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U.S. Sponsored Color Revolution in Belarus, digest from Peter Myers

(1) U.S. Sponsored Color Revolution in Belarus; NED financed 34 projects & organizations(2) Minsk Maidan? Russia  does not want Belarus to go over to the Western camp(3) Belarus: a frontline state in US-Russia rivalry, a way for West to undermine Putin(4) Belarus on the Brink - Israel Shamir - Will Lukashenko survive?(5) 2011 Protests in Belarus: Social networking sites incl. Facebook tell protesters when & where to gatherA couple of months ago, I became aware of the West's plan for a Colour Revolution in Belarus, as a way of undermining Putin and Russia. Western media calls Lukashenko 'the last dictator' - as if the alternative is Democracy. But what the West has is Oligarchy, not Democracy - it's just Democracy for Billionaires. Were the Colour Revoilution to succeed, Belarus' state-owned assets would be privatized and sold to 'foreign investors" - as happened in the Baltic States. - Peter M.(1) U.S. Sponsored Color Revolution in Belarus; NED financed 34 projects & organizations 16, 2020Belarus - A U.S. Sponsored Color Revolution Is UnderwayU.S engineered attempts to overthrow a foreign government by stirring civil arrests are usually named after a color or, at times, a flower. Thus we had an "rose revolution" in Georgia, a "green movement" in Iran and an "orange revolution" in the Ukraine.But now the CIA and its assortment of supporting organizations seems to have run out of color choices. How else can one explain that their latest attempt in Belarus is called a "slipper revolution".No, the Guardian, which published the 'Slipper  revolution' headline today but later changed it, did not come up with that stupid moniker by itself.The U.S. State Department funded TV station was the first to mention slippers in a picture caption on May 31.On June 6 the U.S. government funded RFE/RL was the first to use it in a headline.Yesterday the U.S. government and NATO funded Atlantic Council mentioned slippers in a Belarus piece. The Washington DC based and funded Center for European Policy Analysis avoided the 'slippers' but its yesterday published piece on Belarus covers the same ground.When these western government funded organizations and media come up with explainer pieces about one not yet westernized country at the very same time one can be sure that something is up. Someone has obviously briefed these folks.So what is up with Belarus?The country has an interesting geographic position squeezed between NATO aligned countries and Russia.With some 9.5 million inhabitants Belarus is rather small. Since 1994 it is ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko. He has stuck to Soviet-era policies. The country has a well developed industry that mainly exports heavy machinery. Large parts of the economy are still state owned and support the local towns and cities. The country thereby avoided the economic catastrophe that happened in Russia under Boris Yelzin but it also missed out on the economic development that happened in Russia after President Vladimir Putin took over.Since 1995 Russia and Belarus have an agreement to form a Union State:The Union State does provide citizens of Russia and Belarus the right to work and permanently settle in either country without formal immigration procedures otherwise mandatory for foreign nationals. They retain their national passports and other identification papers. The treaty, signed in 1999, also includes a common defense and economic integration as well as a Union parliament and other institutions. It is essentially aimed at integrating Belarus (and other former Soviet Union states) with Russia. But within a full fledged Union State Lukashenko's personal role would be largely diminished. He has dragged his feet whenever Russia made attempts to push for further steps towards it.Russia has subsidized the price of natural gas and crude oil it delivers to Belarus. The oil is only partly used within the country itself. Belarus refines it and sells the resulting products for hard currencies into western markets. The subsidized oil was until recently the 'integration rent' paid by Russia to keep Belarus near to its side.In late 2019 Lukashenko and Putin met for a summit in Sochi. Putin again pressed for more progress towards forming the Union State while Lukashenko continued to drag his feet. In consequence Russia cut the 'integration rent' by demanding higher prices for its oil.Back from Sochi and faced with a diminishing economy Lukashenko changed tack. He openly courted the U.S. and other western countries and suddenly emphasized Belorussian sovereignty. He even bought U.S. shale oil:Lukashenko has long balanced keeping Russia close but not too close. He rarely throws up any roadblocks to Russian policies. But Lukashenko also has resisted the Kremlin’s push for the two countries to form a unified state — something they agreed to in 1999. ... So when they failed in December to agree on a new price for oil Moscow sells to Minsk, Russia temporarily cut the supply. Lukashenko then vowed to diversify Belarus’s oil suppliers. He delivered by purchasing shipments from Azerbaijan, Norway and Saudi Arabia all in the past five months, capitalizing on a coronavirus-induced shock to oil prices. ...Pompeo visited