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Further rapprochement with the West threatens Belarus with “Maidan” and Lukashenko with Yanukovych’s fate

The West would like to tear off Belarus from Russia and break the union of the two countries, and this is happening now, said Pavel Svyatenkov, a Russian political analyst, when commenting to EADaily on the intention of Belarus and U.S. to return ambassadors.

“As the relations of Moscow and the West deteriorate, Alexander Lukashenko is receiving bonuses, such as lifting of the sanctions, restoration of the relations. He is no longer considered as the last dictator of Europe etc. Nothing extraordinary is happening, in fact. It is clear that Lukashenko is trying to use the crisis in the relations of Moscow and the West to gain a foothold in the West. However, if experience is any guide, the West holds a grudge on such politicians. Consequently, at the next stage, Lukashenko may fall a victim to a coup like the one that happened to Yanukovych,” Svyatenkov said.

Oleg Nemenskiy, a senior research fellow at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, shares his concerns over the Belarus president’s fate.

“During the recent years, we could see that the West’s policy towards Belarus has changed, and this is the West’s rational choice. None of the attempts to overthrow Lukashenko through any type of ‘Maidan’ or plotting by the elites has succeeded. Besides, the West still treats Belarus as an instrument in the relations with Russia. Actually, Belarus is not an ‘inherently valued’ state for the West, Nemenskiy said.  In this light, the West little cares for the democracy in Belarus. What it seeks is to improve its positions in Belarus amid the growing discrepancies with Russia. Belarus, in turn, uses that chance to improve the relations with U.S. and the European Union, as it really seeks to soften the West’s negative attitude to the Belarus regime, Nemenskiy said.

He recalls that Russian had been blaming Belarus for its bad relations with the West, as it impeded also the relations of Russia and Belarus. In the current situation, the West is keen to get more levers of pressure on Russia through Belarus, the expert said.

He explained that almost entire political elite in Belarus, even Lukashenko’s entire team, except him, is pro-Western. “Russia sees no alternative to Lukashenko in Belarus,” the expert believes. In his words, for the people of Belarus, there is no alternative to him too, as the people have a pro-Russian orientation. Lukashenko hates competition in the ‘pro-Russian field’ and he successfully removes any rudiments of rivalry there. “This creates a dangerous situation in the relations with Belarus, as return of the U.S. ambassador to Minsk will increase the pro-American sentiments among the political elites of Belarus,” the expert said.

He said the U.S. Embassy may become a major attraction for the political and business elites. “This will increase the West’s influence on Belarus from inside, through the work with the public and elites on quite a legal basis, Nemenskiy said.

He is sure that the U.S. still considers Lukashenko as a dictator who must be replaced. The U.S. Ambassador will be preparing the scenario of Lukashenko’s replacement with new pro-Western leadership, and there are already alternatives to him.

“Actually, Lukashenko plays with fire by improving the relations with the West,” Oleg Nemenskiy said recalling that Yanukovych also tried to improve the relations with the West.

A ‘Maidan’ in Minsk will affect the Russia-Belarus relations too. Although Lukashenko is not an easy partner for Russia, his replacement will damage Russia’s interests, as there is simply no alternative to Lukashenko, the expert said. He considers the possible return of the U.S. Ambassador to Minsk as rather troublesome for both the Belarus regime and the Russian-Belarusian relations.

EADaily reported earlier that U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Belarus Scott Rowland announced that Washington and Minsk may discuss possible return of ambassador this year. He said a return of the U.S. Ambassador to Belarus would be a very good step forwards in the development of the two countries’’ relations.  The last ambassador of U.S. to Belarus Karen Stewart was recalled in late 2007. Since then, the U.S. diplomatic office in Belarus has been headed by U.S. Charge d'Affaires.

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