Can Lukashenka count on Putin?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenka discussed their countries' economic cooperation in Sochi on the weekend. They agreed on the release of a 500-million-dollar credit tranche, but according to media reports no futher major decisions were reached. Commentators assess whether Minsk can still count on Moscow's help.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Putin waiting before making things final

The modest results of the talks don't seem to indicate that the two leaders are best friends now, Deutschlandfunk writes:

“The amount of the loan under discussion is unlikely to last the Minsk dictator more than two months ... [This indicates] that Putin is still hesitant to commit himself fully to supporting the autocrat next door. ... Putin seems to want to delay a decision at least until 16 June, when his meeting with US President Joe Biden takes place. He has announced that he wants to talk about Belarus in Geneva, where he could use his support for - or his renunciation of - Lukashenka as a bargaining chip.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Lukashenka has lost in any case

In the end, Lukashenka won't be able to avoid becoming dependent on Moscow, Der Standard observes:

“The seesawing policy with which Lukashenko skilfully manoeuvred between Russia and the West for years has come to a dead end. And Vladimir Putin is waiting with his arms wide open. It is doubtful that Lukashenko will enjoy the embrace. Putin sees Belarus as a Russian sphere of influence and buffer zone against the EU and Nato. Now more than ever, Lukashenko will only be sovereign there as long as Putin allows him to be. From his point of view it may be a sad irony that he has clung so tightly to power only to lose it to Moscow for precisely that reason.”

Polityka (PL) /

The balance is destroyed

Polityka also believes that Lukashenka is losing all room for manoeuvre:

“His position has been getting weaker and weaker since 2018, at the latest. That was when the Kremlin decided to make financial aid contingent on integration into the Russian sphere of influence. In this way Lukashenka's room for manoeuvre has gradually dwindled, and his famous balancing act between the West and Russia has been ruined.”

Diena (LV) /

A worsening dilemma

For Diena it's the West that's in a dilemma that tough sanctions will only make worse:

“The harsher these are, the more incentive the regime will have to seek a relationship model with Russia or other opponents of the West, such as China, Iran or Turkey. The only way to prevent this is a change of government in Belarus, but that does not seem particularly likely in the foreseeable future. And no one can guarantee that Lukashenka's power would end up in the hands of the pro-Western, non-pro-Moscow opposition.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

An invitation to return to the fold

Jutarnji List also believes the meeting could have an impact beyond Russia and Belarus:

“Lukashenka not only spoke about the integration of the two states, especially in the areas of economy, defence, security and culture. He also announced the need to strengthen the unity and solidarity of the Commonwealth of Independent States (a kind of Russian commonwealth of nine states of the former USSR). ... According to Lukashenka, strengthening the CIS has the economic and political potential to reduce US dominance, and so he called on the lost children of Georgia and Ukraine to return to the fold.”