The condescending and derogatory attitude towards Lukashenko cannot but form the attitude of the audience towards Belarus itself. The propaganda in Russia does not get tired of reminding: “Belarusians are the younger brothers of Russia”. In the current situation, this translates into an endless demonstration of the experience of the Russian leadership and its steadfastness in the foreign policy arena. Both regimes are under sanctions today, and the Russian state media assert: Belarus should follow the example of Russia, which cannot be intimidated by sanctions. In addition, propagandists remind that, despite all the tension in relations, the United States continues to deal with the Kremlin (meetings of Biden and Putin, Kerry and Lavrov), and Minsk found itself in international isolation.
There will be no annexation, but you can join
Summing up the results of the meeting of that very meeting between Putin and Lukashenko in Sochi, the presenter of “60 Minutes” Skabeyeva, in fact, summed up all the claims against Lukashenka: “After the meeting in Sochi, I did not ask for new economic assistance – thank God! Crimea did not recognize, did not discuss the single currency. There was no talk about the integration process – alas! The prospects of the union state were on the agenda, and this is a nightmare for the West, which in Lukashenka’s visit to Putin saw the terrible word “annexation”. ”
In Moscow, Lukashenka is considered an unreliable partner, Belarus is a weak state. At the same time, the state media keep repeating that Russia perceives Belarus as an independent state and there can be no talk of any annexation. At the same time, pro-Kremlin political scientists periodically remind about the possibility of joining Belarus. For example, they compare it with Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya: you can, they say, have enough autonomy within Russia, maintain your “cultural code” and prosper economically (read, do not endlessly ask the Kremlin for money). But so far these are only cautious hints, barely discernible against the background of the official line. Even when Putin in his latest, as he called him, “analytical material” about Ukraine promotes the idea of a triune people – Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian, he denies Ukraine’s right to statehood, but does not question the independence of Belarus.
And, according to Denis Volkov from the Levada Center, this approach has been fully adopted by the Russians: “In general, there is an understanding that this is a different country, but there is a certain union state, the mechanism of which no one understands. The attitude towards Lukashenka himself has noticeably deteriorated over the past two years: more and more people say about him that he is in his own mind, cunning, he needs more from us than we need from him. “
Do you want it like in Ukraine?
The stubborn non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea by the Belarusian dictator and his attempts to maintain neutral relations with Kiev to the last are constantly exaggerated by Russian propaganda. Moreover, the discussion of Belarus is always a convenient excuse to jump over to the topic of Ukraine. And first of all, its “Russophobic” leadership. According to the propagandists, it does not miss an opportunity in response to Lukashenka’s loyalty to harm him: for example, it refused to accept Belavia planes even before such a decision was made by European carriers, or allegedly prepares some “terrorists” for transfer to Belarus with the aim of overthrowing “legal authorities”.
The topic of Ukraine is also convenient because it is a kind of anti-example. State propaganda has convinced millions of Russians that after the Maidan in 2014, chaos and devastation reign in Ukraine. This means that any attempt to leave Russia and get closer to Brussels and Washington will lead to the same dire consequences for any other country. Russians are frightened by this terrible picture of the hypothetical future of union Belarus. “Betraying” Lukashenko, Ukraine, according to the version of Putin’s propaganda, is acting here at the behest of the West. The “henchmen of the West” also include the Baltic states, which are incapable of an independent policy.
Both Moscow and Minsk are accused of the collective enemy of destabilizing Belarus – this is how any attempts to support human rights defenders, independent journalists and everyone who puts up peaceful resistance to the regime and ends up behind bars for this are presented. The West is also responsible for the failure to integrate Belarus and Russia, although it is, first of all, disadvantageous to Lukashenka himself. He understands perfectly well that in a full-fledged union state, he will immediately lose power. That is why today it is beneficial for the Belarusian dictator to promote the controversial idea of an alliance of two independent states, which is in danger, and to shift the responsibility onto the “enemies”:
“The West is aimed at curbing development, disrupting integration projects and changing the course of the Belarusian state. We won’t just survive. We use, as the Russian Federation did when the sanctions were introduced against it, this moment in order to strengthen economic cooperation and make our states absolutely independent. “
Defending democratic principles – behaving childishly
One of the closest neighbors of Belarus, Lithuania, is also in the focus of Russian propagandists, and among the enemies along with Poland, the United States and Germany. Traditionally, in relation to Lithuania, the Russian state media developed several topics: lack of independence in political decision-making, ingratitude towards Russia, the heiress of the USSR, “which severed rural Lithuania from the plow,” Russophobia, anti-Semitism and aiding the Nazis.
