Lukashenko‘s trying to get across a new version of his old message: “It’s me or Russian tanks.” A Russian invasion cannot be ruled out, especially if it has been on the Kremlin’s mind for a while. However, Lukashenko is not an alternative to the Russian tanks. He has alienated the nation by treating protesters with unprecedented brutality. Politically, Lukashenko is a dead man.
However, Moscow is going to exploit his walking-corpse status to the best of its capabilities. The Kremlin might even be happier if he became a corpse physically – his death, it seems, would make things easier for all the parties involved in the conflict.
Now everything depends on the Belarusians themselves: not on Lukashenko, or the Kremlin, or the West, or China (rumored to also be an actor in the conflict). The mass protests in Minsk yesterday numbered up to 200,000 people, equal to ten percent of the city’s residents. What’s next? Will this numerical advantage translate into tangible gains? Will the protesters begin to occupying government buildings? Will the West recognize Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the legitimate president? Perhaps it would be the smartest move, apart from refusing to recognize Lukashenko’s legal authority.