By Paul Goble
It will be a truly delicious irony of history if Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenka becomes the first foreign leader to lose power because of Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election. But that possibility is now being suggested by some Russian commentators.
Among the most prominent of these is Konstantin Zatulin, director of the Moscow Institute of CIS countries, who argues that Lukashenka miscalculated in betting that Clinton would win and that Moscow would have no choice to support him regardless of what he said or did (pravda.ru/world/formerussr/belorussia/22-02-2017/1325277-zatulin-0/).
That is because the Belarusian president assumed that relations between Washington and Moscow would deteriorate under a Clinton presidency and that Russia, however many economic problems it faced at home, would continue to support Lukashenka and his regime sufficiently that they could survive.
But Clinton didn’t win, Zatulin points out, and now all the things that the Belarusian president thought he could get away with have put him in Moscow’s bad books forever. Indeed, the Moscow official and commentator says, Lukahsenka has proved to be “a bad ally for Russia and perhaps not an ally at all.”
And “now it has turned out that Belarus is not so much needed in the interests of Trump or anyone else,” and Lukashenka faces serious unrest at home without the likelihood that anyone is going to come in and save him with a fresh infusion of cash. As a result, the Belarusian leader is in trouble and it is deeper because of his miscalculation about the US elections.
That Lukashenka is in trouble at home should now be clear not only in the wake of last weekend’s protests over the vagrants tax but also plans for more such protests ahead – and also for the continuing protests against business use of part of the territory on which the Kuropaty mass graves are located (belaruspartisan.org/politic/371958/).
Few would have predicted – and Lukashenka certainly didn’t – that his vagrants tax would trigger what is becoming a revolutionary situation, one that is especially serious because the Belarusian leader now has no one in the east or the west who will bail him out for his or her own interests.
That makes these days especially dangerous, and Belarusian commentator Valery Karbalevich argues that they resemble the lead up to the February 1917 revolution in that the authorities then and again now have thoroughly discredited themselves and find that as a result there is no one to whom they can turn (sn-plus.com/ru/page/diagnosis/7464/).