Political masquerade

On March 27, 2014 the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution declaring Crimea’s referendum on independence illegal. Ten countries, including Armenia, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Belarus, supported Russia. Today it is the first official, albeit indirectly (through a vote in the United Nations) recognition of Crimea’s referendum by the official Minsk. At the same time, the government of Belarus did not make a public statement on recognition of the referendum.

UN General Assembly Resolution is advisory in nature, but despite the fact that it shows first of all the position of the U.S. and the EU, in any case Russia will treat it seriously, as this document represents a certain geopolitical solitude of the Russian Federation, although Russian MFA is vehemently refuting this thesis. But the fact is that not all countries, which are traditionally friendly to Moscow, went on such diplomatic test in order to save friendly relations with Russia. Among the abstentions were China, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and, very importantly, Kazakhstan.

It is worth noting that Azerbaijan was among the countries that supported the resolution. This is understandable, taking into account the problem of Nagorno -Karabakh. Belgium was also in this list, as the country is teetering on the verge of collapse in two communities. Spain with Great Britain voted for the resolution too.

One may state that very quickly the resolution will become an integral component of a complex series of internal political crises, associated with separatism in a number of EU countries (Spain, Italy, UK, etc.). It is worth recalling that Moscow considers Crimean referendum logical continuation of the Kosovo precedent.

Geopolitical context

No doubt, the result of a vote in the United Nations General Assembly has geopolitical character. The world has returned to the old geopolitical rivalry twenty years after the end of the “Cold War”. We are talking about the natural boundaries, spheres of influence, straits, transport corridors, strategic places of arras and etc. It seems that everything has returned to almost the same point of the confrontation, which was defined in 1914.

Of course, we cannot compare the killing of Sashko Beliy and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but there is no doubt that that the elimination of one of the leaders of the Ukrainian "Right sector" opens the prospect of a tough fight within the ruling political coalition in Kiev.

 The impending struggle for power should be developed on the background of three very complex and contradictory processes, each of which may eventually deal a fatal blow to Ukrainian statehood: a severe economic crisis, the struggle between Kiev and regions, and the presidential campaign.

Maidan is a specific political stopper of modern Ukrainian democracy. In fact Maidan is controlling the power in the country and periodically reminds the Verkhovna Rada “who is the boss in the country”. Maidan is an “employer” of the government and allows A. Yatsenyuk to maneuver within well-defined corridors:

- The search for external sponsors, negotiations with International Monetary Fund;

- Dialogue with Russia (primarily economic issues);

- The return of the Crimea;

- Political stability in the country.

If Maidan is dissatisfied with the actions of the Verkhovna Rada and the Government, it immediately responds to the calls of “Right sector” and goes to break down the door to the government building, like on March 27, in order to demonstrate that “Right sector” is the basis of modern ruling group. The problem is that “Right sector” represents only force component and includes only ideological and nationalist fighters. It includes no professional politicians. But “Right sector” is perceived by the Ukrainian people as revolutionaries and the driving force of the revolution.

Political background of the Ukrainian presidential election reflects the already new political market of the country, where there is no pro-Russian vector. In particular, speaking on the congress of her party on March 29 Yulia Tymoshenko has announced that she “would return the Crimea”. This is not just demagogic campaign rhetoric, but a rule, regulation or restriction for the election campaign. All participants of the Ukrainian political market should take tough anti-Russian position, demanding Moscow the return of the Crimea. Other political forces, that support the dialogue with Moscow, will be considered outcasts by default.

Russia categorically rejects this ideological trend. It is believed that Russia protected the people in the Crimea from Ukrainian nationalists and the inevitable ethnic cleansing.

Moscow does not see in modern Ukraine real politicians, who are able to agree and ready to reach a compromise. The Russian leadership believes that is impossible to negotiate with Tymoshenko, Turchynov, Yatsenyuk, Yarosh.

Moscow does not participate in a political dialogue with Kiev. But it is worth noting that Kiev has also blocked a real dialogue with Moscow and set a hard prerequisite – return of the Crimea.

However, official Minsk has found a window of opportunity on the background of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis...

Political foray

The first meeting between acting President of Ukraine Alexander Turchynov and one of the leaders of the Customs Union - President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko took place on March 29. It is worth noting that the Ukrainian-Belarusian summit was prepared like a typical special operation with minimal information about it. But just after the meeting Belarusian media tried to make the summit a truly “historical” in nature. Alexander Lukashenko was immediately presented as a peacemaker of global scale.

By the way, Alexander Lukashenko’s interview with Ukrainian program “Shuster Live” ahead of the summit was very controversial. In fact, the Belarusian President has used the Ukrainian media space as an information tool in order to get a special position within the Russian- Ukrainian crisis.

Nevertheless, the interview was the only real source, which allowed to know the role and intentions of Minsk in the Russian - Ukrainian conflict.

