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Lukashenko's sudden visit to Moscow

Pavel Latushka, Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

Lukashenko's sudden visit to Moscow and the subsequent public remarks have sparked numerous conclusions and contemplations.

First and foremost, attention is drawn to the fact that Lukashenko was summoned to a meeting of the Russian Federation's Security Council, a body responsible for discussing and making critical strategic decisions. This occurrence suggests several possibilities.

On one hand, Lukashenko's invitation sends a clear message that Belarus, under his leadership, is regarded as an integral part of the Russian Empire. This once again underscores Lukashenko's lack of independence, his subservience to the Kremlin, and his inability to pursue an autonomous foreign and military policy. At best, his capacity to do so is severely limited.

On the other hand, Lukashenko's participation in the Russian Security Council meeting was likely intended to convey to him the necessary steps Belarus must take to further support and expand its involvement in the aggression against Ukraine.

Lukashenko's subsequent public comments and statements indicate that he did not receive the understanding he sought within the Russian Security Council. Instead, he was confronted with a clear and unambiguous position: Belarus must become more deeply embroiled in the confrontation with Ukraine, and at a critical juncture, its territory should be made available for aggression not only towards Ukraine but potentially to destabilize the borders with European Union member states as well.

Several pieces of evidence support this conclusion. 

Firstly, Lukashenko, as he has done many times before, utilizes public means of opposition in an attempt to resist the instructions issued to him by the Kremlin regarding domestic and foreign policy matters in Belarus. Lukashenko's public statements to the Russian media align with the notion that Russia needs a Belarus that is already engaged in warfare but no longer employed for direct military purposes. Yet, Lukashenko avoids delving into the specifics of Belarus' current support for Russia.

It is clear to us that one of the principal factors is the contribution of Belarus' entire industrial sector to meeting the military demands of the Russian Federation, encompassing the production of weapons, weapon components, food supplies, uniforms, and other forms of material support for the Russian Armed Forces, in order to participate in the aggression against Ukraine.

Simultaneously, Lukashenko repeatedly presents one of his primary arguments to the Kremlin against reutilizing Belarusian territory—the existence of lengthy borders with both Ukraine and NATO member countries, which purportedly create the threat of Russia being "stabbed in the back" via Belarus. The National Anti-Crisis Management team has previously noted the significance of this key argument put forth by Lukashenko.

Why does the Kremlin reject this thesis? The Kremlin is well aware that none of the NATO member countries have any intention of carrying out aggression against Belarus, which completely undermines Lukashenko's claim about the need to protect the western borders to prevent a potential betrayal of Russia in its ongoing war.

Regarding Ukraine, the dictator mentions the presence of a significant defense system on the Belarus-Ukraine border, the deployment of Ukrainian armed units, the mining of territories, and the construction of defensive structures. 

This contradicts Lukashenko's arguments about external threats and further confirms that Ukraine has no plans for aggressive actions against Belarus. This thesis requires no additional evidence since Ukraine is participating in the war in order to reclaim its own territories.

Lukashenko's extensive and public efforts to emphasize the necessity of a "peaceful Belarus" for Russia serve as evidence that he failed to achieve this objective during the Russian Security Council meeting. It can be assumed that the Kremlin will continue to exert pressure on him in order to exploit Belarus' territory in a manner appropriate and advantageous for Russia's military and political interests.

Another noteworthy aspect is Lukashenko's statement regarding his willingness to undertake a peacekeeping role between Ukraine and Russia. By refraining from making offensive statements against the Ukrainian President, and even addressing him familiarly as "Volodya," Lukashenko persistently proposes the initiation of peace negotiations.

This approach aligns with Lukashenko's interests for several reasons.

Firstly, it avoids involving Belarus in the continuation of the war. 

Secondly, Belarus' engagement in the war would have catastrophic consequences for Lukashenko himself, leading to a more negative perception within Belarusian society. 

Thirdly, such involvement would result in more severe international sanctions, leaving Lukashenko entirely accountable for his repeated overt participation in aggression against Ukraine. 

Lastly, Lukashenko is pursuing a crucial domestic political objective. He seeks to replicate the scenario of the 2015 elections when he managed to secure support from a significant portion of Belarusian society by purportedly playing a key role in initiating the Minsk negotiations. Strategically, Lukashenko aims to regain the role of mediator in the war between Ukraine and Russia.

At the same time, it is important to consider that Lukashenko's role as a mediator has a time limit. It can be assumed that Moscow has taken a clear position that starting from May 21, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine loses legitimacy and cannot be involved in any negotiations. According to the aggressor's perspective, this provides Russia with full justification to continue military actions and occupy even larger territories of Ukraine. Consequently, the need to involve Lukashenko in the war will likely increase after May 21, 2024.

Based on the analysis of Lukashenko's statements, the following conclusions can be drawn. 

Firstly, Lukashenko was unsuccessful in convincing Putin and the Russian Security Council to renounce the use of Belarusian territory for further aggression against Ukraine.

Secondly, Lukashenko has been given a tactical opportunity to "play mediator." However, it is evident that the Kremlin is well aware of the insincerity of this role, as they themselves are not interested in negotiations until the occupied territories of Ukraine are incorporated into the Russian Constitution. Lukashenko is being used as a pawn in a public spectacle, and although it is likely that he is aware of this, he is unable to reject this puppet role due to its alignment with his own vested interests—maintaining power in Belarus.

Thirdly, it can be assumed that Lukashenko has obtained an interim tacit agreement to retain the presidency for the time being, which he usurped in 2020. However, his future will depend on the unfolding situation in Ukraine, military operations, and the necessity of utilizing Belarusian territory for further aggression. It will also depend on Lukashenko's willingness or unwillingness to support the Kremlin's decisions.

Lukashenko finds himself in a precarious and turbulent position, as he risks losing relevance and becoming an expendable figure for Putin.

With a high degree of confidence, it can be predicted that in any case, the Kremlin can leverage the electoral situation in Belarus in 2025 to diminish Lukashenko's influence, reducing him from a kneeling position to a position of complete subservience.



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