The president of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko has been in power since July 1994, i.e., 25 years, which is most longer than all European leaders (except for monarchs).
He is now in his 5th presidential term. It is well-known what in Belarusian and Russian society he has the nickname “Father”. Such a “call sign” explains a lot of things in the history of the neighbouring state, but it also obliges a lot. After all, the father of the nation, as was always the case, concentrating immense power in his hands, bears, at the same time, full responsibility for the results of his rule. And what are these results?
Let’s analyse: how everything began and how everything ended up.
In the distant 1994, Lukashenko stated in his electoral program that Belarus is on the verge of an abyss. And here he, of course, was right: back then in the republic there was a sharp falling of production and agriculture, high rates of inflation, and crime and corruption was at an exorbitant level. Generally, at first sight, the social and economic situation in Belarus of that time differed little from the Russian one. According to Lukashenko, it was necessary to “take away the people from the abyss”, and for this it was necessary to replace the government.
And the new government had to implement, according to him, the following goals: reduce inflation and stop the impoverishment of the people, destroy the mafia, reduce the level of corruption, re-establish ties with the republics of the former USSR (first of all with Russia).
In the second round of the presidential election on July 10th 1994, victory was won by Aleksandr Lukashenko, having collected 80.1% of the vote and having become, thereby, the first president of independent Belarus.
On the referendum that took place in 1995 at the initiative of Lukashenko, four questions were asked to the citizens of the country: about giving the Russian language state status, about introducing a new national flag and State Emblem, about approving the policy of Lukashenko on economic integration with Russia, and about the right of the president of Belarus to dismiss the Supreme Council. More than 75% of those who came to the referendum answered positively to all four questions.
In the subsequent years the head of Belarus indeed achieved significant progress in the country’s rapprochement with Russia. In January 1995 an agreement on the creation of a payment and customs union between Belarus and Russia was signed. In February of the same year Lukashenko and Yeltsin signed the treaty of friendship, neighborliness, and cooperation between the countries, in 1996 — the agreement on the creation of a Community of Belarus and Russia, and in 1998 — the agreement on the equal rights of citizens of Russia and Belarus.
In Belarus a political crisis broke out in summer of 1996: 70 deputies of the Supreme Council of Belarus added their signatures for Aleksandr Lukashenko’s impeachment because of a violation of the Constitution of the country committed by him
In response Lukashenko took the initiative of a referendum on the adoption of amendments to the Constitution and on November 24th 1996, based on its results (unrecognised by Europe and the US), the 5-year term of the presidency began anew, and the president received big powers (including the right to dissolve parliament), which he did not hesitate to use: The Supreme Council of the 13th convocation was dismissed.
In principle, the situation was not much different from the Russian crisis of autumn 1993, except that bloodshed in Belarus managed to be avoided. However, unlike Yeltsin, who, following the results of our clashes, in addition to the obvious strengthening of his powers, retained the basic democratic freedoms in the country, his colleague from Minsk pursued the path of establishing in Belarus a rigid system of personal power. The prosecution of the independent press and well-known oppositionists began, and the disliked-by-the-government politicians fleeing the country declared the existence of certain “death squads”: in essence – Lukashenko’s oprichnik extrajudicially destroying all those who are dissatisfied with the position of the Belarusian leader. And the latter called to punish the opposition publicly.
Unlike the neighbouring Russia, which couldn’t at all recover from the consequences of shock therapy and the liberal reforms, “father” decided to go his own, quasi-Soviet way. By the way, for some reason very few researchers pay attention to that fact that the economic course of Lukashenko was a vivid example of what would have followed the attempt to restore Soviet power in Russia in the 90s.
All market reforms carried out at that time in Belarus were cancelled and privatisation was stopped. State control of prices was introduced and the earnings of state employees was doubled.
Such a policy, as a matter of fact, resulted only in universal equality in poverty, and the standard of living by the beginning of the second presidential term of Lukashenko (2001) was significantly lower than the average Russian, and working-class citizens of the country fled in large quantities to Russia in order to earn money: in Belarus it was possible to live on the average income only by strongly tightening one’s belt.
At the same time, in the 2000s annual GDP growth averaged 6.3%. The income of the citizens of Belarus also grew very significantly. But the frankly short-sighted policy of creating a “Soviet reserve” ended in what it should have ended in: big failure.
The financial crisis that struck Belarus in 2011 was, in essence, the price to pay for a decade of refusing reforms and missed opportunities.