Minsk in early February, when he first offered to sell American oil "at a competitive price." It marked the first trip to Belarus by the top U.S. diplomat since Lukashenko took power. Then in April, the two countries formally reestablished diplomatic relations when Julie Fisher, a top State Department official for Europe, was named ambassador to Belarus — a position that had been vacant for more than a decade.Lukashenko's unsustainable stunt of buying oil elsewhere worked to a certain extent. In May Russia again agreed to deliver oil to Belarus but only half the amount of previous years.But to get nearer to the 'west' also has a price. A U.S. ambassador in town means that regime change plots are never far away. The sudden attention that Belarus now receives from U.S. aligned organizations is a sure sign that one is underway.On August 9 Belarus will hold presidential elections. Lukashenko will do his best to win again.Color revolutions are usually launched over controversial elections. The results are publicly put into doubt even before the election begins. When the results finally arrive western media will claim that they diverge from the expectation it created and therefore must have been faked. People will be pushed into the streets to protest. To increase the chaos some sharp shooters may be put to work to fire at the police and at protesters like it was done in Ukraine. The revolt ends when it is flogged down or when the U.S. favorite candidate is put into place.Last year the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy financed at least 34 projects and organizations in Belarus. The U.S. does not do that out of charity but to put its finger on the scale.The U.S. seems to have at least two candidates in the race. The first one is the Navalny like rabble rousing 'slipper man':During the early stages of the current election campaign, thousands have been queuing up in towns and cities to sign petitions backing the candidacies of Lukashenko’s main rivals. Candidates must collect 100,000 signatures by early July in order to be eligible for the ballot.Some anti-Lukashenko protesters have begun brandishing slippers in response to popular YouTube vlogger and presidential hopeful Syarhey Tsikhanouski’s call to squash the Belarus president "like a cockroach". This has led to tentative talk of a looming "slipper revolution" in line with the branded protest movements that have succeeded in toppling authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.Two candidates can probably be taken seriously:Viktor Babariko is the former head of Belgazprombank, while Valery Tsepkalo is a former senior Lukashenko administration official who served as Belarusian ambassador to the United States before more recently heading up the Belarus Hi-Tech Park, one of the largest IT clusters in Central and Eastern Europe. Unlike the puppets and outsiders who are generally permitted to run against Lukashenko, Babariko and Tsepkalo have the necessary seniority and establishment experience to be taken seriously as alternatives to the current political status quo.Babariko, as former head of a Gazprom bank, is presumed to be Russia's favorite candidate while Tsepkalo is likely the one who the U.S. would like to see in office. Both have quite similar neoliberal programs which argue for privatization and a more open economy.Lukashenko may take steps to remove candidates who could endanger his position. Police say they found $900,000 in a house owned by the 'video blogger' Tsikhanouski. He is also accused of attacking police at an unsanctioned rally.  Last week Babariko's former bank was raided over accusations of a tax evasion scheme. Tsepkalo was fired as head of the Belarus Hi-Tech Park after he had used it to enrich himself. There are several obvious fraud cases that could be raised against him.The economy of Belarus is likely to shrink this year. Lukashenko's response to the Covid-19 epidemic has been as bad as Trump's. The state income from refining and selling products from subsidized Russian oil is down.There are reasons to vote him out of office. But there are also reasons for wanting him to stay.The GDP per person in Belarus is around $20,000 (PPP). That is double the number of its neighbor Ukraine and some 30% lower than in Russia. Income equality in Belarus is relatively high. Social security and services function to a significant degree.It is not at all reasonable to claim that Lukashenko could not be a legitimate election winner.A color revolution, as it is now in preparation, would probably end up destroying the country.Should Belarus fall into the hand of a 'western' sponsored candidate its future would be bleak. The state owned industries would be privatized for pennies and much of the Soviet Union like social system, which still works well for most of its people, would be dismantled. The economic relations with Russia would suffer. In the end Belarus would probably be worse off than even the Ukraine.The long term future of the country lies with Russia which has the resources and interests to manage it well. The economies of both countries are already highly integrated. Their people speak the same language. They have a common history and the same religion.Russia has high interest to keep Belarus within its realm. It is difficult to predict how it will react should a