Staunton, March 13 – Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his regime have maintained themselves in power via the cultivation and dissemination of three specters, all of which are intended to frighten Belarusians into passive support. But “this practice has ceased to produce the desired fruits,” Pavel Usov says; and “the specters may become real nightmares” there.
The three specters are revolution, civil war, and Russian expansion. The Belarusian people are afraid of all three, but what matters in the current context is that they appear to becoming less afraid of such outcomes even as the Lukashenka regime becomes more afraid of what it thought it could use but finds it can’t (belaruspartisan.org/politic/373380/).
But instead of backing away from the use of such specters, the regime as the economic situation has continued to deteriorate has doubled down on all of them, something that the Belarusian analyst suggests makes these specters less frightening then they were and instead simply feeds the growing anger of the population.
And that pattern carries within itself a most serious risk: “None of the citizens of [Belarus] want a repetition of the tragic scenario in Ukraine in 2014.” Indeed, they do not want any outburst of force. But the regime by its actions and propaganda may be pushing people in precisely that direction, Usov says.
“Civil war is an armed conflict among citizens of one state. But as a rule, it is the result of longstanding socio-economic and political contradictions and conflicts … which are in essence a cold civil war. In such a conflict, the population doesn’t take up arms, but residents of the country already fight one another with the help of other kinds of weapons including ideology, propaganda, information and political pressure.”
According to Usdov, in such conflicts, “the key player is the authoritarian state” because in such states “the war of the state with its own citizens never ends.” Belarus tragically is “a clear example of such a country where over the curse of many years, internal conflict has grown intentionally and artificially.” Such a society is easier to rule, at least up to a point.
The current government is “actively involved in a war with society,” and the society has responded with all the kinds of passive aggressive behavior, some of it like alcoholism self-destructive. “Every day in the country there have been victims of this undeclared civil war, but few write about them and in practice few know about them.”
What that means is that Belarusians have been participants in a cold civil war for a long time; and they are thus in a position to move into a move active phase of such a conflict more quickly and dramatically than many might suspect, especially if the regime instead of seeking to find a common language with them becomes ever more insulting as with the vagrants tax decree.
Unfortunately, Usov says, history suggests that authoritarian regimes like Lukashenka’s are typically “politically irresponsible and prefer to solve problems with force.” But that means that “revolution becomes the natural end of the life cycle of such authorities.” And it means that the more the regime resists a popular challenge, the more destructive will be the consequences of revolution.
“A moment is coming,” the Belarusian analyst says, “when the state will already be incapable of fulfill its control functions and the tensions which have been building up for many years will come out into the public sphere in the force of a destructive explosion.” When that happens, it is critically important to remember who is to blame.
Not the Belarusians which have put up with more than anyone should have to; but Lukashenka who has governed irresponsibly out of the belief that he can run things forever by using one or more of the three specters he continues to like to deploy.