Above photo: Demonstrators in support of the government. Twitter.
NOTE: There is no question that the United States is intervening in Belarus and that it is designed to antagonize Russia by gaining more access to its border for NATO. There is also no question that there are problems in Belarus and legitimate reasons for people to protest. This article from Socialist Project describes some of the concerns of Belarusians – weakening of the social safety net and a turn toward neoliberalism.
The United States is expert at using and fomenting unrest to use as justification for interference. Moon of Alabama provides important insights into what is happening in Belarus and how Western interests are failing so far, much as they have failed recently in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Iran. But, as MoA writes, we know the US will not give up easily when it has its sights set on overthrowing an elected government.
As peace activists in the United States, our position should be for the United States to stop interfering in Belarus. The people of Belarus are capable of organizing to change their government if that is what they want. We need to respect their right to self-determination. We have enough on our hands to deal with the serious crises we face at home. – MF
The Union State Killed It.
While President Alexander Lukashenko claimed to have won 80% of the votes during last Sunday’s election, the ‘western’ candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya claimed that she had won. (While the 80% is certainly too high it is most likely that Lukashenko was the real winner.) Protests and riots ensued. On Tuesday Tikhanovskaya was told in no uncertain terms to leave the country. She ended up in Lithuania.
During the week several nightly riots were shut down by the police. Several protester were ‘roughed up’. Videos of those incidents were used by the usual ‘western journalists’ as example of unusual police brutality. It is as if none of those empire serving scribes ever watched how ‘western’ police react when bottles and fireworks are thrown at them.
In an interview with Strana.ua two employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus explained their view of the situation (edited machine translation):
“The command has repeatedly informed the personnel that foreign provocateurs are preparing riots. These are America, Poland, the Baltics and Ukraine. Russia does not need a strong president in Belarus either; they want to put their own man instead of Lukashenko. It so happened that Belarus for all its neighbors has become like a bone in the throat. They do not like Lukashenko because he does not allow Western or Russian oligarchs into the country. Yes, and the local are not allowed to raise their heads. For this, everyone does not like him and that muddies the water.”
“Did you see who came and stood in front of us during the hot phase of the riots on Monday? These are rich city kids, the children of rich parents who are fed up with the well-fed life. These are the boys, young people who have lost their shores, who do not understand what they want at all. Most of my colleagues are guys from the villages. And they remember how their parents had a hard time in the 90s, until Luka came and stopped the mess. Now we do not live richly, but we are not poor. But many do not appreciate that.”
Anyway, the police were told to tone it down. They did not like that (edited machine translation):
“Nobody wants to be torn up like the Berkut in Ukraine. We remember its fate. We have an order, we carry it out. All our people understand that if these rich kids and their masters come to power, we will hang from poles. We are accused of beating people. They did not beat people, but carried out the order, the commanders told them in advance – to act harshly. We worked.”
Berkut was the Ukrainian police force that was falsely accused of having fired at demonstrators during the 2014 Maidan coup and was afterwards dismantled.
There don’t seem to be many rich city kids in Minsk. Throughout the week the protests groups in Belarus were rather small. The ‘western’ media have pushed high number counts and talked of countrywide protest when twenty women stood on a sidewalk in Minsk. Photos can tell the real story in such situations. Some observers got very excited when some 200 staff of the MTZ Minsk Tractor Works staged a short walkout. But MTZ Minsk Tractor Works has 17,000 employees.
The photo below was taken and published around noon local time today. This was to be today’s central protest in Minsk. On a Saturday morning, in excellent weather, only some 2,000 people came out. Minsk has some 2 million inhabitants. The ‘rich city kids’ came. And few beyond that.
Nexta is by the way the central communication channel used in this color revolution attempt. On Tuesday another Stana.ua report gave some details about its operation (edited machine translation):
The main supplier of news from the streets of Minsk and other cities of Belarus is the Nexta Live channel. Today he has crossed the bar of a million subscribers, although he was widely cited only a day ago, when clashes began on the streets of the capital.It has a sister channel Nexta – with half a million subscribers. Both sites mainly forward messages to each other. But the basic one is the channel with the Live prefix in the name. The most operative videos from the scene appear there.
And most importantly, it is there that plans for a protest are published – at what time and where to gather for a rally, when to start a strike, and so on.
Round the clock, and especially during nighttime opposition rallies, this public is updated at a rate of several messages per minute. Most of which are exclusive videos and photos directly from the hotbeds of protests.
In addition to the video, the channel is constantly coordinating the actions of the protesters. They are told about the movements of the riot police, and sympathizers are told how to shelter the protesters.
Another function of the channel is constant calls to go outside and encouraging attacks on police officers.
On the very first day of the protests, Nexta was marked with a joyful message “People are beating the riot police”, as if law enforcement officers are not people.
Nexta is led by anti-Lukashenko pro-Western ‘activists’ in Poland. The editor in chief is one Roman Protasevich. He was perviously a journalist for the Polish-Lithuanian-funded Euroradio, as well as for the CIA’s Radio Liberty. Nexta was founded by Stepan Putila who earlier worked for the Polish-Belarusian channel Belsat which is based in Warsaw and is funded by the Polish Foreign Ministry. Both currently live in Warsaw.
