As I discussed in a previous American Conservative article, the relationship between Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin is complicated. On a personal level, the two men can barely tolerate each other. The Kremlin regards the regime in Minsk as a dysfunctional, often unreliable, client. Most Western experts agree that Moscow would prefer to avoid conducting a direct military intervention in Belarus. Russian officials likely see little advantage for their country in becoming responsible for the affairs of their politically restless, economically impoverished neighbor.
Nevertheless, Putin’s government is visibly nervous about what might fill the resulting power vacuum if Lukashenko is ousted. The memory of Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan Revolution, when demonstrators (with more than a little Western encouragement) overthrew the country’s elected, Russia‐friendly government and replaced it with a staunchly nationalistic pro‐NATO successor, still haunts Russian leaders. Granted, there are important differences between the two. Unlike the Ukrainian protestors, few Belarusian demonstrators carry signs proclaiming their enthusiasm for NATO or the EU, nor are they festooned with buttons and flags displaying the stars and stripes. Overall Belarusian public sentiment appears to be vaguely pro‐Russian. Most pro‐democracy demonstrators seem genuinely focused on their stated goal of having honest elections and bringing an end to Lukashenko’s strongman rule.