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Minsk’s Integrated Sideshow

A version of this article was also published by Newsmax.

As the United States was worried about Russia’s intentions in Ukraine, Belarus ran its own sideshow that exacerbated our trepidation about an all-out war. That was probably the Kremlin’s intention, and Minsk gladly obliged.

Aleksandr Lukashenka “Daddy-Batko” is no puppet to Vladimir Putin, even when he defers to the Moscow strongman. The Minsk dictator sometimes goes it alone, but he also delights in moves seamlessly coordinated with its eastern neighbor’s undertakings. Call it opportunism of a feral lap dog.

This situation reminds one, toutes proportions gardées, of the modus operandi of North Korea. Ostensibly the Hermit Kingdom, in reality, it would amount to little without the backing of Communist China. Nonetheless, red dictator Kim Jong-Un looks out primarily for his own interest: ultimately, to remain in power. The same goes for Lukashenka.

Let us recap the situation in Belarus. Its ruler managed to put down massive unrest last year. Since then, he has been largely busy mopping up individual dissenters. That has earned him the opprobrium of the United States and the European Union.

“Daddy” responded in kind, saber-rattling. That included reinforcing old Russian garrisons and promises of setting up additional, perhaps permanent, Russian military bases in Belarus. Further, periodically, Minsk holds military maneuvers jointly with Russian troops. The last massive exercise took place concomitantly to the Kremlin’s powerful deployment of additional troops along Ukraine’s eastern border with the Russian Federation. Minsk pledged to support Moscow to the hilt against Kiyv.

As that was underway, Lukashenka thought it was a good time to pick a fight with both the Polish Republic and the Polish minority in Belarus. The pretext was the participation of a Polish diplomat in commemorations of the anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet war and post-war Polish Home Army (AK) at the end of February.

In congruence with Communist historiography, “Daddy” considers the Polish guerrillas as “Nazi collaborators” and the commemorations of the AK not only as “rehabilitation of Nazism” but also as a threat to the integrity of Belarus. The case boiled over in early March and resulted in the expulsion of the diplomat.

Please note that this took place soon after the commencement of what would become a wave of massive deportations of foreign envoys which, tit-for-tat, occurred between Russia, on the one hand, and the United States, on the other. It was followed by similar actions, in solidarity with the Americans, by other European Union nations, including, most notably, the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Swedes, and Germans.

Initially, after mid-February, Russia ordered the EU diplomats to leave for interfering with the nationalist anti-Putin dissident Alex Navalny. The U.S. and EU retaliated. Some Russians were told to depart on charges of espionage. London took part in this, too. Prague also thought it was a good idea to kick out a score or so of Russians because of the Kremlin’s alleged sabotage of a Czech munitions factory in October 2014.

At any rate, Lukashenka’s puny move against Poland’s diplomats thus largely escaped scrutiny. But “Daddy” was only getting warmed up. By the end of March, he had rounded up five Polish minority leaders: four intrepid women and a man – Anna Paniszew, Andżelika Borys, Andrzej Poczobuta, Irena Biernacka, and Maria Tiszkowska.

The charges against them varied, and so did the reactions of prisoners. Borys, for example, was initially sentenced to two weeks for organizing St. Casirmir’s fair (Kaziuki), a traditional religious and folk holiday at the end of March. Others were likewise slapped with similar bogus charges. Paniszewa immediately went on a hunger strike.

“Daddy” also sent his goons to raid Polish community centers and Polish schools. They duly found “subversive” material.

Then Lukashenka really rolled out the truly heavy artillery. He publicly announced that his secret police had thwarted an assassination plot against him. A Belarusian lawyer and a political scientist were the intended assassins. Poland was behind it, of course. And since Warsaw is a puppet of Washington, D.C., then the whole conspiracy was run by the CIA. Naturally. And the price on “Daddy’s” head was $10 million. Clearly.

Minsk continued to exacerbate the situation. For instance, in mid-April, Belarus charged that its air space had been violated by an “unidentified flying object” from Poland. Warsaw vigorously denied the existence of a Polish UFO. Obviously, it had to be the omnipresent CIA.

Before that, “Daddy” threatened to withdraw some of his diplomats from Warsaw; but he also pledged to streamline Belarus diplomatic missions throughout the world since they are superfluous in most places, he said. Lukashenka also bristled at some Belarusian intellectuals who believe that Poland’s victory over the Bolsheviks in 1920 saved half of Belarus from the mass terror of Lenin and Stalin until 1939.

The Minsk dictator was raring for more. But then, suddenly, Putin deescalated in Ukraine and recalled Russian troops from the border to their bases. On April 21, Lukashenka immediately put out his feelers to the U.S. and the EU about repairing the diplomatic relations, and with Ukraine, too.

A miracle? It was more of a Marxist-Leninist dialectical move by Minsk. It will be nice until the next show, just like with Pyongyang.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 7 May 2021