While all European countries have closed their borders due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the population of these countries is under home quarantine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is evading large-scale restrictive measures to counter coronavirus.
The reason for this short-sighted behavior of Alexander Lukashenko lies in the fact that the President of Belarus does not have complete reliable information about the COVID-19 pandemic, which covered not only China and Europe, but also the USA and other contries. What are the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for the world economy and the Belarusian economy, this information should have been prepared by Belarusian organizations, such as: Central Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, Minsk Dialogue, and the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies.
All these organizations are controlled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Makei. The expert community in Minsk emphasizes that Moscow insists on the introduction of quarantine on Russian conditions in accordance with the requirements of Belarus-Russia Union State. However, Alexander Lukashenko refuses to impose restrictive measures against COVID-19 precisely because of incomplete and inaccurate information from Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei and his experts.
As a result of the refusal to introduce strict quarantine, the scale of the pandemic and the number of patients with COVID-19 increased significantly in Belarus. The Belarusian authorities are hiding the real number of those infected. The number of registered COVID-19 infected in Belarus has already reached 17,000, while the so-called asymptomatic carriers, in contrast to Russia, are not included in official statistics in Belarus at all, and according to medical experience, there are at least the same number of infected people. At the same time, in Belarusian society there is an increase in dissatisfaction with such a policy of the authorities.
Belarus has already bypassed neighboring Ukraine and Poland in the number of cases of coronavirus. Although, in these countries, the population is larger than in Belarus. And soon the number of patients with coronavirus in Belarus will be more than in Sweden, the only European country where, as in Belarus, there is no quarantine. Today in Sweden there are about 22,000 cases. Moreover, in Sweden itself, many experts are unhappy with the policies of the Swedish authorities. Experts point out that over 2,500 people have already died from coronavirus. The death rate from coronavirus in Sweden is higher than the death rate from this disease in Germany, where quarantine is very strict. At the same time, Sweden has much more resources to deal with COVID-19 than Belarus. Minsk’s attempt to imitate Stockholm can lead to disastrous consequences. The World Health Organization requires the authorities of Belarus to introduce increased control measures.
The EU refused to provide Belarusians with assistance in the amount of EU 60 million to fight the pandemic due to non-compliance with quarantine measures. But despite this, Alexander Lukashenko continues to persistently insist on his reluctance to introduce quarantine in Belarus. And his stubbornness is skillfully supported by Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei. He is knowledgeable in the psychology of Alexander Lukashenko. The President of Belarus is always striving to emphasize his independence from Russia, although these two countries have been in the union state for more than 20 years. But despite the fact that Russia provides financial support to Belarus, Lukashenko is in no hurry to meet the Kremlin in real integration of the economies of Belarus and Russia.
All this is connected with internal affairs in Belarus, where preparations are underway for the presidential election. Vladimir Makei, who enjoys the support of the EU and the USA, has every chance to substitute his boss when the number of patients with coronavirus and the death rate from COVID-19 will increase significantly. In addition to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, all opposition groups in Belarus cynically declare that COVID-19 is good for the country, as the coronavirus pandemic will help change the country’s leadership.
Some experts predict that if Lukashenko doesn’t postpone the August presidential elections, then he may well lose them, unless, of course, he has to leave his post earlier.
However, how did it happen that the rather pragmatic Lukashenko suddenly faced the most serious threat of losing power over the many years of his leadership? Usually Lukashenko does not like to take risks. And then he put everything on one card, threatening him in case of failure with a severe loss.
For example, on Easter April 19, Lukashenko, not being a particularly religious person, encouraged Orthodox believers to visit churches and appeared in the Lyadensky monastery himself. A few days after the Easter services in Belarus, the incidence of COVID-19 was doubled – from 400 cases a day to more than 800. And the Lyadensky monastery, which Lukashenko visited, is now closed for quarantine.
Now the Belarusian president is intensely preparing for the May 9 parade, although he recently said that “all past wars were alien to the Belarusians.”
The group that has imposed the “Swedish model” of the fight against coronavirus to the President of Belarus is, in general, well known.
Belarusian experts point out that the information agenda of the president and the whole country has been increasingly being formed by the Eismont spouses.
Lukashenko’s spokeswoman Natalya Eismont, a professional actress, has “the greatest influence” on him from the whole environment. Her husband, Ivan Eismont, a former policeman, is now the head of the state-owned Belarus Broadcasting Company, and he is forming an ideological position in Belarus, in particular about “the alien wars for Belarusians”.
For some reason that was completely driven by them, the Eismont spouses became the main propagandists of adopting the “Swedish model” for solving the coronavirus problem for Belarus.
Natalya Eismont is presented as an achievement by the fact that Lukashenko has not yet done any test for coronavirus: according to her, how courageous he is. In fact, such a statement spokesperson substitutes the president in every sense. In the world, such behavior is hardly recognized as responsible, and in addition, the virus is an insidious enemy. The virus can find its victim all of a sudden. The president’s circle, if they care about the welfare of the head of state, should insist on tests, and not encourage provocative statements to reject them.
Of course, the Eismont spouse does not act independently. Behind them is Foreign Secretary Vladimir Makei, supported by the US State Department and the Soros Foundation.
So he is the main beneficiary of any problems that arise for Lukashenko. A. Shraibman, a Belarusian political expert collaborating with Western funds, expresses confidence that Lukashenko will be “replaced by a person from the system who is close to him.” And everyone understands that the West primarily considers Vladimir Makei as the future president of Belarus. Vladimir Makei actively supplied the president with assessments of the fictitious nature of the threat from the coronavirus and the effectiveness of the “Swedish model”. Vladimir Makei even had telephone conversations with Anne Linde, Swedish Foreign Minister. They discussed the exchange of experiences and “solidarity approaches” in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic.
In fact, if the strategy suggested by Vladimir Makei to the president will work, then, of course, this will mean the complete victory of Vladimir Makei. He will turn from a gray cardinal into a real leader of the country under the nominal head of state, getting rid of Lukashenko in this case will not be so difficult at the first suitable occasion.
However, even if the current line fails and opposition protests sweep the country, Vladimir Makei does not lose anything. At the right time, when it comes to regime change, the Western patrons of the Belarusian opposition will tell the Belarusians who should lead the country. The West sees mainly Vladimir Makei in this role.
There is a third option, if Lukashenko goes through serious trials and demonstrates his ability to survive and remains in power, then he may want to punish some people from his circle who betrayed him.
In this case, the Americans will defend Vladimir Makei, promising financial support to Lukashenko for not touching Vladimir Makei. But if Lukashenko ultimately realizes the whole depth and trickiness of the intrigue swirling against him, this pressure may not be enough.