U.S. directed color revolution proceed.Posted by b on June 16, 2020 at 17:42 UTC(2) Minsk Maidan? Russia  does not want Belarus to go over to the Western camp, JUL 3, 2020Minsk Maidan? Belarus facing summer of discontentUkraineAlertby Victor Tregubov{photo} Cyclists in Belarusian capital Minsk participate in anti-government protest flash mob ahead of the country's August 9 presidential election. REUTERS/Vasily FedosenkoThis summer’s presidential election in Belarus promises to be the most remarkable the country has witnessed in over a quarter of a century. Ever since he first won the presidency in 1994, Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the small but strategically important former Soviet republic with an iron fist. This has earned him the moniker of Europe’s Last Dictator and also left his fiefdom largely isolated from the rest of the continent. However, ahead of the August 9 vote, the political monotony that has characterized Lukashenko’s rule for more than two decades has been shattered by a sudden outbreak of democracy.The current race for the Belarusian presidency is unusual in many ways. Unlike previous votes where the result was predetermined by Lukashenko’s total dominance over the country, this ballot is shaping up to be a genuinely competitive affair. Blogger Sergei Tikhanouski was the first opposition candidate to catch the public imagination with his use of slippers as campaign props targeting the "cockroach" Lukashenko. Next came former banker Viktor Babariko, whose prior role as head of Belgazprombank, the local affiliate of Russia’s Gazprombank, lent his candidacy considerable gravitas while fueling suggestions of Kremlin ties. They have had little trouble gathering the 100,000 signatures required to register as candidates, with Belarusians lining up in towns and cities throughout the country in recent months to offer their support.Both Tikhanouski and Babariko have since been arrested as part of a widespread crackdown launched by Lukashenko. However, they still aim to run for the presidency, with Tikhanouski’s wife set to officially represent the imprisoned activist on the ballot and Babariko ready to participate from behind bars if necessary. Babariko is considered the more serious candidate of the two as he represents the Belarus establishment, making him potentially more palatable to the notoriously conservative Belarus electorate.It is extremely difficult to gauge how popular either Tikhanouski or Babariko really are due to the absence of independent opinion polls, which are banned in Belarus. Even online surveys have recently been outlawed after a series of internet polls placed Lukashenko in a distant fourth place with just 3% support. These same digital polls suggested that around half of Belarusian voters backed Babariko. While unscientific surveys of this nature should not be taken too seriously, the 3% figure quickly became a popular meme among regime opponents. This clearly rattled Lukashenko, who responded by calling on anti-government activists to stop referencing it.The government clampdown has yet to quell the growing protest mood in the country. On the contrary, public anger appears to be growing and has spread internationally, with a number of solidarity rallies recently staged in European capitals. Activists are finding different ways to express their opposition to Lukashenko’s endless rule, with some adopting the slippers of Tikhanouski’s campaign and others using social media or sporting T-shirts mocking the long-serving Belarusian head of state. When police swooped to detain shoppers at a Minsk store sell anti-regime branded clothing in late June, hundreds turned up at the shop on the following day in an act of solidarity and calculated defiance.After 26 years in power, why does Lukashenko suddenly find himself in such apparent peril? The short answer is that younger Belarusians are simply tired of his neo-Soviet brand of stability. There are also a number of more specific factors behind the recent rise in political activism. In late 2019, Belarus came under mounting pressure from Moscow to deepen the country’s integration with Russia. As part of efforts to resist Russia’s unwelcome embrace, Lukashenko took the highly unusual step of allowing a series of mass rallies to take place in Minsk. This unprecedented political freedom appears to have whetted appetites for further mobilization.More recently, Lukashenko’s clumsy handling of the coronavirus crisis has caused local outrage. The Belarusian ruler refused to introduce lockdown regulations, preferring instead to ridicule the preventative measures adopted elsewhere as a form of "psychosis", while advising the public to ward off the pandemic by drinking vodka, visiting saunas, and engaging in tractor rides. Unsurprisingly, this buffoonery has not stopped the spread of the virus, with over 60,000 cases officially registered and more than 400 deaths so far. Many suspect the real figures are far higher. The country’s escalating healthcare crisis and accompanying economic downturn have struck a blow at the heart of Lukashenko’s unwritten social contract with the Belarusian public, which promised economic and social stability in exchange for continued acceptance of the non-democratic status quo.Faced with mounting domestic opposition, Lukashenko has accused