Weekly Radar 28.06.2023: More Information on Lukashenko's Mediator Role
Updated: Jun 29
The situation in Russia is still a widely debated topic, therefore in our special section of the trend monitoring radar this week we will explore it further. Specifically, we examine the mediation role of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has emerged as a significant player in this intricate geopolitical landscape. By exploring Lukashenko's diplomatic efforts, strategic communication, and the delicate balancing act he navigates between Putin and Prigozhin, we aim to provide a nuanced perspective on the developments and potential implications for Russia's domestic and international affairs.
Weekly Geopolitical Trend Radar, please access this radar at this link.
This week, political shifts in Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, and the ripple effects of Russia's Wagner Group mutiny have shown substantial manifestations. In Pakistan, an anti-terrorism court issued non-bailable arrest warrants against former Prime Minister Imran Khan on June 20, 2023 [1.] This development could have potential political implications in the region.
The African Union (AU) held its 1158th meeting on June 15, 2023, where it reaffirmed its commitment to the peace and security of the Horn of Africa region. They also commended the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for their continued efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict. Additionally, the AU endorsed the extension of the Monitoring, Verification and Compliance Mechanism (MVCM) in Tigray until December 31, 2023 [2.]
On the international scene, the consequences of Russia's Wagner Group mutiny pose new challenges. The Wagner Group, a private military contractor linked to the Kremlin, has reportedly been involved in conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. The recent mutiny, largely interpreted as a response to the Group's unacceptable losses and poor conditions, has had repercussions on Russia's foreign policy, reducing its proxy influence in key conflict zones such as Syria and Libya, according to a report by the Foreign Policy Research Institute. This development is affecting power dynamics, potentially shifting alliances and power balances on the international stage.
The economic scenario this week was marked by the Powell's financial testimony at the U.S Congress, revealing the implications of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy adjustments amid inflation concerns. Powell's warning about a possible transient period of higher inflation has sparked debates among investors and economists. The US inflation rate jumped to 5.4% in May 2023, the highest since the 2008 crisis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Moreover, the 'Survival of the Richest' report highlighted how the COVID-19 crisis has fueled economic disparity globally. For instance, while billionaires' wealth grew by 27.5% during the pandemic, the world's poorest saw their income drop by more than 20%, according to Oxfam International.
Significant sociocultural shifts have been observed, particularly regarding LGBTQ+ communities and the protection of indigenous languages. An increasing number of corporations are recognizing the LGBTQ+ communities, evidenced by 65% of Fortune 500 companies offering trans-inclusive healthcare benefits in 2023, up from 57% in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Conversely, the need to protect indigenous languages is gaining global attention. The UN reports that a language disappears every two weeks, posing a threat to cultural diversity and heritage. Efforts are now underway to revitalize endangered languages, especially in countries with rich linguistic diversity such as India and Papua New Guinea.
On the technological front, the potential of AI to disrupt the job market and advancements in solar energy technology are reshaping the global landscape. For instance, the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025, automation will have displaced 85 million jobs but created 97 million new ones.
Furthermore, the advances in solar panels, specifically the advent of perovskite solar cells, promise increased energy efficiency. According to recent studies, these cells can achieve efficiency rates of over 25%, rivalling traditional silicon solar cells and potentially transforming the renewable energy sector.
The legal sphere witnessed substantial focus on the challenge to legal abortion rights across the world. For example, the restrictive abortion laws enacted in Texas, USA, which have caused a ripple effect, influencing similar legislative initiatives globally. The UN has criticized these developments, expressing concerns over potential human rights violations.
In the environmental realm, the shrinking of the Sargassum belt has raised concerns. Researchers from the University of South Florida indicate that the Sargassum belt's size decreased by 40% in 2023, potentially due to rising sea temperatures linked to global warming. This change threatens marine biodiversity and the livelihood of communities depending on the health of these ecosystems.
In summary, while maintaining a multidimensional perspective, the report has explored two issues within each section in depth. The in-depth discussion, supported by data, examples and analysis, provides meaningful insights for decision-makers in this ever-changing global landscape.