It is interesting that in the course of the interview the Belarusian president tried to “dismiss” his mediation in the conflict between Moscow and Kiev. On the one hand, Alexander Lukashenko apparently took into account the depth of the chasm, that separated these two Eastern European countries (“I do not think there will be any radical events and the relations between Putin and Turchinov will improve” - A. Lukashenko). On the other hand, Lukashenko’s appearance in the Ukrainian information field was a kind of mediation itself without any obligations towards Russia.

In an interview with Ukrainian TV program Alexander Lukashenko took into account that he was talking with the country which has finally made its geopolitical choice - signed the Association agreement with the EU and was lost forever for the Eurasian integration. Talking to Kiev, Alexander Lukashenko actually tested a new channel of the dialogue with Brussels. He tried to use Ukraine in order to test the policy of balancing of Belarus between the two unions - European and Eurasian. It is worth noting that the considerable part of the Belarusian political class and the population support the policy of balancing, as it allows receiving dividends both from the East and the West. Ukrainian intrigue of Alexander Lukashenko is simple - ensuring his power in Minsk.

On the basis of the aforesaid task, the starting positions to determine the actual position of Alexander Lukashenko in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis are quite transparent and based on the fact that Minsk recognized the government in Kiev: “After all, we are neighbors. And the main value is the people of Ukraine and the people of Belarus. There should be no break-up here. You should talk even with the devil for the sake of preventing the worst from happening” (A. Lukashenko).

In general, the Union State of Belarus and Russia has a classic paradox: one part of the Union State recognizes the official Kiev, and the other does not recognize the authority of Banderovites in Ukraine. But Alexander Lukashenko does not care, as he faces his own very pragmatic goals:

- A. Lukashenko should be close and necessary “friend” to Kiev, it means and to West too. This will help him to protect the power from the influence and pressure from the U.S., the European Union, as well as revolutionary activists in Kiev.

That’s why the Belarusian president even sympathized with Ukrainians that they “did not have time” to join NATO as it would help to save the Crimea as part of the republic: “Here I agree with you that today the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens believe that it is an attempt to take their territory and sovereignty. And further movement in this direction is an aggression. All Ukrainians will think in such a way...”

- At the same time, in general Alexander Lukashenko does not support accession of the Crimea to Russia. He believes that the risks exceed the dividends received. Moreover, he is afraid that as a result of the “Crimean campaign” Ukraine may join NATO.

- Alexander Lukashenko really needs united, pro-Western Ukraine, which will not join the Eurasian integration. If Ukraine starts to divide, then Russia will have to invest in the economy of “fragments” of Ukraine and open its market for East Ukrainian goods.

- On the basis of the above-mentioned priority, A. Lukashenko refuses to support the Russian-speaking population of East and South-east of Ukraine. Moreover, Alexander Lukashenko spoke against the idea of ​​federalism, keeping in mind primarily his own country (west of Belarus): “Moreover, I am categorically against all federations! Complete idiocy!”

- Lukashenko is afraid of a military scenario of Russian - Ukrainian confrontation. He understands that the Republic of Belarus will be involved in the conflict beyond his will and the country will have to choose the side. It is clear that in this situation all the hopes for the revival of the balancing policy will disappear. In this case, the question arises: will Alexander Lukashenko be able to keep his power in the midst of conflict? Hence the calls to Kiev to accept the loss of Crimea (“De facto, this is territory of Russia”). Lukashenko does not want escalation of the conflict and uses all his microscopic foreign policy forces to prevent the war.

If a war to start tomorrow …

This position of Alexander Lukashenko, which was clearly contrary to the policy of Moscow, was comfortable for the official Kiev and formed the ideological basis of the Belarusian- Ukrainian summit. It is clear that Kiev is not very concerned about Lukashenko’s hopes to establish political communication with Brussels through Ukraine. Turchynov met with the Belarusian president not to ask him to organize a dialogue with Moscow. Kiev was interested in the issue of war and peace.

Alexander Turchynov visited the Gomel region to get the assurances that Russia would not come to the aid of the Russian population of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lugansk and other regions. It is striking that A. Lukashenko gave such guarantees to Ukraine (as if he is Chief of the Russian Armed Forces), and A. Turchynov sincerely thanked the Belarusian president for that: “I am very thankful to Alexander Lukashenko for the warmth and sincerity of the conversation. The view of the Belarus president, the Republic of Belarus itself is very important for us such as the fact that no aggression, including a third-country aggression will come from the Belarusian side against Ukraine”.

This fact is worth special attention. In fact, the Belarusian president has replaced the president of Russia, spoke for him, decided the Russian foreign policy, took over the leadership of the Russian armed forces and, at the same time, left a considerable part of the Russian population of the East and South- East of Ukraine without protection.

Of course, the Kremlin did not authorize Alexander Lukashenko to make such steps. In this case the Belarusian president is not even a mediator, he is just in the way, claiming to be Vladimir Putin.

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet again in Geneva on Monday, March 31. Agenda of the meeting is the same: Ukraine. It is unlikely that they will remember the strange political masquerade in Gomel.

А. Suzdaltsev, Moscow, 30.03.14

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