both Russia and Poland of seeking to meddle in the upcoming election. The allegations against Moscow are particularly explosive, given his chief rival Babariko’s Gazprom ties and Russia’s open intention of drawing Belarus closer to the Kremlin. Nevertheless, Lukashenko’s attempts to blame protests on outside agitation are unlikely to resonate among younger Belarusians who want change and are generally less inclined to embrace the insular xenophobia of the Soviet era.As the election campaign unfolds over the coming month, there is a real danger that the situation could escalate dramatically. Lukashenko simply has too much to lose. At stake is not only his political career, but his personal freedom. The Belarusian leader will be all too aware of the potential fate awaiting him if he is voted out of office or forced out by a Maidan-style people power uprising similar to Ukraine’s 2004 and 2014 revolutions. Unlike ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, Lukashenko would be unlikely to receive a warm welcome and a comfortable exile in Russia. Europe would be closed to him for even more obvious reasons. Instead, he can be expected to cling on to power for as long as possible, and will deploy the full force of his considerable security apparatus if necessary.The presidential election in Belarus will be keenly followed throughout the region. For Ukrainians, the volatile buildup to the vote offers striking echoes of their country’s own pro-democracy breakthroughs of the past two decades. While the emergence of a democratic Belarus remains unlikely, such an outcome would transform the geopolitical balance of power in Ukraine’s favor and represent a huge blow to Putin’s revisionist agenda.A far more realistic scenario would see Russia capitalizing on mounting instability in Belarus to extend its influence. In 2014, Moscow exploited Ukraine’s post-revolutionary vulnerability in order to seize Crimea and unleash a war in the east of the country. Given the extent of Kremlin infiltration in the Belarusian military and security services, some form of hybrid attack against the country cannot be ruled out if deteriorating circumstances during the coming weeks present Moscow with a window of opportunity.It is too soon to speak of an impending Minsk Maidan, but Belarus looks set for a summer of political discontent that could have serious ramifications for the surrounding neighborhood. In order to survive, Lukashenko may have to resort to measures so drastic that he will burn his bridges with the democratic West. Meanwhile, he must also contend with his frenemies in Moscow who make little secret of their desire to absorb his nation. Belarus has been an international backwater for much of the past 25 years, but it may soon find itself thrust into the very center of geopolitical spotlight.Victor Tregubov is a Ukrainian columnist, political activist, and blogger.(3) Belarus: a frontline state in US-Russia rivalry, a way for West to undermine Putin ON AUGUST 4, 2020 BY M. K. BHADRAKUMARBelarus: Scramble for heart of EuropeThe Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration Condoleeza Rice once described Belarus as "the last true remaining dictatorship in the heart of Europe." She held out the assurance that it was "time for change to come to Belarus." That was during her visit to next-door Lithuania in April 2005. Fifteen years have passed. Rice’s promise is yet to be realised. Is the Trump administration following up?By all indications, change is in the air in Belarus. For good or bad — one cannot tell — the ground beneath the feet of the Belarus strongman President Alexander Lukashenka is shifting, finally, after an uninterrupted rule since 1994 through a 26-year period following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Belarus under Lukashenko preserved the former Soviet system in the westernmost edge of the extinct empire — no oligarchs, state-owned industry, stable employment and social security but economic stagnation and repressive state security apparatus. [...]Since 2014, Lukashenka has been marking distance from Russia and warding off Moscow’s substantial pressure to nudge him toward a closer foreign and security policy and to integrate the two countries per their 1999 Unity pact. A determined attempt by President Putin personally last December at a one-on-one at Sochi also failed to persuade Lukashenka, much to the Kremlin’s chagrin and embarrassment.Unsurprisingly, sensing that that Belarus-Russia relations were fraying, Washington soon began courting Lukashenko. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Minsk on February 1 to discuss with Lukashenko a road map of cooperation to encourage the latter to assert Belarus’ national sovereignty and independence from Russia.The latest developments make Belarus a frontline state in the US-Russia rivalry. Clearly, the August 9 elections will impact not only the domestic politics of Belarus but the trajectory of the US-Russia rivalry and, in turn, will have consequences for European security also. Washington encourages Lukashenka to navigate Belarus as an independent actor in the NATO-Russia security dynamics in the Baltics. This needs explaining.Belarus’ geography is critical to the security of the so-called Suwalki Gap, the narrow corridor that connects the Baltic States to Poland and the rest of NATO, which also provides indirect access for Russia (via Belarus) to its exclave of Kaliningrad, a hugely strategic outpost on the Baltics. No doubt, Suwalki Gap is regarded as one of the most dangerous "contact lines" between NATO and Russia.  