The Key Success Factors for Lukashenko in Mediating between Putin and Prigozhin
Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, played a significant role in mediating between Russia's Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with connections to the private military company, the Wagner Group. Lukashenko's strategy revolved around several key tactics, which have allowed him to negotiate a precarious position successfully:
Balancing Act: Lukashenko has successfully managed to balance the interests of both Putin and Prigozhin. He has promised both parties security guarantees while preventing direct military intervention from either party within Belarus. Lukashenko managed to convey the importance of Belarus's sovereignty and the need to respect its borders.
Wagner Group Utilization: Utilizing the Wagner Group could provide Belarus with the opportunity to reduce its military's dependency on Russia. Lukashenko suggested that the group's extensive combat experience could be beneficial to the Belarusian military, which would allow them to be less reliant on Russian forces for higher operational functions.
Strategic Communication: Lukashenko has effectively communicated his intentions, concerns, and goals to both Putin and Prigozhin. By keeping the dialogue open and clear, he has managed to navigate the difficult political landscape successfully. He has also been able to maintain his image domestically by championing Belarusian interests and sovereignty.
Diplomatic Savviness: Lukashenko demonstrated his diplomatic acumen by mediating a crisis within Putin's inner circle, a task that Putin was unable to accomplish. He managed to broker a deal between Putin and Prigozhin, potentially signaling his ability to operate successfully within Russian politics.
Leveraging Russian Interests: Putin's decision to abide by Lukashenko's mediator role is likely influenced by his desire to maintain internal stability within Russia. As Prigozhin holds some popularity among Russian society and the regular forces, eliminating him could potentially lead to destabilization. Instead, Putin seeks to dissociate Prigozhin's cause from his persona to erode his support base. Lukashenko skillfully leverages this internal dynamic within Russia to broker the deal.
Prigozhin's actions and position in this situation evoke a historical parallel with Heinrich Himmler's maneuvers during the last days of World War II. Much like Himmler, who tried to broker a separate peace deal with the Allies behind Hitler's back, Prigozhin appears to be challenging Putin's authority directly. He moved Wagner forces closer to Moscow, openly criticized Putin's invasion plans in Ukraine, and contested Putin's leadership. This was met with Putin declaring mutiny without directly naming Prigozhin.
However, there are important distinctions to note between these two scenarios. Putin's regime, despite facing internal challenges, is not in the same state of crisis as Hitler's was during Himmler's treachery. While Prigozhin, much like Himmler did, presents himself as a more hardline and effective leader, his chances of usurping power remain uncertain due to the complex sociopolitical dynamics in Russia and his controversial reputation.
This nuanced situation highlights the internal tensions within the Kremlin's power structure. It calls for a careful, ongoing analysis of these geopolitical dynamics, particularly in how they might influence future relations between Russia, Belarus, and the broader international community.
Full translation from source
Senior Officer Corps Receives General's Insignia | Official Internet Portal of the President of the Republic of Belarus
President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, conferred the general's insignia on senior officers during a solemn ceremony at the Palace of Independence on June 27. The event, traditional on the eve of Independence Day celebrations, signifies high responsibility for the country's fate, its peace, and the security of the Belarusian people. Alexander Lukashenko stated that the tranquillity enjoyed by modern Belarusians stems from ceaseless efforts that often go unseen but involve significant risks, even endangering lives.
He voiced concerns about the misinterpretation of these efforts as war preparations, insisting that Belarus's peaceful state is a result of nearly 30 years of such work. Amidst an extremely challenging time for Belarus and the world, Lukashenko highlighted the impending threat of global conflict. He accused external forces of attempting to destabilize Belarus and the entire region, imposing their rules and orders.
Lukashenko bemoaned the diplomatic negotiations' dismissal as "dramatization," despite the human cost, and pointed out NATO's expansion and potential build-up in the region. He stressed that frequent provocations occur on state borders, with neighboring countries persistently constructing walls and barriers, fortifying them, and mining the Ukrainian side.
The President urged for unity and loyalty towards the homeland, from Brest to Vladivostok. He acknowledged Belarusians' historic defense of their land and emphasized that being stronger than the threatening shadow from the West is crucial.
During the ceremony, Lukashenko addressed the recent events in Russia and their impact on Belarus. He stressed the importance of maintaining peace and preventing the situation's escalation. Lukashenko recognized the army and all armed forces for promptly reaching full combat alert and expressed confidence in their continued devotion to their duties.
