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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Lukashenko Offers Yeltsin Tainted Cup




We will act as we have agreed to," President Boris Yeltsin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko enigmatically confirmed upon their farewell handshake last week.


What could be agreed to, and what common personal interest could be found between these two people, who had already for five years been building up the strange performance under the title "Russian-Belarussian integration," with its annual signing of dozens of momentous documents and its triumphal smashing of wine glasses in the Kremlin Palace? It had finally became clear even to the most fervent enthusiasts of increasing Russian territory and the most fervent fans of Lukashenko in Moscow that the "great Slav" was not interested in a genuine merger.


Lukashenko, as an experienced psychoanalyst, simply uses sweet integrationist speeches to exploit the phantom great-power complexes of Russia's political elite, to shake loose petty economic dividends from the Russian budget. But he will never exchange his fully satisfying job as dictator of an average European country for the post of secretary of the Minsk oblast committee. True, there is one condition under which he would have willingly gone for uniting Russia and Belarus - if he had been guaranteed power in the unified state. But no one could guarantee this, and thus Russian-Belarussian unification already long ago entered its current stage of sluggish imitation.


But it seems that the semiliterate collective farm boss has, this time, found an ingenious, quantum-mechanical superposition of two seemingly incompatible strategies - to maintain power over his Belarussian subjects and to attempt to gain the Russian throne.


Lukashenko brought with him to Moscow a draft confederation of the two states that includes the introduction of the post of popularly elected confederation president. This version, generally speaking, does not suit Moscow, which likes to see unification more as the dissolving of Belarus into the Russian Federation. But let's say he is able to convince Moscow to accept this plan. Then he will run for this presidential post, most likely as a candidate of a united left opposition, which has long been looking for someone to replace its dull Gennady Zyuganov.


In the case of victory (which is very real) Lukashenko will, just like Slobodan Milosevic in the Yugoslav Federation, turn the post of union president into a powerful instrument in the unified state. In case of his defeat (which is possible), he returns to Minsk and becomes a more zealous advocate of Belarussian sovereignty than Zenon Poznyak, turning the new presidential post into nothing.


But why does Yeltsin need all of this? Not long ago, he himself was thinking about a combination ? la Milosevic. But now he realistically assesses his power and is thinking above all about guarantees for his own security and that of his family after he leaves the post of president of Russia. He does not believe in paper. He wants to receive personal guarantees from his successor.


Why should he trust Lukashenko? Well, first of all, in contrast to Russian politicians, who have nothing to give Yeltsin in exchange, Lukashenko needs Yeltsin to support his confederation plan. Secondly, this person, with his absurd plebian mustache and hair combed over his forehead, possesses a vigorous drive and the charm of a provincial idiot.