova in the context of the political crisis of 2018.

Despite the strategic contradictions, then the parties found the strength and ability to sit down at the negotiating table and eliminate the main cause of the protracted political crisis in the person of the gray cardinal of Moldovan politics, oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc. He was forced not only to leave the political scene of Moldova, but also to emigrate from the country.

It is possible that a similar scenario can be played out in Belarus. This path can be discussed during the meeting between Putin and Biden on June 16.