Putin Meets Lukashenko: What Does It Mean?

On 12th of April President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin met the self-proclaimed “President” of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at the Vostochny Cosmodrome space launch facility. The meeting wasn’t anything special in comparison with previous meetings of authoritarian leaders: presidents’ statements were full of propaganda and fakes.

Here are the key points from Putin’s speech:

What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy, but Russia has had no choice. 

  • In a situation of a “sanctions war”, it is important to deepen the integration of the Union State (meaning the Union State of Russia and Belarus). Russia and Belarus have implemented more than 30% of the planned integration plans. 
  • In the energy sector, coordination of the unified electricity market project with Belarus has been completed. Payments for gas in rubles with Minsk minimize the negative effects of sanctions. 
  • The Belarusian platform is suitable for negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv. Talks in Istanbul have come to a stalemate. 
  • Russia can not be isolated due to its vast territories. The economics will eventually adapt to sanctions. 
  • The “special military operation” in Ukraine is being conducted strictly to the plan and its goals will be achieved. 

Here are the key points from Lukashenko’s speech: 

  • If Russia were a little late with the operation, a devastating blow would be dealt to the Russian territory. 
  • What happened in Bucha was a «British special operation». 
  • We once decided that the Cold War was over. The West did not think so. They didn’t destroy us then, they decided to try now. 
  • No sanctions will get Russia and Belarus out of the way. 
  • The United States is a destructive pillar for the world, there must be several «pillars» (Russia, China, India) 

Also, during talks two authoritarian presidents discussed the formation of a single defense space of Russia and Belarus, as well as a common space infrastructure. In addition to that, Russia and Belarus plan to create a common electricity market

The meeting was aimed at an internal audience. Presidents’ visit to the space launch facility in the far eastern part of Russia was dedicated to the “Space Day”, an important date for all Russians since the existence of the USSR. 

Russian rhetoric has not changed — Putin tries to convince his people that sanctions won’t harm the Russian economy, that Russia has had no other choice but to invade Ukraine in order to preserve its national security and that the West is responsible for the war in Ukraine. Vostochny Cosmodrome serves as a symbol of Russia’s might despite sanctions and harsh relations with other countries. Projects of the Russo-Belarussian common energy and defense spheres are the attempts to show that the Russian Federation is not isolated and can form its own foreign policy agenda. 

Lukashenko’s visit to Russia means that the possibility of Belarus participation in the aggression still exists. However, it could be assessed as “unlikely”, having regard to the anti-war tendencies among Belarussian people and military and Russian losses on the battlefield in Ukraine. 

The purpose of the meeting was also to render the message to Ukraine and the Western countries. Putin refuses to halt the hostilities and there will be no progress in negotiations. That means that the “grand battle” in the East of Ukraine will be decisive in the context of dispute settlement.