The Suwalki Gap is a narrow strip of just 100 kms that constitutes the Poland-Lithuania border while it is also providing the only land corridor between Kaliningrad and Belarus. Conceivably, a Russian attack to capture the Suwalki Gap would cut off NATO’s access to the Baltic States while on the contrary a seizure of Suwalki Gap in a NATO manoeuvre would severe Russia’s access to Kaliningrad and establish the alliance’s dominance in the region. Therefore, for Moscow — and, equally, for NATO — Kaliningrad’s vulnerability is the Achilles heel of Russia’s national security. (Russia’s biggest-ever military exercise in 2017 codenamed Zapad simulated a conflict for control of Suwalki Gap, which followed the landmark 2016 NATO deployments to Poland and the Baltics, contrary to previous assurances given to Russia.)Until the US-backed regime change in Ukraine in 2014 phenomenally altered the security calculus in Eurasia and Russia’s ties with the West nosedived, Belarus used to be Russia’s "sleeping partner" in Europe. Suffice to say, the geopolitics of Belarus becomes crucial today in the context of the increasingly confrontational NATO-Russia and US-Russia relationship and the military build-up in the region. It is entirely conceivable that a political crisis in Belarus could transform as likely trigger of a NATO-Russia confrontation.Since 2014, Lukashenka began distancing from the Russian actions in Ukraine with a view to reposition Belarus as a neutral presence in Eastern Europe. Thus, Belarus began probing closer ties with NATO. In February, Belarus and the British Royal Marines held a bilateral training exercise less than 50 kms from the Russian border. Without doubt, Moscow took note. Curiously, the main thrust of Belarus’ revised military doctrine prioritises resistance to a Russian-backed intervention. Lukashenka has been resisting for past few years Moscow’s proposal to establish an air base in Belarus (although Belarus is de facto responsible for the defence of several hundreds of kilometres of air space to the west of Moscow.)Having said that, Belarus’ heavy dependence on Russia delimits Lukashenka’s space to manoeuvre. Belarus is a beneficiary of heavily subsidised Russian supplies of oil and gas; 70% of Belarus’ external financing comes from Russia; almost half of Belarus’ foreign trade is with Russia. To be sure, Moscow has lately begun leveraging its economic support to force Belarus to move towards closer integration of Union States, as envisaged under the 1999 pact — known as the Treaty on the Creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus signed in Moscow by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Lukashenko on December 9.Lukashenka’s resistance to Russian pressure also reflects the popular opinion in Belarus that militates against the country’s integration with Russia (which will significantly undermine its national sovereignty.) But his near-term dilemma is that a big chunk of Belarus industry forms part of value chains inherited from the integrated Soviet economy devolving upon energy supplied from Russia and export markets in Russia.Therefore, Lukashenka is constrained to follow a pragmatic line in the absence of a reliable lifeline forthcoming from the West, which is keeping a wary distance from him so far. Of late, he has agreed to restart integration talks with Russia in September or October. But how far Moscow will pile pressure for integration and how far Lukashenka can afford to resist Russian pressure will largely depend on the outcome of the August 9 elections. Above all, amidst the new volatility in Belarus politics, there is no certainty anymore that Lukashenka can impose a decision on integration with Russia on an irate nation.The strong likelihood is that Lukashenka will ensure his victory in the elections on August 9. But the big question is: What happens thereafter? The probability is high that public protests may ensue. Equally, Lukashenka’s instinct will be to crush the demonstrations. Will Moscow intervene in such an eventuality? Washington is monitoring closely. Any unilateral Russian intervention in Belarus would become grist to the Washington establishment’s mill to caricature "revanchist Russia", to demonise Putin and to drive another wedge between Europe and Russia. From present indications, Moscow’s preference will be for a pragmatic approach. Meanwhile, all this is unfolding while politics within Russia has also become animated lately following large scale demonstrations in Khabarovsk city on the Chinese border, the jewel of the Russian Far East, for several weeks with a growing "anti-Putin" tilt, which has spread to Moscow and St. Petersburg.Therefore, when it comes to Belarus, the challenge for Moscow lies in cautiously speeding up the Union State integration without risking Lukashenka’s domestic position, lest the Belarussian public perceived integration as total capitulation by him. Moscow’s priority could be primarily focused on the security sphere at this juncture — establishment of a permanent military presence in Belarus, principally — to provide underpinnings to prevent a replay of the Maidan protests in Kiev in the chaotic December 2013-February 2014 period, which the CIA exploited to instal an anti-Russian government in power in Ukraine.The "known unknown" today is what form the current protest demonstrations would take. For sure, the western intelligence is watching closely for opportunities to queer the pitch. A flashpoint comes if the demonstrations gather momentum and takes the form of a "colour revolution", prompting Lukashenka to seek Russian support. Even if he doesn’t, there is always the possibility that Moscow may be compelled to take unilateral steps to secure its interests by way of covert intervention.For, turmoil in Minsk will be viewed by Moscow as a national security crisis for Russia. Considering all that happened in Russia-Ukraine relations since 2014, Moscow simply cannot afford, from the national security perspective, to passively watch the emergence in Minsk of yet another unfriendly government supported by the US in the former Soviet republics.With the Baltics and Ukraine in western sphere of influence already, if the US grabs Belarus, Russia’s defence lines to the west vis-a-vis NATO would collapse.  In all likelihood, Belarus is turning into a classic bear trap for Russia in the great game in the heart of Europe — Moscow is damned if it acts in self-interest; it is damned if it does nothing.(4) Belarus on the Brink - Israel Shamir - Will Lukashenko survive? on the BrinkIsrael Shamir August 14, 2020It is not over yet. Will Lukashenko survive? Since the presidential elections of 8/9/2020, Belarus has experienced a wave of protests. The protesters claim the elections were rigged, as did the pussy-hat ladies with Trump in 2016. The protests are presented to the world through the lens of the fake news machine. There are dozens of media channels, all elaborating on the themes of election rigging and protest suppression.This suppression is not something to write home about. The crowds aren’t big, for Belarusians are quite civil and obedient folk; they wait for the green light (a rare quality in the East). Despite provocateurs and Soros-trained revolutionaries, there are few injured people, much less than in an average confrontation of the Gilets Jaunes with Macron’s police, Occupy Wall Street or any Moscow unrest. One man tried to throw a hand grenade into police; by his own misfortune the grenade exploded in his hand and he died of his wounds. This incident is already presented as "mass murder" and even "genocide". EU ambassadors came to place flowers at the site of his martyrdom. The deceased is being turned into a new George Floyd, an apt comparison, for the unfortunate Belarusian bomber also had a long criminal record. They made a BLM sticker with B is for Belarus. Should it be called "cultural appropriation" or just copycatting?The Presidents of Poland and Lithuania offered their mediation implying that Lukashenko should step down. It is hardly a tempting offer. In 2014, the then Ukrainian president accepted the European offer of mediation and in a few days he was forced to flee to Russia.Lukashenko is made of sterner stuff; his policemen succeeded in putting the protests down, and the protests weren’t that impressive anyway. It is too early to say whether the colour revolution will definitely fail or succeed. What is the cause of the protests, beyond complaints that life is unfair?Well-endowed Belarus has a few suitors. The NATO enemies of Russia want to move their tanks within shooting range of Smolensk; Poland wants to regain its old dependency (Belarus was under the Poles for hundreds of years). Russia wants to swallow Belarus, and AGL is too hard and unyielding for them.An additional enemy of Belarusian sovereignty is the murky and mighty body that has organized the worldwide over-reaction to coronavirus and forced billions of people into detention. Lukashenko is the hero who rejected all demands for lockdown; Belarus remained free. They even had football games; Easter, and Belarusian churches remained open and mass was celebrated. On May 9th, VE day, Belarus had its Victory Parade, while Putin cancelled his usual parade in Moscow. Such disobedience had to be punished.Like Fidel Castro, AGL has ruled his country for many years, allowing an election poll every five years to reconfirm him or to choose someone else. Each time, since 1994 when the youngest politician of Europe defeated the incumbent Prime Minister, AGL has won. This time, too. His results in Minsk, the capital city, were over 60% of the vote; his main competitor received 15%, while for the whole country he got about 80%, an impressive result. Too impressive, his enemies say. But there is no doubt he carried the majority of his countrymen.Belarus is a mono-ethnic state, with very little diversity; there are no strong political parties, no powerful and independent media, no oligarchs or superrich. It is very Soviet-like, but very neat, clean, modern, well repaired, while the SU was quite shabby. The USSR had its ruling Communist party, while AGL has no party of his own. He doesn’t like parties at all for they separate people, while he wants people to be united – and it works. There is no significant opposition party, though there is some unstructured opposition. The opposition says, "AGL