Makei in Warsaw tries to legitimate the dictator.
Andrei Suzdaltsev spoke with charter97.org about today's visit of Belarusian foreign minister Uladzimir Makei to Warsaw. He thinks Lukashenka's behavior demonstrated lately is supposed to please the European Union to gain its support in 2015. If Russia tackles the current crisis, it will scarcely help Lukashenka take the presidential post for the fifth time in a row.
– There's a big complicated game. We have been watching it from Moscow for a long time. We must admit that Uladzimir Makei, of course, does a great job of promoting the Lukashenka regime in Europe. Not in Belarus, by the way. It looks like the country lives apart from the rest of the world. He establishes contacts with Brussels and representatives of the EU and Washington and he does it well.
– What has Lukashenka done for the West in recent months?
– Firstly, he recognised the new government of Ukraine. He recognised Oleksandr Turchynov after the coup and attended the inauguration ceremony of Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv. The West noticed it. He supported Ukraine with resources – oil products and truck supplies. He now re-exports Ukrainian goods to Russia, repacks and replaces goods. Russia noticed it. He transports and delivers banned food to the Russian market, which is a great help for the EU. Europe sees and appreciates it. In fact, his work in fact reduces the imposed sanctions to zero. It's clear, because all European companies and agricultural business will not allow the niches of the Russian market to go to someone else, for examples to Brazil or to the Russians, after a decades-long struggle. Lukashenka helps Europe out. The main thing is giving a venue for a trilateral meeting of representatives of the Eurasian Union, Ukraine and the EU on August 26. The war in eastern Ukraine and the crisis between Ukraine and Russia are profitable for Minsk. Makei flew to get benefits.
– What can the regime receive from the European Union?
– The aim of the regime is to break the isolation, attract flows of investments and get support in the 2015 “election”, which will be the legitimisation of the fifth [presidential] term. This is very important. The fifth term is not the fourth or the third term. It almost completes the formation of the dynasty. It's clear the sixth term is likely to be Viktor Lukashenka's.
– Why did Lukashenka become so brave not to be afraid of consequences from the Kremlin?
– Yes, Lukashenka's game is rather tough and open. He behaves in this way because the Russian authorities have their hands tied by willingness to keep Belarus as Russia's ally amid the aggravated situation in Ukraine. Minsk is not going to support Russia's intentions to close the Ukrainian market in the framework of the Customs Union for goods that most likely be European. Russia wouldn't like to lose its formal ally. Lukashenka knows it and use it thinking he will get away with it.
– Let's assume that the West really begins a dialogue with Lukashenka and gives him his due. But political prisoners still remain behind bars...
– They are not political prisoners, but political hostages. This is the final stage to solve the problem with Europe. Makei is moving to this stage. He will try to get rid of someone of the political prisoners. The authorities cannot amnesty them, because the prisoners have to apply for a pardon in this case. So, they will find another way. Mikalai Statkevich, the main person in the group of the political prisoners, is a hard fighter against the regime. He won't agree on trade and arrangements. He will struggle not for geopolitics, but against Lukashenka's dictatorship.
– If the European Union suddenly stops being the enemy, someone else should be appointed enemy to distract public attention from the dictatorship itself.
– Yes, it is an important problem. Ahead of 2015, both the regime and the West will exert all their strength to build the united civil front against Russia. No illusions: if Russia manages to tackle the crisis with Europe and the US, which it can do though Lukashenka doesn't think so, he will have big problems in 2015 from Moscow. So, he turned his face to the West seeking its support. Lukashenka is afraid of Moscow, so he'll do his best to pit all opposition members against Moscow rather than against the regime.
– Will the economic situation change for ordinary Belarusians?
– Of course not. Belarus has two main export items for the West – oil products and potash fertilisers. Belarus continues to sell them as before. We need to mention that the money from smuggling remain in the pockets of Lukashenka's clan. Why did ordinary Belarusians fail to earn on that export? Firstly, it's disgusting to steal from your neighbour's pocket. Secondly, all that money belongs to Lukashenka personally. Belarusians won't become richer, but they will go to work abroad more often.
– Do you think the facilitation of the visa regime with Europe is possible?
– Yes, something may change in the visa issue. Belarusians now pay for Schengen visas much more than Russians, though Belarus is the leader in visas obtained. No one in Eastern Europe have so many Schengen visas per capita.