Aliaksandr Lukashenka is a villain in the western public opinion.
The president of the country, who has been in power for 20 years, has become embodiment of anti-democratic policies, which is one that European elites condemn regardless of any nuances.
We have already got used to the image of the Belarusian ruler as a dictator, who still rules the country by rigging elections and dealing with the opposition shortly and brutally. But this is only one side of the coin.
There is another too – Lukashenka actually did receive the support of a significant part of Belarusian society. Mainly that is for becoming a guarantor of the fairly stable situation in the country, which turned out to be an important fact in the former Soviet republics slowly getting on their feet. Official data show regularly paid and continuously growing salaries, low utility prices, cheap public transportation and the lack of unemployment. In reality it is not all that rosy, but the social model that we are dealing with corresponds with many Belarusians, who do not know its price.
Lukashenka has taken a path different from that of Russian or Ukrainian politicians. He did not build an oligarchic capitalism with sharp social contrasts. Apart from that, despite the formal ties with political and economic institutions that link Belarus and Russia, in the two latest decades he managed to oscillate between East and West and by so doing preserve the de-facto sovereignty. It may well be that playing in different situations right under the nose of the Kremlin is Lukashenka’s most valuable ability.
For the West – and for Poland especially – small and large conflicts of Belarus and Russia could be a chance to win something in the Eastern policy. It is a shame that our diplomacy failed to use these opportunity.
Filip Memches, Rzeczpospolita (Poland)