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Thread: Uprising in Belarus

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    Hǫrđar Member Viking's Avatar
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    Default Uprising in Belarus

    Things are heating up along yet another segment of Russia's European border.

    Barricades being raised yesterday in Minsk:




    Some interesting videos from unofficial sources, presumably from yesterday, underscoring the seriousness of what is going on:

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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Proximate causes (triggers)?

    Distal causes (underlying issues)?
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    Hǫrđar Member Viking's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Here's a PhD researcher's take, written in June:

    Lukashenko’s enormous popularity over the years can be largely explained by the fact that he managed to find the source of these subsidies – Russia. Starting from the mid-90s, Lukashenko has been constantly offering his friendship to the Kremlin in exchange for tangible economic benefits. That policy became popularly known as “oil and gas in return for kisses”.

    [...]

    The Kremlin says it is ready to resume its financial support, but under one pesky condition – Belarus and Russia will have to form a union state, envisaged once in a 1999 treaty, which for Minsk would essentially mean giving up its independence and becoming one of Russia’s oblasts. There is no doubt Lukashenko would never agree to that as it would mean the end of his career as an authoritarian leader.

    Effectively, Belarus has ended up in a deadlock. The old foundations of its economy are long gone but no new formula has been found to replace them. The attempts of the last five years to improve relations with the West returned almost nothing as Lukashenko still refuses to make any democratic reforms. For many years, Belarusian authorities have been cherishing hopes that China could replace Russia as a key partner and donor, but Beijing hasn’t shown much interest. Basically, Belarus’ only visible achievement from the past ten years is increasing debt.
    For those with access, here is a Bloomberg article from last year that seems to be saying much of the same thing:

    The Kremlin is making any compensation to soften the blow contingent on a deal to integrate the two countries. That’s forcing Lukashenko to navigate a choice he has long sought to avoid: Cut a deal with Russia, at the risk of being seen to sacrifice sovereignty, or put the nation’s heavy industry on a commercial footing and turn westward for support, risking retribution from Moscow.

    [...]

    The economy as a whole has grown at a snail’s pace since the global financial crisis (an average 1.7% per annum since 2009, compared to 7.5% over the previous decade). According to one estimate, that slide has coincided with a drop in Russian energy subsidies to between 5% and 10% of Belarus’s GDP, from a pre-crisis high of 20% of GDP. A top official at state oil company Belneftekhim said at the end of October that Belarus refineries lost $250 million over the first nine months of this year, a result of the latest changes to Russia’s tax code.
    In short, the Belarusian economy has become heavily dependent on Russian subsidies. The subsidies have decreased and have not been enough to prevent slow economic growth in Belarus in recent years. The future of these subsidies is also most uncertain. Belarusians are more inclined to ask themselves why they have to put up with this dictator when he fails to deliver on the economy.
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    Member Member Gilrandir's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by Viking View Post
    The future of these subsidies is also most uncertain. Belarusians are more inclined to ask themselves why they have to put up with this dictator when he fails to deliver on the economy.
    Judging from the pro-Russian stance of the opposition leaders, Belarusians make a curious conclusion: we should oust Lukashenko and have someone instead who would renew the subsidies and tighten ties with Russia.
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    Stranger in a strange land Moderator Hooahguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    So how long do we think we have until we start seeing Little Green Men on the streets of Minsk?
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    Hǫrđar Member Viking's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    I wonder if not an open intervention by Russian forces is more likely than a covert one.

    Belarus neighbours Poland, a country with roughly a quarter the population of Russia. The Polish military has undergone some degree of modernization, and I don't think it can be completely excluded, depending on the exact circumstances, that Poland would intervene militarily in the event of a covert Russian invasion (the rhetoric used by the Polish government about the situation in Belarus is already rather aggressive; there is a Polish minority living in Belarus).

    In such a scenario, Poland would not formally be attacking Russian troops, and Russia would effectively limit the ways in which it could support its own troops if they are not to blow their cover so obviously that they might just as well have intervened formally in the first place. If significant fractions of the armed forces of Belarus resent a Russian invasion, they could provide a lot of the staying power on the ground.
    Last edited by Viking; 08-12-2020 at 20:45.
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    Stranger in a strange land Moderator Hooahguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    An open intervention wouldnt surprise me either. When the Russian military exercise Zapad 2017 happened in Belarus, some observers speculated that Russia might have left heavy equipment in Belarus, which would make such an intervention much easier.
    Last edited by Hooahguy; 08-12-2020 at 22:33.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    The scope and scale of the unrest appears to just be growing (edit: relevant video from Minsk). I think Lukashenka is running out of options; it might be too late for martial law and live rounds at this point.