Following the epaulet awarding, President Lukashenko detailed the negotiations against the backdrop of an attempted armed insurrection on June 24 and shared his motives behind his actions. He invited military and law enforcement leaders, special forces, media figures, political scientists, and journalists for a candid conversation addressing society's pressing questions.
Lukashenko dismissed various conjectures and explained his decision to speak on certain issues, citing a treacherous armed insurrection attempt, various incidents in Russian media, and other events. He advised major media heads to exercise restraint on the matter, while warning both Belarussian and Russian societies against the ultras in Russia.
Lukashenko detailed alarming information received, negotiations conducted, the role of various officials, and the actions of the Wagner group in Rostov. He emphasized the non-violence during the takeover in Rostov and reassured that no harm was inflicted on civilians or non-resistant military officials.
Upon Prigozhin's demands, I ask, "What do you want?" Naturally, I informed Putin about these demands during our conversation. Prigozhin says, "I ask for nothing, Alexander Grigorievich, only for Shoigu and Gerasimov. And I’d like to meet with Putin." To this, I respond, "Yevgeny, no one will hand Shoigu, Gerasimov or anyone else over to you, especially under these circumstances. You know Putin as well as I do. He won’t talk to you over the phone, let alone meet you.” He fell silent. He exclaims, "But we want justice! They’re trying to suffocate us! We’ll march on Moscow!" I tell him, "Halfway there, they’ll crush you like a bug. Despite the fact that the troops (as Putin discussed at length) are currently deployed at the appropriate frontier".
This situation reminds me of the triumphant march of Soviet power. Approximately 100 thousand Bolsheviks overthrew Russia without weapons. I ask myself: "Is everything really that good in Russia?" The answer is no. There are more than enough reasons for this unrest to sweep across Russia and even spread to us. All it takes is a trigger, a tripwire. And now, it seems we have it.
As for Prigozhin’s influence, he’s a respected person within today's armed forces. That’s a fact, whether anyone likes it or not. I considered the option: 'we could kill him'. I even told Putin: "We can kill him". It wouldn't be a problem. If not the first time, then certainly the second. But I urge: "Don't do it". As it would irreparably harm negotiations. These men who stand up for each other, who have fought in Africa, Asia, Latin America, they would fight back with everything they've got. We could kill them too, but it would result in countless civilian casualties and those opposing the Wagnerites would die. Moreover, it’s the most prepared military unit. Who could deny this? My military officers understand this, and we in Belarus don't have such well-prepared units. These are men who’ve experienced multiple wars in different places. Therefore, before deciding to eliminate them, it's crucial to consider the aftermath.
During the initial negotiations, Prigozhin suggested a meeting with his officers for consultation. I said, "Of course, you should consult with them, to avoid any accusations later."
As for the end of the negotiations and Putin's promise – we were nearing the end of the talks in the evening. I was eager to conclude because a defense line had already been established 200 km from Moscow (as Bortnikov informed me). A substantial force had been assembled in and around the Kremlin, nearly ten thousand defenders. I feared if the Wagnerites encountered them at the defense line, there would be bloodshed. It was a critical situation. I insisted on following our agreed plan. After the negotiations, he turned the column around and they went to their camps in the Luhansk region.
I talked to Putin in the evening and reiterated: "Under no circumstances." He responded, "Yes. Okay. I will do everything as promised". And he did. We successfully prevented disorder. Dangerous events that could have unfolded were diffused. The security guarantees, as promised, were provided.
Next, as we discussed the problem of Minsk, I told Putin, "If we don’t strengthen our forces there, the Wagnerites could move there from Ukraine. We have to consolidate our forces at the Western border. You must realize that Prigozhin has a different mentality and strategy. He’s a hardliner. He will not retreat, but he will surely take up the opportunity if he sees any weakness."
We already experienced an attempted coup in Belarus last year. The plotters tried to overthrow the government and kill me. They were thwarted thanks to our combined efforts and Putin's support. But this should serve as a clear reminder that we must not underestimate the Wagnerites.
And then there's the matter of Ukraine. I told Putin, "We should keep an eye on the situation there too. We should take a balanced approach. After all, it's not just a matter of the Wagnerites in Ukraine; there are other, more significant threats as well. Russia must not be drawn into another war." We discussed this at length.
