Ally or money? Lukashenka between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Last week president Alyaksandr Lukashenka shared his doubts about Armenia’s ability to live up to the current tasks with the ambassador of Azerbaijan to Belarus. “Now they are at the helm of the EAEU and the CSTO, which is a very large burden on a country that is in the period of transition. Will Armenia cope with the situation?” he wondered.

As a result, Yerevan got offended; Acting Prime Minister Nicol Pashinyan is set to hold the ally to account. According to the Armenian side, a person who has been ruling a country for almost 30 years could have chosen words more carefully. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry was not slow in responding.

“Mr Pashinyan might have not realized yet that the so-called street democracy rules are not acceptable in big politics, which is a pity. We hope that it will change some day,”Anatol Glaz, Spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, said.

Despite the hugs in public, Lukashenka and his minions are haunted by the political past of Nicol Pashinyan, independent experts believe.

The Belarusian regime cannot rely on the Armenian counterparts by instinct, as they came to power on the wave of the people’s protest against the authoritarian corrupt authorities,” Belarusian political analyst Ales Lahvinets said.

Indeed, in the wake of the spring revolution in Armenia, criminal cases were opened against several top officials, including ex-president Robert Kocharyan and Acting OSCE Secretary General Yury Khachaturov. They are accused of dismantling the statehood, i.e. the bloody dispersal of the opposition rally in 2008.

It is not up to Alyaksandr Ryhoravich to specify what Armenia should tackle and what it should not. Moreover, there is nothing to tackle. The position is clear. Mr Khachaturov was called off. Armenia is to be [at the head of the CSTO] until 2020,” Ruben Megrabyan, an expert at the Armenian Institute for International Relations and Security, said.

Nevertheless, the partners are trying to take away the chairmanship from Armenia in favour of Belarus – the highest office in the CSTO might be granted to Stanislau Zas, Secretary of State of the Security Council. Although the presidency of the CSTO is rather symbolic, because the major player is still Moscow, Belarus’ selling its Polonez rocket systems to Azerbaijan is quite real. Unlike Yerevan, Baku is neither member of the Eurasian European Union nor Minsk’s ally in the CSTO.

“Belarus is selling weapons to Azerbaijan, just for the reason that Azerbaijan is richer, it can buy them. In this case, Belarus prioritizes economic interests over its military and strategic commitments,” Vitaly Tsyhankou, a journalist at RFE/RL, stressed.

Of course, economic interest is vital, but Lukashenka should not have publicly insulted its ally. At the same time, he has a liking for Azerbaijani authoritarian leader Ilham Aliyev who has arrived in Minsk on Monday.

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