The devaluation of the national currency was announced, the dollar exchange rate in 2011 grew from 3000 to 8500 Belarusian rubles, there was an inflation jump. It is characteristic that even the police regime, unprecedented in terms of its rigidity, couldn’t contain the protest actions across the whole country. Inflation in 2011 was 108.7%. Food prices (including those controlled by the state) in 2011 grew on average by 125%. At the same time, salaries fell in the dollar equivalent from $500 to $170 — 220, i.e., approximately to the level of 2005.
In 2014, against the background of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Belarus was overtaken by the second wave of the financial-economic crisis. If from January to the middle of December 2014 the Belarusian ruble steadily decreased in relation to the dollar by approximately 1% a month, then on December 15th there was a sharp collapse of the ruble by more than for 8%, and the next day – by 9%. The general decline of the Belarusian ruble against the dollar in 2014 was 25%.
The devaluation of the Belarusian currency in 2015 was already 55%. According to the Belarusian official statistics, in 2015 the GDP of Belarus decreased by almost 4% in comparison with the same period of the previous year. In 2016 this figure was 2.6%. In 2017 and 2018 small GDP growth was observed, but concerning this indicator it will be possible to restore the Belarusian economy to the level of 2014, according to experts, no earlier than 2021.
This was the result of Lukashenko’s policy of creating a Soviet reserve on the territory of one single post-Soviet republic.
At the same time, during the entire rule of “father” the country remained afloat generally due to the economic support of allied Russia. One can only imagine what would happen to Belarus if the tariffs for oil and gas supplied to the Republic corresponded, for example, to the Ukrainian ones. the bankruptcy of the national economy would be inevitable.
But the pitcher goes often to the well, but gets broken at last. After Russia’s natural announcement in the current year of a tax manoeuvre in the oil industry, which deprived Minsk of income from the resale of oil, Lukashenko went on a rampage, first refusing to place a Russian military airbase on his territory, and then declaring his intention to raise tariffs for pumping Russian oil to Europe. So ended fraternal relations with the “ally” Belarus.
But in connection with all this seemingly gloomy situation, a logical question arises: what can all of this result in for the government in Minsk?
It is quite obvious that Lukashenko’s true plans in no way include the intention to defect to the West. In this case the destiny of Yanukovych at best, and Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein at worse awaits “father”. Political sharks – Brzezinski’s successors – will swallow him and won’t choke.
Over the past several months the growing trend of cooling relations between the two countries, resulting in an open policy of blackmail from the side of the offended Lukashenko and, especially in recent days, the demonstration by the latter of attempts to come closer to the Ukrainian regime, may result in the actual “divorce” of the two Union states. What will the consequences of this step be for Belarus and Lukashenko’s reign directly?
I already wrote about the inevitability of a coming global crisis and the possibility for Russia to safely survive the coming superstorm, preserved as a state.
And what about Lukashenko and the country led by him?
The gold and foreign exchange reserves of Belarus for January 1st 2019 were $7,157,600, from which there is 46.7 tons of gold. At the same time, the external public debt of the republic as of January 1st 2019 totalled $16.9 billion, which, according to official figures, amounts to 29.6% of GDP.
International financial institutions use their techniques to calculate the Belarusian external debt and national debt in particular. According to them, Belarus will need no less than 67% (that is 2/3) of GDP to cover debts.
It’s needless to say that as a result of the future economic crisis, the situation in Belarus will worsen manyfold, and in the absence of support from Russia and without a solid “safety cushion”, the government in the country will inevitably collapse. The part of Belarusian society that is pro-Russia will remind “father” of the current anti-Russian somersaults, and the nationalistically oriented minority, having called for the help of the international community, will try to saddle it and stir up a Maidan on the wave of national discontent. Against this background, the unity in the camp of the military may crack. I will remind that a revolution is always a split of the elite. And – welcome to Ukraine 2014, edition 2.0. Local analogs of Navalnyists can undertake the role of nationalist brigades, supported by the broken-away comprador part of the “top”. And then – the end of the government of Lukashenko will be unenviable. America will definitely not intercede for the “last dictator in Europe”, and chaos on the territory of the recent ally of Russia will very much suit the Americans.
Only it seems to me that Russia, in the person of the Russian president, will not allow Belarus to be eaten under any circumstances.
In the event that the current political leadership of Belarus falls into a zugzwang situation, as was the case, for example, with Yanukovych from November 2013, the Russians, of course, will intervene and will do so in such a way that most likely no one will be able to predict when it will happen. No expert or visionary (besides, perhaps, the author of the “Kulikovo Field” song) managed to predict the return of Crimea to the structure of Russia as a result of the Ukrainian crisis. Putin never repeats himself, and so far no one has been able to pre-calculate his political moves.
Question: How do Belarusians relate to Russians?
Answer: Directly. They are also Russians…
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