Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko put on a good show of “brotherly love between dictators”, says Kirill Rogov in The Moscow Times. But for all the hugs and luncheons on the Russian president’s yacht, Putin can’t stand the strongman of Minsk. He’s had to give him a $500m loan to cover Belarus’s sanctions, and sit through a five-hour meeting to demonstrate Russia’s support. All for a “scandal-plagued” dictator who loves to play the EU and Russia off each other.
Putin can’t abide Lukashenko because he is unreliable. On the face of it, the Belarusian is a fierce enemy of democracy and western values who pioneered the “Slavic dictatorship”. But he has refused to recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea, deliberately holding ajar the “door to the West”. Belarus even negotiated the “Minsk process” peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Putin may have been planning to oust Lukashenko and replace him with a more trustworthy Moscow puppet – the Kremlin was certainly on manoeuvres to undermine his re-election last year. But Lukashenko’s “iron-fisted methods” crushed the opposition and kept him in power. He’s an expensive, untrustworthy ally Putin can’t cut loose – “a bone lodged firmly in Moscow’s throat, moving neither forward nor backward”.
Read the full article here.