Walking in Bakiyev's Shoes

There is one thing many commentators on Belarus fail to understand. Alyaskandr Lukashenka has no geopolitical preferences. The Belarusian president will be friends with whomever is ready to support the survival and longevity of his regime.

Some want to read in his oil dealings with Venezuela a signal to Moscow. But the notion that Belarus is going to replace Russian oil with Venezuelan oil is ridiculous. Similarly, giving asylum to the ousted Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev is similarly seen as a challenge to Kremlin. Although such events may stimulate prolific political analysts they have little serious implications.

Moscow has nothing to lose from Bakiyev's stay in Belarus. Not only the Russians helped Bakiyev to flee Kyrgyzstan, but he can now be used as an additional tool to influence power struggle in that unstable Central Asian country.

For Lukashenka personally, protecting Bakiyev, a former president-turned-dictator is very symbolic. A Russia-supported revolt is a very realistic scenario for overthrow of Belarusian president who wants to express solidarity with Bakiyev. He will bash Russia not because he is anti-Russian but because he does not want to end up walking in Bakiyev's shoes. Perhaps the Belarusian president hopes that if this scenario comes true there will be a friendly dictator who would be willing to accept him and his sons.

Being a true Russian ally standing up against both the corrupt elite of Russia and the greedy West is the name of the game Belarusian president is playing. Taking the words and gestures of Lukashenka seriously is like trusting an experienced actor on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre.



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