Uladzimir Matskevich: The Kremlin considers Belarus to be its territory

Aliaksei Yurych, EuroBelarus Information Service

If Russia needs to occupy Belarus, it will only have to give an order to the Belarusan army, not dislocate more troops in the country.

For the first time in many years of “union construction” the session of the Supreme State Council of the “Union State of Belarus and Russia” in Minsk was attended not only by Vladimir Putin, but also by the Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev. To attend the ceremonial event, all the Russia’s top management flew to Minsk, basically leaving the country without the leaders at the time of the event in Minsk.

Philosopher and methodologist Uladzimir Matskevich, who paid attention to this incident in an interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service, believes that the arrival of the two Russian leaders in Minsk demonstrates what is the real attitude of Moscow to Belarus — as to its territory, not the satellite.

— The session of the Supreme State Council of the “Union State of Belarus and Russia” in Minsk was dull and plain. Except that after tête-à-tête negotiations Putin and Lukashenko looked satisfied, and a few days later the Russian ambassador announced the allocation of a loan to Belarus. Can we make judgments about the nature of the current Belarus-Russia relations by these indirect signs?

— Just for the words’ sake we could also say that the relations are just as dull and plain as the meeting itself.

We should pay attention to other things. There’s no point in the legal form of the existence of the so-called “Union State of Belarus and Russia”; nevertheless, it enables Russia to consider Belarus not as its satellite, but as its territory — without any regard to sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus or Lukashenko’s regime. At least with no more regard than to the obstinate governor of some Russian region. This is what this visit demonstrated.

Russian President arrived in Minsk with the official, who should be the first person in the country when the president leaves its territory. It has a deep meaning on the security side and so on. In our case, all the written and unwritten rules are violated. And a spokesman of the Russian president Mr. Peskov explained this incident with the fact that it is not a violation of the law, since the Russian president and his deputy are located on the territory of the “Union State”. This has demonstrated the real status of Lukashenko and the country that he heads in the eyes of the Kremlin and, probably in the eyes of many Russian citizens. This should also be clear to us — how our country and our sovereignty are treated in the Kremlin.

The allocation of a loan was announced by the long-term Russian Ambassador to Belarus within a few days after the visit, which proves that the discussion of a loan wasn’t the main issue; most likely, the main issue was military cooperation, a military base in Bobruisk in particular. Thus, the visit, however dull and plain, can be understood in this way. And then you can ask the question: why does Russia need to have an ambassador in the territory, which it considers to be its own?

Such ambivalent attitude towards Belarus makes it possible to play very dark games, manipulate the Belarusan regime and the opinion of the peoples of Belarus and Russia, and to participate in a tricky game with Europe, NATO...

— Has Putin managed to “convince” Lukashenko of the need of the military base?

— I can only guess. If the allocation of a loan wasn’t declared by the results of the visit, but only after a few days, it means that the money wasn’t the chief issue. But I can only speculate what came to be the main issue. Since Belarus is only taken into account as Russia’s strategic area in the confrontation between Russia and NATO and in the Russian games with the European Union, a number of issues could have been discussed — the whole range of issues related to security, military presence, border issues, including the military base. Probably because the military base in Bobruisk is now one of the most important items in discussions of strategic games, we can assume that it is the military base that has become a major subject of discussion at the talks in Minsk.

— Both Russia and Belarus are in a state of systemic crisis. Russia can no longer satisfy the growing appetites of the official Minsk, but doesn’t want to let Belarus on a free voyage. Does this mean that the Kremlin will toughen its policy towards Belarus in order to hold it on a short leash?

— What do you mean by tougher position? Lukashenko is allowed to do nothing that affects Russia's strategic interests in the region. So it has been and so it remains today. And I believe that Lukashenko’s actions within the country are not even reported in the reports to top Russia’s leaders. The Kremlin simply doesn’t want to know anything about it — Lukashenko can do whatever he wants.

— What does Moscow think about the attempt of the official Minsk and the European Union to relaunch the bilateral relations? Publicly, the Kremlin doesn’t mind it. But is Moscow really ready to put up with the Belarus’ rapprochement towards Russia’s worst enemy — the West — or is it simply trying to shift all the burdens of supporting its satellite to Europe?

— I think that this course is coordinated with Moscow. The Kremlin’s satellite cannot decide on such questions independently. Therefore, today's processes between Minsk and Brussels are agreed on and approved in Moscow.

— Former Ukrainian ambassador in Minsk Roman Bezsmertnyi talks about the imminent conflict on the border between Russia and Belarus. We can assess these forecasts differently, but if an armed conflict does happen will Belarus be able to resist with the arms decommissioned Russian weapons?

— Let's not fantasize: in comparison with the post-Soviet states Belarus’ weapons is not in the worst condition.

Secondly, there are no reasons for the emergence of an armed conflict on the border with Ukraine and Belarus.

There will be no armed confrontation towards the Russian army, because the generals of Belarusan Armed Forces are entirely pro-Russian — there will be nobody to give the command to resist.

This is an absolutely fantastic situation: if Russia needs to occupy Belarus it will only have to give the command to the Belarusan army, not dislocate more troops in the country.

I see no such threat today. But if all of a sudden the mad leaders of Russia (judging by their actions) would want to occupy Belarus, the issue will be decided not at the level of the ability of Belarusan officers and soldiers to confront the Russian army, but on the level of the Belarusan generals. If some forces will be able to resist, it will not be an army resistance, but that of the guerrilla resistance.

— Let’s summarize: Belarus has been and remains a Russian satellite, and while Lukashenko rules the country we have no chance to change our status?

— I suppose that I have to agree with this statement.