As these media produce fresh videos 24 by 7 and do many online post there must be a sizeable staff behind Nexta, in Poland as well as on the ground in Belarus. This is certainly not a cheep operation and it certainly has nation state backing. Obama’s deputy national security advisor left little doubt about who is behind this game.
Ben Rhodes @brhodes – 4:11 UTC · 11 Aug 2020Americans have to recognize that the fight against Lukashenko in Belarus is our fight. He is part of the same trend that has ravaged the US, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Hong Kong, Brazil, Israel, Egypt, the Philippines, Zimbabwe, and others. We need sustained solidarity in response
Neither the EU nor the U.S. have acknowledged Lukashenko’s election win. Both clearly want him out. There are talks about sanctions.
Even Russian media have spoken against him:
Steve Rosenberg @BBCSteveR – 6:47 UTC · Aug 15, 2020Judging by Russian media this morning, it’s not looking good for Alexander Lukashenko:
• “The question’s no longer will he go, but when”
• “Lukashenko’s nightmare becomes reality”
• “Hard to see how he can turn events in his favour”
This is not going well for Lukashenko. He could shut down the protests but he knows that the game would then escalate and that it would not end well. He clearly needs help. While President Putin of Russia and President Xi of China had both congratulated him, neither has much interest in keeping him in office.
What could he offer?
The Ukrainian operation to fake a ‘Russian coup’ threat in Belarus by baiting 32 former Wagner fighters into the country had failed. But the men were still imprisoned in Belarus.
Yesterday they were flown home on a special Belarus air force flight. This cleared the atmosphere for talks with Russia.
Early this morning Lukashenko took the next step. He warned publicly that a danger to Belarus would also be a danger to Russia:
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Saturday he wanted to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning street protests were not just a threat to Belarus.
“There is a need to contact Putin so that I can talk to him now, because it is not a threat to just Belarus anymore,” he said, according to state news agency Belta.”Defending Belarus today is no less than defending our entire space, the union state, and an example to others … Those who roam the streets, most of them do not understand this.”
The code word in the public message was “the union state”. When I read those words I smiled. Lukashenko hates the Union State idea. Today he emphasized it. This was a deal offer.
In 1999 Russia and Belarus signed a treaty to form a Union State out of Russia and Belarus. It would include free movement, a common defense and economic integration as well as a union parliament. But since then Lukashenko has dragged his feet on the issue. At the end of the last year Putin pressed him again to finally execute the deal. When Lukashenko rejected that Putin shut off the country’s economic lifeline from Russia. Belarus did no longer receive subsidized Russian oil that it could refine and sell at market prices to the ‘west’. Lukashenko then tried to make nice with the ‘west’. He bought U.S. fracking oil. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Minsk. In March the U.S. reopened its embassy in Belarus.
But now the ‘west’ Lukashenko had tried to coddle with is trying to get him killed. Every U.S. embassy is also a U.S. regime change base. He would have been better off without one.
As he was the target of an ongoing U.S. led regime change operation, and with economic pressure in direct sight, Lukashenko obviously needed help. Today he finally wised up and capitulated to Moscow on the Union State issue.
It did not take long for Putin to respond. Some 6 hours after the above Reuters report the Kremlin published a note about a Telephone conversation with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko (emphasis added):
Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at the initiative of the Belarusian side.Alexander Lukashenko informed Vladimir Putin about the developments following the presidential election in Belarus. Both sides expressed confidence that all existing problems will be settled soon. The main thing is to prevent destructive forces from using these problems to cause damage to mutually beneficial relations of the two countries within the Union State.
In connection with the return to Russia of 32 people who were previously detained in Belarus, a positive assessment was given to close cooperation of the relevant agencies in this regard.
They also agreed on further regular contacts at various levels, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening allied relations, which fully meets the core interests of the fraternal nations of Russia and Belarus.
It seems to me that Putin accepted the deal. Lukashenko, and his police, will not hang from a pole. Russia will take care of the problem and the Union State will finally be established.
That does not mean that the color revolution attempt is over. The U.S. and its lackey Poland will not just pack up and leave. But with the full backing from Russia assured, Lukashenko can take the necessary steps to end the riots.
This announcement tells NATO that its over:
Steve Rosenberg @BBCSteveR – 17:23 UTC · 15 Aug 2020Lukashenko reveals details of phone call with Putin: “We have an agreement with Russia on collective security…and we agreed: if we request it, comprehensive assistance to ensure security in #Belarus will be provided to us.”
That is the backing that was needed. All U.S. and NATO hope to somehow get Belarus under their control has just ended.
Lukashenko should now start to shut down the 34 projects and organizations the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy is financing in his country. The people involved in these, likely many of the rioting ‘rich kids’, should be kept under observation.
For now the main issue is to stabilize the local situation. Russia as a superpower surely has ways and means to help with that. Belarus is now under its full protection.
A year from now, when the Union State is finally established, Lukashenko can resign over health issues and retire. New competitive elections can then be held.