On April 26th, while talking to reporters, President Lukashenka stated that so far the issue of opening a Russian airbase in Belarus was not discussed, but only the supply of Russian fighter jets and S-300 missiles.
In the coming two years, Lukashenka’s the only political goal is to maintain and strengthen his role as a non-alternative mediator in the negotiations with Russia, ‘Solidarity with Belarus’ Information Office reports. Simultaneously, domestically he needs to keep up his positions as a leader, who is autonomous and independent from the Kremlin.
Lukashenka’s statement was intended to clarify and partially refute another statement made on April 23rd by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu in Minsk. During the meeting with Lukashenka, he said that in 2013, it was planned to create a commander and post-duty unit for fighter jets in the Belarusian military and by 2015 Russian aviation regiment would be deployed to Belarus.
Since the talks are about the airbase, this information should be treated critically. However, the negative response to the news about the airbase, forced President Lukashenka to react and to say that Russian fighter jets and S-300 supply was primarily for the Belarusian army needs. But Lukashenka de facto has not denied the possibility for the Russian airbase in Belarus.
Military cooperation with Russia objectively creates a negotiating base for President Lukashenka, which he would like to use to mitigate or delay Belarusian state property privatization. Besides, Belarus is preparing for the elections (local elections in 2013-2014 and presidential elections in 2015), which forces Lukashenka to look for new ‘trump cards’ in negotiations with Russia and to demonstrate the inevitability of his candidacy for the country.
It is very likely that the Shoygu’s statement on April 23rd about plans to establish an airbase – to which Lukashenka has silently agreed – really was a result of some kind of negotiations, SBIO experts say. It is also very likely that President Lukashenka will delay the negotiations for the aircrafts’ supply or about the airbase deployment, which is clear from his recent statement on April 26th.
To delay the negotiations, Lukashenka will probably use the Belarus’ sovereignty argument, as well as the opposition potential to demonstrate the ‘people’s rage’. If the situation is favourable for the Belarusian authorities, the negotiations about the state property privatization and the Russian airbase deployment will be postponed until the 2015 elections.
At the same time, Lukashenka will retain his status as the only guarantor of fulfillment or non-fulfillment of agreements by Belarus, which eventually will help him to retain and enhance his domestic political authority.
Belsat, following SBIO