    I think he is done.
    Last edited by Viking; 08-13-2020 at 15:17.
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    Backordered Member CrossLOPER's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    What I never understand is why people like Lukashenko never have exit strategies or contingency plans apart from a scorched earth policy. The longer the unrest continues, the greater the chance that permanent resentment can implant itself, or foreign intervention can occur. Surely he would have seen that his "bff forever" plan wasn't going to last that long. He could have made some basic, barely functional democratic reforms and that would have potentially allowed him protection from the EU and US. He could have played both sides and have his strange utopia as both a barricade for Russian from Europe and vice-versa.

    I guess he just lacks that skill to play that game.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by CrossLOPER View Post
    What I never understand is why people like Lukashenko never have exit strategies or contingency plans apart from a scorched earth policy. The longer the unrest continues, the greater the chance that permanent resentment can implant itself, or foreign intervention can occur. Surely he would have seen that his "bff forever" plan wasn't going to last that long. He could have made some basic, barely functional democratic reforms and that would have potentially allowed him protection from the EU and US. He could have played both sides and have his strange utopia as both a barricade for Russian from Europe and vice-versa.

    I guess he just lacks that skill to play that game.
    Only the PRC has managed something like the kind of pullback you describe -- and you could argue that it is incomplete even there.
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    Member Member Gilrandir's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by CrossLOPER View Post
    What I never understand is why people like Lukashenko never have exit strategies or contingency plans apart from a scorched earth policy.
    Because he didn't expect any threat from the earth that has been scorched for 26 years on end. What is happenning is a great eye opener for all onlookers outside Belarus (and even inside, I believe) given the fabled patience and forbearance of Belarussians. Bat'ka is not an exception.
    Last edited by Gilrandir; 08-14-2020 at 15:17.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by Viking View Post

    I think he is done.
    I heard something like that from all quarters about Maduro. But he is alive and kicking.
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    Stranger in a strange land Moderator Hooahguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Lukashenko says he’s considering asking Putin for help.

    This is far from over. Undoubtedly Lukashenko saw what happened with Ukraine and wants to avoid what happened to Yanukovych and that probably includes inviting Russia to come in to help.
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    Hǫrđar Member Viking's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilrandir View Post
    I heard something like that from all quarters about Maduro. But he is alive and kicking.
    Maduro presumably has a lot of genuine supporters. I have not seen any evidence for grassroots support for Lukashenka since I started following the situation in Belarus, so I suspect that it might be of a relatively small scale, and perhaps also of a somewhat dispassionate nature.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hooahguy View Post
    Lukashenko says he’s considering asking Putin for help.

    This is far from over. Undoubtedly Lukashenko saw what happened with Ukraine and wants to avoid what happened to Yanukovych and that probably includes inviting Russia to come in to help.
    Potentially it is very far from over, but given how unpopular Lukashenka has become, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Putin props him up for a longer period of time. The enmity in Belarus towards Lukashenka could transfer onto Putin and his regime as well. Not to mention that it would be difficult to get all those Belarusians off the streets and persuade them, with violence or otherwise, to give up everything that they have gained thus far.

    I think the best thing Putin can hope for in the medium to long term is a Belarusian government without Lukashenka that maintains good relations with Putin's regime, e.g. by getting a suitable replacement for Lukashenka either through reasonably fair elections or by some other scheme (but given that fair elections is a key demand from protesters, the latter seems difficult to achieve).
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Throughout Maduro's tenure (since Chavez' death), typically when I read something about Venezuela I saw it noted or alluded that Maduro was working hard to ingratiate himself with the military establishment. No idea what Lukashenko's relationships are like on that front, but I assume there's a more complex institutional balance than in Venezuela.

    I have relatives who grew up in Belarus and they seem to like Lukashenko because he 'brings development and keeps the streets clean.' People said the same thing about Mussolini of course, but that didn't turn out so accurate.