The Russian media (including the formally independent ones) claim that by supporting the Belarusian opposition, the Lithuanian leadership intervened in the internal affairs of Belarus and thereby drove its policy towards its neighbor into a dead end. For example, “Kommersant” shifts the blame for the current crisis with migrants to Vilnius. He, according to the logic of the publication, complicates his own life:
“… Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that Minsk“ is ready to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss the conditions for overcoming the crisis. However, the Lithuanian authorities are unlikely to agree to this. Back in September last year, they announced that they did not consider him a legitimate president. On Monday in Vilnius it was additionally emphasized by assigning diplomatic status to the office of the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Thus, Lithuania is faced with a dilemma: the official position of Vilnius does not allow direct negotiations with the Belarusian authorities, while Svetlana Tikhanovskaya cannot influence the situation with migrants in any way ”.
Pro-Kremlin political scientist from Radford University (Virginia, USA) Grigory Ioffe, who is often published by the pro-Kremlin portal Lenta.ru, accuses Lithuanians of infantilism:
“First, at the request of the EU in 2009, the Lithuanians closed their Ignalina nuclear power plant. Now, a Belarusian nuclear power plant has appeared next to Lithuania (BelNPP and it seems that you can buy cheap electricity, but they decided to brand it. It resembles a situation when a child runs, hits the table and then punishes this very table, angrily knocking on it with his fist. When Lithuania punishes By economic sanctions, and it itself depends on Belarusian cargo flows, psychologically it gives off a split personality. Then they will shout: “Help us!” a lot of damage to yourself. “
Izvestia newspaper comes out with a loud headline “The Bundestag called the construction of a wall on the border of Lithuania and Belarus a circus.” The publication uses an old trick, as if betraying the opinion of one of the 709 deputies – a native of the USSR Voldemar Gerdt – for the opinion of the entire parliament. At the same time, Izvestia is silent that Gerdt represents the Alternative for Germany party, which has close ties with the Kremlin, and actively advocates for the recognition of the Russian Crimea.
Why does the Kremlin need this?
The heads of state and non-state media receive recommendations on how to cover important events for the Kremlin directly from First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian President’s Administration Alexei Gromov and his staff, who supply the media with so-called “temniks.” In the case of Belarus, these “temniks” serve two main purposes, closely related to each other.
First, at any cost not to let Belarus out of its sphere of influence, as happened with Ukraine. “Leaving” of Ukraine is perceived in Moscow and personally by Putin as extremely painful – suffice it to recall the recent Putin article and his own to her. Secondly, from the point of view of the Putin regime, an “orange revolution” cannot be allowed in Belarus. The overthrow of Lukashenka, no matter how he loses his image to Putin, in the opinion of the Russian leadership, may create a bad precedent for disgruntled Russians who do not trust the authorities. During the pandemic, this was especially evident in the massive reluctance to be vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
The Kremlin is concerned about the level of loyalty of the population ahead of the State Duma elections scheduled for September 19. This is evidenced by the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, and the strongest pressure on the human rights society, and the unprecedented sweep of the media field – the announcement by “foreign agents” or “undesirable organizations” of Meduza, VTimes and Proekt. Media “.
But, in addition to these two purely internal goals, there is a third one, to which Moscow has been striving for several years. After all, propaganda also overtakes those whom the Kremlin considers “compatriots”, that is, Russian-speaking residents of other countries, especially those who live in countries “unfriendly” from the point of view of Putin’s regime, such as the Baltic states. The Russian leadership wants to undermine the confidence of the citizens of these countries in the policies of their governments and infect them with a dangerous bacillus of cynicism that destroys trust in democratic institutions.
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