Visible symptoms of chaos
Astana hosted a regular summit of the CIS Council of Heads of State at which Lukashenka announced the creation of a regional military group, with Russian participation, as part of the Armed Forces of Belarus, aimed at “counter-terrorist operations”. However, his overall strategy remains slipping out of the conflict.
On October 14th a meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the CIS was held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. During this event, the delegates decided to rename the post of Executive Secretary of the CIS to Secretary General, and elected the Chairman of the Executive Committee, Sergey Lebedev, to the post. The heads of state also signed a series of documents providing for further development of integration in the fields of trade, the economy, culture, humanitarian work, and security. Finally, the attendees took photos.
According to media reports, Vladimir Putin had a brief conversation with Lukashenka before the meeting, and also as they walked to the photography ceremony. This was the eighth face-to-face meeting between Putin and Lukashenka this year.
With little else to report the most discussed topic of the week was the purpose of Lukashenka’s announcement about a “joint regional troop grouping” (Lukashenka claims it is purely defensive), how soon it will be formed, and what is the scale of the enterprise overall. These questions remain unanswered (for more details, see “Minsk raises the degree of belligerence and uncertainty”)). It is not entirely clear if Lukashenka invited the Russian military to create a joint group, or whether the idea planted came from Putin.
The most radical interpretation is that Lukashenka no longer controls the situation and acts as a nominal figurehead – the press secretary of an external power. This needs not be Vladimir Putin directly, as his power flows to the “party of war”, such as the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, and the creator of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin. In this interpretation, the activation of a regional military group should be understood as placing the Belarusian Armed Forces at the disposal of the Russian military.
Lukashenka, naturally, doesn’t want to adhere to such interpretations and continues to adhere to the strategy of avoiding the conflict, while sending different signals to different audiences, the Russian elites, the West, and domestic supporters. So far, western experts, do not detect signs of preparation for Belarusian incursions into Ukraine, despite alarming reports that Lukashenka has commenced a “counter-terrorist operation”.
Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei spoke about import substitution, and, in particular, what products are planned to be produced for Russian credit funds. These are: “various items of microelectronics, large-sized bearings, lighting equipment.” Makei’s report adds little to what is already known about import substitution programs and indicates that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry has lost its functions and turned into the press service of the government.
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Situation in Belarus