Andrey Fedorov: “Lukashenko Knows Russia’s Pressure Points Very Well”

By Dmitry Kramchuk

Executive director of National informational centre of Russia Andrey Fedorov told his opinion about development of Belarusian-Russian interrelations.

-- How do you appraise Lukashenko’s politics towards Russia? Is he free enough to choose the tactics of his political games?

-- Lukashenko knows Russia’s pressure points very well and this gives him the understanding of how to act. He knows perfectly where he can press and where he can ease. This entire story about Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a classic example of the fact that now today even having a bunch of economic problems as Belarus has, one must have flexible behavior. One must choose one or another way. But here comes another question: can Belarus and Lukashenko allow themselves the freedom of choice or not. Moscow reacts very painfully on all these steps which are being made towards the West. Though from my point of view these are not full steps, but wavering. But in the time I consider that Lukashenko can be accepted by the West, but in a certain period of time and under the certain circumstances.

-- But can Russia “outbid” Lukashenko from the West?

-- The whole situation is that in the nearest time there will be less money that there is in the West. 2011 – 2014 will be the years of great outgoings in Russia: the Olympic Games, the World Student Games, elections and many others. This is the situation when Belarus won’t have the possibility to get money from Russia under many reasons. But there will be money in the West, which considers investments to Belarus to be strategic. Russia invests money into our country mostly from the tactic point of view. They have this principle: “today and now”. If they need something now – they will give money, if they don’t need anything – they won’t give any money. Even in European Parliament they regard that it’s much easier to integrate Belarus that Russia into European system. And another thing: European system doesn’t need Russia.

-- But does Europe need Belarus without democratic changes?

-- I guess that exactly economic situation, actions of IMF and realization of program “Eastern partnership” lead to certain changes in domestic policy. The same happened in many countries. The scheme is like this: democracy in exchange for money. And this scheme actually works. From this point of view a graduate process of democratization of life in Belarus is quite possible. And it is possible exactly in the framework of development of economic and political connections with European Union. By the way this graduate democratization isn’t any way harmful for Lukashenko. Gradually the period of harsh confrontation of authorities and opposition changed to integration of opposition into political life of the country under the certain circumstances. And these circumstances will be coordinated not with Belarusian opposition but with European Union and others. You also shouldn’t forget one thing: one year remained until the time when Europe will have one solid foreign policy line. When European Union will have its own president and foreign minister. This means they will accept one consolidating line towards Belarus. And Russia will be not able to change it. Today we don’t like Brussels and don’t work with it – we work through Bonn, Rome and Paris. In a year there will be less opportunities to do that.

-- I would like to return to the situation of Belarus not recognizing of South Ossetia and Abkhazia…

-- In my opinion, the whole situation which we see there, it wasn’t just a test for Belarus, it was the test for the whole post soviet area. People in Astana and many other places waited for the decision of Belarus. And the fact that there wasn’t any recognition from the side of Belarus was very influential. Belarus became this very doubt-worm which got into the apple of CIS. This meant that if Belarus said “no”, there is something wrong. And this worm will remain and will influence many processes.

-- Which political steps, in your opinion, we can expect from Lukashenko?

-- I guess, there will be an attempt of changing of the image of Belarus. There will be stress on Belarus being a European country. The main thesis will be that Belarus is ready to develop together with Europe. And in the same time it will try to keep good relations with Russia. But these movements will touch interests of Russia anyway. And the conspicuousness towards Minsk can grow much. And the main problem of the state relations between our countries is that the both sides are unpredictable. We don’t have strict logic of interrelations. Moreover, the amount of anti-American sayings decreased from the side of Lukashenko. It is also the beginning of something which will lead somewhere. And this is also the sign that Lukashenko can make an unpredictable maneuver. And this maneuver will gibe him additional points on the international arena. And it will also divert from domestic policy Belarusian problems – the level of democracy, freedoms of mass media and political prisoners.