If you remember, we had a similar situation in Crimea. The Crimean parliament declared independence, and Russia agreed to protect it from Ukraine. That situation could repeat itself if the Wagnerites manage to infiltrate Ukraine. If they succeed, they could potentially declare independence, and we would have to decide whether to protect them or not. This is why we must be proactive and prevent this scenario from happening. We have to maintain our strength, not just in Belarus, but also in Ukraine.
Putin listened to me. I saw his hesitation, his concern. He understands the potential repercussions. He's aware that we're walking a tightrope here. We could easily be drawn into a conflict that's not ours to fight. Yet, he also knows the necessity of maintaining a strong front against our adversaries.
We agreed on a plan. We would bolster our defenses and enhance our intelligence gathering. We would ensure that our forces are ready to respond if necessary. At the same time, we would strive to maintain dialogue with all parties involved, keeping open lines of communication. And most importantly, we would focus on preventing the Wagnerites from gaining a foothold in Ukraine.
Our strategy was simple - be prepared, stay alert, and be proactive rather than reactive. It required careful coordination and decisive actions. And above all, it needed our unwavering commitment. It's a tall order, but we were up to the task.
Our discussions were lengthy, often stretching into the wee hours of the morning. But we knew the importance of what we were doing. We were not just securing the safety of our nation, but also ensuring the stability of our region.
And then came the turning point. Putin gave his word that he would support our approach. It was a relief. A conflict averted, at least for the moment. A crisis contained."
I must give credit to Putin for this. He kept his word. And we were able to dodge the bullet, at least for now. All this could have resulted in a military confrontation, which would have been disastrous. In any case, the crisis was averted, at least temporarily.
I spoke with Shoigu and Gerasimov in the evening and updated them on the situation. Shoigu, in his characteristic manner, muttered, "They won't get far." Gerasimov, the realist, noted, "We need to prepare. We can't relax."
As for the American role – the US Ambassador has already visited me three times, asking about the developments. He's very anxious. I told him, "You should be worried. If things blow up here, it won't stay within our borders. It will spread and directly affect Europe and the United States." He asked, "What can we do?" I said, "There is no immediate solution. Just don't interfere and let us handle our internal issues."
Prigozhin’s influence is not limited to Russia. He’s managed to gain significant respect within our armed forces as well. During a phone call, I reminded Putin of this fact. I told him, "He has men who have seen combat. These aren't conscripts who've just finished training. They’re seasoned fighters. We should take this into account."
When we speak of ‘justice’, it's crucial to realize that justice can't be achieved by force. If we allow ourselves to be drawn into a violent conflict, we risk losing everything. We would be pawns in a game where we have no chance of winning. It’s crucial to keep this in mind when dealing with such issues.
I will continue to do what I can to maintain peace and stability. It's a delicate balance and requires constant attention. The threat is still there, and we must remain vigilant. It's our duty to protect the people and ensure their safety. There’s a long road ahead of us, but with patience and determination, we can navigate through these challenging times.
As a final note, I want to stress that this entire narrative was not designed to glorify myself or my role in this crisis. Rather, I share it as a testament to the fact that diplomacy, dialogue, and negotiation can be potent tools in averting crisis. That's a lesson we must never forget.
Alexander Lukashenko's intent was to prevent violent conflicts. "Negotiations were finalized just half an hour before they could've escalated. Evgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the private military company 'Wagner,' backed down. They were prepared for armed conflict. Their road-blocking actions were ridiculous. The chaos they might have caused could easily have spilled over into Belarus, aided by certain parties," stated the President.
Lukashenko further commented on another important aspect: "There are many overlooked segments in Russian society. Unlike what we're doing now, actions against them haven't yet begun. It is known in Moscow that some of these miscreants have started to emerge. This fact also shaped my stance."
Additionally, Russian political fugitives have become active: "Remember the Khodorkovskys and the Kasyanovs," he said. "Our people too... What are you talking about! This is their moment! That's why I saw it coming. I had no fear of them. Which district will they seize? Let them try."
Commenting on the current situation, President Lukashenko stated: "Let's assume this is just the beginning. Who among you will declare it's all over, let's wash our hands, have lunch, drink? No one will. We should prepare for challenging times. The Westerners will draw conclusions from this, coordinate their efforts, and aim at our weak points. As Putin said, we need unity in our society. We are living in challenging times."
