By Paul Goble
Russian agents in the Belarusian security services along with Russian agents in the blogosphere are calling on Alyaksandr Lukashenka not to make any concessions to the protesters but rather to crack down hard as he did in 2010, according to Minsk analysts.
Such an action would not only completely block any possibility that Lukashenka could achieve a further rapprochement with the West and thus force Minsk back into Moscow’s tight embrace but also spark the kind of clashes that the Russian government could use to justify armed intervention in Belarus.
Analysts at the Minsk Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Research have released a new study arguing that “the special services are misinforming [Lukashenka] by playing on his fears of ‘a Ukrainian trace’ in the protests” and thus blocking any concessions and pushing him toward a crackdown.
(For the Center’s Crisis Watch report on this subject, see csfps.by/new-research/ukrainskiy-sled-i-otkrytaya-dezinformaciya; for a discussion of its content and other actions by pro-Moscow forces inside Belarus, see Dmitry Galko’s survey on the BelarusPartisan portal at belaruspartisan.org/politic/373563/.)
According to Galko, one can conclude on the basis of the center’s report that Lukashenka “is ready to make some wise steps and concessions in the existing situation to lower social tension. But there exists a certain force which is leading him in the opposite direction by suggesting the fake danger in the form of ‘a Ukrainian scenario.’”
Some of these people are located in the Belarusian force structures. Others are involved at the edges of the protests. But the fundamental message is the same as it was in December 2010 when pro-Moscow groups told Lukashenka that he had no choice but to crack down given when Moscow would do if he didn’t.
This message, the center suggests and Galko confirms, is “direct disinformation” intended to push Lukashenka toward the abyss because a crackdown of the kind the pro-Moscow forces want would lead to one of several disasters ranging from violence inside the country to Russian intervention.
Avoiding those outcomes, Galko says, is in the interest not only of Lukashenka but also of the opposition because “an attempt to repeat the scenario of December 2010 this time can grow into a Romanian scenario” and then to “hybrid aggression” by Russia of the kind it has been using in Ukraine’s Donbass. “This scenario is being prepared,” he says.
Galko makes an additional contribution by analyzing posts on the Tuneyadets.by social group (ok.ru/group/53457858920638). That is a pro-Moscow group consisting largely or exclusively of Russians from Russia that is pushing Moscow’s line at the expense of Belarus and adding to the pressures on Lukashenka.
But the far greater threat comes from Russian agents inside the Belarusian government, he and the center’s report suggest. “If one considers that in the leadership of the Belarusian special services are certain overt or covert agents of the Kremlin, the situation is becoming extremely explosive.”
“It is possible,” Galko says, “that we are standing at the brink of attempts to carry out hybrid aggression against our country.” And he ends by concluding with the words of Maksim Filipovich, the opposition figure who was arrested in full view of the television audience: “Aleksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenka] what are you creating?”