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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Throughout Maduro's tenure (since Chavez' death), typically when I read something about Venezuela I saw it noted or alluded that Maduro was working hard to ingratiate himself with the military establishment. No idea what Lukashenko's relationships are like on that front, but I assume there's a more complex institutional balance than in Venezuela.
    For about a month before the elections Lukashenko was touring around military bases and singing accolades to the military and law enforcement bodies who are the pride of the nation. Not to mention that their salary is quite substantial.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    @ Seamus: The greatest single bulwark against tyranny yet invented may be the non-partisan civilian-led military.
    Preach on says the choir.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Relevant channel:

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    Stranger in a strange land Moderator Hooahguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    According to multiple sources in German media, Russian troops are on their way to Minsk.
    The Kremlin is sending troops to Belarus in support of the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Corresponding media reports confirm several official sources according to BILD information. Putin uses both transport machines from the Russian Air Force and trucks from the Interior Ministry.
    Last edited by Hooahguy; 08-19-2020 at 18:15.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Presumably worky by Julian Röpcke. That guy is a bit of a sensationalist (and Bild is a tabloid), I'd take that information with a chunk of salt.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Ah thanks for that info. I guess we will find out if they are being truthful soon enough.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    It would be a surprise to no one if it happened though. It is like being surprised Trump tweeted something stupid again.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Some Russian-language news site, though now the front page is overtaken with Navalny news.
    https://meduza.io/
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    Hǫrđar Member Viking's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    While Belarus' economy is closely intertwined with the Russian economy, that's not the full story.

    It might not amount to anything, but I found it interesting that the CEO of the Norwegian chemical company Yara (of which the Norwegian state owns 36%) is heading to Salihorsk in Belarus with a delegation that also includes the company's union representative. Yara is a customer of Belaruskali and has previously publicly expressed concern over the treatment of striking Belaruskali employees.

    Belaruskali, the world's largest potash mining company, is an important company for the Belarusian economy; according to the article I linked to, the company is the country's largest exporter.
    Last edited by Viking; 09-16-2020 at 18:31.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by Viking View Post
    While Belarus' economy is closely intertwined with the Russian economy, that's not the full story.

    It might not amount to anything, but I found it interesting that the CEO of the Norwegian chemical company Yara (of which the Norwegian state owns 36%) is heading to Salihorsk in Belarus with a delegation that also includes the company's union representative. Yara is a customer of Belaruskali and has previously publicly expressed concern over the treatment of striking Belaruskali employees.

    Belaruskali, the world's largest potash mining company, is an important company for the Belarusian economy; according to the article I linked to, the company is the country's largest exporter.
    Yara?
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    Hǫrđar Member Viking's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    An anglicization of a constructed term fetching inspiration from Norse jarđar ('of earth') and the rune jāra (ᛃ), to be precise. Should have been Jara.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    So, Russian troops are in Belarus apparently. Lukashenko outlasted the protests as we feared he would (though they continually remain in the five figures of participants).

    And - striking state media journalists and suspended programs have been replaced by an insertion of Russian journalists?!? Hot damn.
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    He can hardly have outlasted the protests when they are still going on. So far Lukashenka and the protests are co-existing.

    Lukashenka has now met with imprisoned opposition figures, including Viktar Babaryka. This is in line with a report two weeks ago from Ekho Moskvy editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov that Babaryka could feature in an attempted controlled transition to a pro-Russian post-Lukashenka Belarus.

    It's also consistent with this report from about four weeks ago:

    While Moscow doesn’t trust Lukashenko, it can’t accept the opposition coming to power via street demonstrations and will back him while encouraging steps toward an eventual succession, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing internal policy.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...test-contagion

    A big question is how much Putin can steer Lukashenka where he wants him, regardless of what his plans are.
    Last edited by Viking; 10-10-2020 at 19:29.
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    Hǫrđar Member Viking's Avatar
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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Still a revolutionary atmosphere in Minsk. Only thing that is missing is the revolution.

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    Default Re: Uprising in Belarus

    Quote Originally Posted by Viking View Post
    I think Lukashenka is running out of options; it might be too late for martial law and live rounds at this point.

    I think he is done.
    Quote Originally Posted by Viking View Post
    Still a revolutionary atmosphere in Minsk. Only thing that is missing is the revolution.
    How are these two opinions compatible?
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