Lukashenka Builds Independence that Tends to Integration
Lukashenka delivered a speech dedicated to Independence Day earlier this month. According to his statements, the history of an independent and full-fledged Belarusian state started together with his election to the post of the President of Belarus in 1994. Lukashenka believes that Belarus merely used to be a part of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia in the past. “Our lands passed from one state to another over the past centuries. The Belarusian people faced political, economic, and cultural oppression. All of this can be found in our history”, said Lukashenka.
The power “wallowed in mud” in 1991-1994. “The elder generation hasn’t forgotten the image of Belarus in the hard 1990s, when the economy collapsed, the authorities were paralysed, the people suffered from unemployment and poverty, and we were trying to keep our balance on the edge of disaster. It must have been God that saved us. We started looking for a way-out, including a political one.”
Belarus was Rescued by Lukashenka in 1990s
He believes that he is a messiah, who has made Belarus independent and respected. “Luckily, I happened to be the President during that period, when we had to drag the country from the bog that it was in.” He is convinced that he embodied “the will of Belarusians, who managed to save their yearning for statehood through the ages and reach the goal they had set.”
Following Lukashenka’s speech, it seems that the way of authoritarian modernization is the only proper one for Belarus. He spoke a lot about the need of a strong power that helped “to increase the GDP almost thrice within the period between 1995 and 2011 and extend the scope of foreign trade almost eight times within the same time span. Over $140,000,000,000 USD were invested in the capital stock during the years of independence. The funds were invested in the development of enterprises and new technologies. In other words, the money was contributed to development. It was neither wasted, nor taken to offshore territories.”
Lukashenka formulated the credo of his foreign policy: to develop cooperation with Russia (and the West), but retain independence from Russia (and the West). “We have made our historical choice in favour of a new kind of independence that tends to openness and integration instead of isolation. We broke the vicious circle. We could withdraw to our national borders or become the (Russian) North-West territory. Both options were unacceptable for us.”
Lukashenka underscored that integration and cooperation have their borders though. “There are basic and fundamental things that we cannot sacrifice in any case. They cannot be sacrificed by any state that wishes to be sovereign and independent. We will never waive our statehood. We will do everything possible, in order to preserve the independence, gained through a lot of pains. We will never claim any alien property. However, we will never give up an inch of our land to anyone. Nobody will make us sacrifice our people’s freedom, achieved through much suffering by many generations. It will be only us, i.e. the people of Belarus, who choose our fate and our way of development. There aren’t forces in the East, in the West, in the North, or in the South that can make us obey them or force us to our knees.”
Message to the Russians
Lukashenka delivered a very precise message amongst the pompous statements above. It showed the border never to be crossed by Belarus in the process of integration with Russia: “I have to make this statement, since I read and hear more and more often about the immediate plans to take and share everything that Belarus and the Belarusian people have.They even have the lists of enterprises and buyers. They’ve decided for themselves, who will get BelAZ, MAZ, the Potash Company, Minsk Tractor Plant etc. It will never happen! Remember, it will never happen during the time of my presidency. We didn’t allow anyone to pilfer the public property in the past. We won’t allow doing it in the future either.”
This statement was not addressed to high-ranking Belarusian officials. Currently, the latter do not have any plans to buy large industrial enterprises. They have already privatised enough enterprises to make their dreams come true.
This statement can be regarded as another of Lukashenka’s signals to the Kremlin and his new-old partner Putin: he will not permit Russia to enter Belarus. Lukashenka cannot think of himself without the power he has. It is to Lukashenka’s advantage that he does not restrict himself to the struggle for his personal interests, holding on with all his strength to the power he has obtained. There is a broader meaning in his words about the independence of Belarus and his role in keeping the independence.