Lukashenko stealing Putin's show
While the Russian president is fighting the coronavirus infection, which he recently compared to hordes of barbarians, reflecting on ways to prevent his Federation from repeating the fate of Sparta, the world around him keeps moving forward.
His partner in the "union state" of Russia and Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, in his latest alpha move has shown the entire planet who's "the boss" in the post-Soviet space. To this end, he didn't even have to hire a submersible to dive for ancient amphoras or ride a horse bear-chested.
It took just one powerful heap for this seasoned political cougar to seized the initiative.
The Kremlin chief has gone on strict quarantine, communicating his instructions to the outer world via video link
At year-start, the Kremlin was traditionally strangling the "ally" with high energy prices, while Lukashenko publicly complained that he felt embarrassed having to kneel before Putin. Now, time has come for revenge for this humiliation.
The Kremlin chief has gone on strict quarantine, communicating his instructions to the outer world via video link. His fears are actually pretty justified as the country's prime minister has already been infected.
Meanwhile, Lukashenko is going great lengths to demonstrate that there's no such issue in his country. Daily reports published on the Belarus president website show him heading delegations on visits to factories or meeting with subordinates as if to underline live communication with no face masks on.
What's most important though is that Mr Lukashenko never followed in Putin's footsteps to cancel the May 9 Victory Parade.
The explanation was simple: otherwise, people would think the authorities got scared. So the plot is that the Belarus leader hasn't chickened out in the face of the pandemic, while his Russian counterpart sort of has.
Russian propaganda had long started to pump up among Russian audiences the feeling of their country's "greatness" and a sense of "exclusivity." It's no accident that the victory in World War II became the main ideological staple of modern-day Russia. This is a kind of religion of supremacy, an unquestionable justification for Kremlin's actions in the international arena. This isn't about history or remembrance at all.
Belarus leader just doesn't stop, keeping playing the game of contrast with Putin
And there came the coronavirus, breaking Russian plans – now the main ideological "prize" is going to Minsk.
But there's more. Lukashenko demands that his parade be aired on Russian TV. He's been calling up Moldovan President Dodon – a regular guest at Red Square events - offering that he change his May 9 Moscow tickets to Minsk.
Actually, he has called up everyone who was expected to attend the Moscow parade, which has been canceled.
He publicly ridicules video-link contacts between leaders, calls on the Eurasian Economic Union presidents to visit Minsk in person. And that means things are heating up for Putin. He must make an important decision – to get out of his bunker!
But "Batska" (or "Father" – that's how Lukashenko is colloquially called in Belarus) just doesn't stop, keeping playing the game of contrast with Putin. Lukashenko has already announced that his "re-election" will be held on schedule, within the deadline set by law – that's before the end of summer, and that there are no grounds for any postponement.
The pandemic hindered Putin's plans for a triumph on Red Square
At the same time, the Kremlin chief was forced to delay his reelection plans indefinitely due to coronavirus. The pandemic hindered Putin's plans for a triumph on Red Square, and now another issue arose – the Russian president is yet to figure out how to make Russians vote to allow his rule for another 16 years.
Putin and Lukashenko had a phone call to discuss the situation.
The press services of the two administrations presented different assessments of the call.
The Belarusian side said, "Lukashenko told his Russian counterpart about the preparation for the parade marking the 75th anniversary of Victory," while the Kremlin didn't mention a thing about it.
Putin urgently needs to show "who's the real boss here". But before he does that, he must decide whether he will attend the Minsk parade. He's got his invitation. He's got his PPE gown, too.