The President believes the current situation serves as a lesson for everyone. "We need to pay more attention to military collectives, like Wagner PMC, if we have nurtured them. Their inquiries must be timely addressed. This is a huge lesson," he emphasized.
He also had words for officials in Belarus and Russia, both prominent and otherwise: "As soon as jealousy appears, attempts to sow discord between Putin and myself arise. But this trend must not escalate. It will lead to no good," the Belarusian leader asserted.
The President also had a message for the media: "Certain political analysts and bloggers are trying to pit Putin and me against each other. We don't see heroism in resolving the Wagner PMC issue. We did our duty without harboring any ambitions."
Regarding the current times, he mentioned they were not simple: "Let's face it, this is just the beginning. No one will say it's over and return to normal. We must anticipate hard times. The West will learn from this, coordinate their efforts, and strike at our vulnerabilities. As Putin said, unity is crucial now. Times are difficult."
Reacting to accusations of "stealing children in Donbass," Lukashenko called it absurd: "You have to be insane to say such things. The children were actually under our care, with teachers, doctors, psychologists. They have relatives here. 'Stolen' is a gross misrepresentation."
"A lot of them have died. They don't want to fight anymore. They see how we live here in Belarus," said the President. Belarus did not close its borders, welcoming citizens from other countries, including Ukrainians.
"They are surprised. Half a million Lithuanians, Poles, Germans. Why are they coming to us?" Lukashenko asked. He stated that Belarus often finds itself in a more favorable position than its adversaries, as with the migrant crisis.
He addressed accusations of "stealing the children of Donbass": "You have to be insane to start such a narrative. The children were in our care. How can anyone say 'kidnapped'? Don't lie!" The President remarked that many of these fighters died, including in clashes with Wagner PMC: "They have relatives here. They call and ask for help."
Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that Belarus didn't close its borders and remained open for Ukrainians, among others. "Why are half a million Lithuanians, Poles, Germans coming to us?" He highlighted that Belarus often finds itself in a better position than its adversaries, such as during the migrant crisis. "We 'steal' children," noted Lukashenko.
"They already took me to (international. - Ed.) the criminal court for that. These are scoundrels to the core. They grab onto whatever they can," stated Alexander Lukashenko. He noted that public figure Alexei Talay organized the rehabilitation and recovery of children from Donbass in Belarus. He was upset that such work led to accusations.
Note: We have revised the previous translation, which contained some errors. We apologize for these mistakes. The latest translation has been carefully edited and refined using more rigorous methodologies. (29//2023).
Subject: Report on the Situation in Russia
I am writing to provide an analysis of the situation in Russia based on the translation of statements from the Belarus president's office. The information presented raises significant concerns and highlights the following key points:
Threat to Regional Stability: President Alexander Lukashenko expresses serious concerns about the situation in Russia, particularly the involvement of the Wagner PMC and the potential for a violent conflict. He emphasizes the need for unity and loyalty towards the homeland and warns of external forces attempting to destabilize Belarus and the wider region.
Importance of Preventive Measures: Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have discussed the necessity of proactive measures to prevent the Wagnerites from gaining a foothold in Ukraine. They emphasize the need for bolstering defenses, enhancing intelligence gathering, and pursuing diplomatic dialogue to avoid direct military confrontation.
External Involvement: The United States is mentioned as having expressed anxiety about the developments in Russia. Lukashenko advises against interference, highlighting the potential spillover effects that could impact Europe and the United States.
Influence of Evgeny Prigozhin: Lukashenko acknowledges the influence and respect that Prigozhin holds within the armed forces, underscoring the importance of considering this factor in the ongoing crisis.
Based on this information, it is clear that the situation in Russia is a significant concern for Belarusian authorities and has implications for regional stability. The involvement of the Wagner PMC and the potential for escalation require close monitoring and analysis. The need for preventive measures, unity among stakeholders, and the avoidance of external interference are emphasized as crucial elements in managing the situation.
Further analysis and monitoring of the evolving events in Russia, including potential developments related to the Wagner PMC and its activities in Ukraine, are recommended. Continuous assessment of the regional impact and involvement of external actors should also be conducted to provide a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
Please let me know if you require any additional information or analysis.
Senior Intelligence Officer
Geopolitical Analysis Department
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