Alexander Lukashenko conducted his speech to the parliament and people of Belarus with minimal displays of agency as the head of state, which is bad news for fans of his talents as a political tightrope walker.
An interesting fact is that although Lukashenko’s speech was put before the public 4 weeks before a referendum through which the citizens of Belarus are supposed to be expressing their attitude towards constitutional changes, he essentially did not touch on the transformation of Basic Law. We will not look for conspiracy theories in this, as it is much more likely that Lukashenko is relying on the old saying that «the law is like a drawbar: wherever you turn, there it goes.»
Although Lukashenko this time performed in civilian dress, the repeated wearing of camouflage with officer’s stripes in the days and weeks preceding the benefit performance left an imprint on Lukashenko’s rhetoric. He appeared as a politician who performs auxiliary functions for the Russian Kremlin. Perhaps this is how Alexander Lukashenko sees his role in the functioning of the Union State. Or, alternatively, he is trying to be useful to Putin in the context of the «attack with fixed bayonets» on international law, which has taken the form of «proposals on security measures» that Russia made in December last year.
Lukashenko’s initiatives can be divided into «neighboring» and «global.» Interestingly, among neighboring states, Latvia was not given any of his attention, however Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine received it in full. He accused Poland of endeavoring to establish control over all of Belarus’s territory, and not just over the «Eastern cresses.» In Poland’s desire to dominate the region, Lukashenko saw a desire for hegemony. He even promised Lithuania the prospect of losing statehood in the event of a war with Belarus.
Lukashenko’s courage has a curious nuance: he ignores the fact that both Lithuania and Poland are members of NATO, and the North Atlantic Alliance has recently been in heightened combat readiness due to Russia’s aggressive statements.
It is also interesting that Lukashenko, in the same speech, called Belarusians both «peacekeepers by nature» (complaining that the West tried to deprive the country of its status as a donor of stability), and the heirs of the accomplishments in arms of their fathers, to whom false pacifism was foreign. It is not clear if Lukashenko’s expression of this «duality» reassured the Belarusian public about the prospects for war in the event of an attack on Belarus or Russia, but such statements (together with the promise to increase the production of weapons and strengthen territorial defense) are unlikely to reassure the Belarus’s other neighbors.
Lukashenko’s promise «to return Ukraine to our common bosom of Slavs» was moving. The Kremlin’s favorite message regarding the «triune Slavic people» appears to be so discredited that it has been sent forth as a satellite from Belaya Rus. In the context of Lukashenko’s recent statements Ukraine’s deployment of troops in the areas bordering Belarus, it remains to be asked what tools Minsk will use in its «Slavic» mission. The question, as they say, is not idle since the Ukrainian army has been fighting for the eighth year and surpasses the Belarusian army in almost all respects.
Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities have never made aggressive statements against Lukashenko in all his years in power.
In a global context, Alexander Lukashenko, with political directness, attacked the West, firing off accusations of various foreign policy sins. This includes the use of sanctions (as the Kremlin insistently asked that this be mentioned), assessments of what is going on with the coronavirus pandemic, the West’s desire to privatize Belarus, and the «optimization» of healthcare and education in Belarus. Of course, with these attacks Lukashenko was attempting to dig at his opponents, who he publicly suggested should «crawl on their knees and repent,» while at the same time making a display of offering the West help in saving face.
Lukashenko’s speech to his still devoted supporters can hardly be called a presidential message, not only because of the non-recognition of this status by most European states. In the end, he continues to go to work in the presidential palace. The problem is that in the context of the unfolding crisis in international relations, he has betted on serving foreign interests (however allied they might be), but he has not done so consistently, convincingly, or captivatingly. It is difficult to translate his speech into the language of tweets that modern politicians communicate with each other, as it did not contain the key message of protecting the interests of Belarus and its sovereignty from obvious threats. Lukashenko has essentially turned into a Kremlin proxy, only not in the military, but in the foreign policy arena.
Материал доступен на русском языке: Лукашенко в роли прокси