Lukashenko Gambling

luk-4-reuters-frown.jpgReuters today features an interview with the apparently omni-disgruntled Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, who seems to be exuberantly alienating old allies and potential new ones, with trenchant criticism of both Russia and the West.

“I cannot even talk about all the steps that I have taken that are very sensitive for us — and the West cast me aside,” said Lukashenko, who is under Western pressure for political reform and broader civil rights in Belarus.

“I have come to understand that there is a huge number of irresponsible politicians in the West,” he said.

Meanwhile Lukashenko is investing heavily in defending the ousted President of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, (who he has rather histrionically vowed to shelter) and, as today’s Moscow Times reports, courting distant Venezuela for oil imports as a show of energy independence from Russia.

An op-ed by Vladimir Frolov in yesterday’s Moscow Times untangled some of the issues at stake in Lukashenko’s diplomatic tergiversations:

With a presidential election in Belarus scheduled for 2011 and Lukashenko’s increasingly hostile stance toward Moscow, Belarus is emerging as the next crucial battleground for the Kremlin’s new strategy in the former Soviet republics.

Lukashenko made a big mistake by trying to oppose Russian moves in Kyrgyzstan. Not only did Lukashenko provide political asylum to the deposed Kyrgyz president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, but he also sought to undermine Moscow’s efforts to secure a transfer of power fr om Bakiyev to the friendly interim government in Bishkek by pushing Bakiyev to withdraw his resignation.

What’s more, from Minsk Bakiyev demanded a military intervention by the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, to restore him as president.
Lukashenko then described Russian assistance to the interim government in Kyrgyzstan as a “betrayal of old friends” and threatened to disrupt the CSTO summit in Moscow in May, calling it a “feckless organization.”

It is hard not to feel sorry for Lukashenko. It apparently never occurred to him that the Kremlin might support a democratic regime change in a former Soviet republic to remove a corrupt leader with a history of reneging on his promises to Moscow. He is miffed by seeing too many parallels between Bakiyev’s and his own testy relationship with the ruling tandem in Moscow.

Read all here.