go away, you have ruled for too long, we are tired of you". A sane citizen won’t vote for people with no agenda beyond power lust. Being tired of a president is not really a good enough reason for change.After the first exit poll, "rigged elections" became the battle cry of the opposition. Like the Clintonites, who could not believe somebody would vote for Trump, the opposition in Belarus could not imagine why people would vote for this old (he is 65) man. Indeed such claims are a staple of modern politics; there is hardly a country on the globe where such claim have not been made. So we hear that either the results were falsified, or people were misled, or the elected president didn’t deserve to be elected; or he was voted in by racist rednecks; or Russia swung the polls. We are offered so many reasons why the results shouldn’t be recognised.AGL’s election results had been recognised and he was congratulated by the presidents of China, Russia and Turkey as well as by the Moscow Patriarch Kyril (Belarus Church is an integral part of Russian Orthodox Church). The opposition is now trying for regime change according to Gene Sharp’s textbook, beginning with attacks on the police and continuing with girls in white sharing flowers, the technique that worked successfully in many countries, and probably will be tried this November in the US.Belarus shows what foreign meddling in elections really means. It is not placing a few ads on Facebook. It is training abroad hundreds of young men in the arcane arts of inner city warfare: mixing Molotov cocktails; car-ramming policemen; infiltrating them back into Belarus; bringing in hundred of thousands of dollars in cash; running 24 hour crisis centres from abroad; instructing the infiltrated heavies where and how to assault police; preparing and running the script for a colour revolution – this is foreign interference in Belarus elections.What do the protesters want beyond removal of AGL? They have an agenda: they want to make it easy to hire and fire workers, to end trade union protection and state labour laws, to end price regulation; the usual neoliberal ideas, but most importantly, they call for the country’s assets to be privatised and sold off. Pro-Western opposition wants these assets to be sold to Western investors. Pro-Russian opposition wants them to be sold to Russian oligarchs. These assets are rich and plentiful. 80 per cent of all industry and agriculture remains in public hands, more than in any European state.Belarus is the last surviving remnant of the Soviet Union, the last Soviet Socialist republic. The SU was based on the state ownership of the means of production; that is, factories, research, industry, agriculture. In the Russian Federation, these national treasures were privatised by Boris Yeltsin and given away to a few oligarchs. Not so in Belarus. Their industry is still public owned; their farms still belong to farmer cooperatives and not to agro holdings.Belarus is quite wealthy; its industry has been modernised, and so is its agriculture. They produce and export a lot of everything, mainly to neighbouring Russia. Europe won’t buy Belarus lorries or sausages, for they have a lot of their own lorries and sausages, but Russia buys them, as they are familiar and good value for money. Belarusian dairy products, furniture and fashion are popular in Russia.Belarus inherited two huge refineries, in Mozyr and in Novopolotsk, capable of turning raw oil and gas into the finished products. Russia produces raw oil and gas, Belarus refines it; they should be able to work profitably together. But the Russian oligarchs behind Gazprom weren’t satisfied with the usual kind of profit.  They created an intermediary company based in Lithuania; the company "buys" gas and "sells" it to Belarus, while the received payment goes offshore, to the oligarchs’ bank accounts. Some of it reaches Russian state coffers, but a lot goes astray.The Russian state kept raising the price of oil delivered to Belarus refineries, until the supposedly allied state was paying more than supposedly hostile Germany and the Ukraine.  Belarus switched to refining Norwegian and Saudi oil: it was cheaper than Russian. Now they refine American oil. Belarus also decided to cut off the intermediary company, and the police are investigating their siphoning-off funds to offshores. The Russian oligarchs were very unhappy; they bankrolled the AGL competitors and funded a loud campaign against AGL in Russian media and social networks.President Putin has a different game in mind. He would like Belarus to join Russia as a constituent republic. He does not care much for AGL who bettered him in corona days, but he does not want to be led by his oligarchs. That’s why he expressed his support during the elections and congratulated AGL on his victory. But Russian media plays against Lukashenko, whether by the demand of media lords or because of their desire to sound similar to their Western brethren.All oligarchs, from East and West, would like to destroy the last remnant of the USSR and erase its memory. This is what the elections and the attempted regime change is really all about.They are annoyed by the successes of AGL’s Belarus. If you think socialism is not a successful strategy in economics, consider Belarus and think again.For a few years, until 2015, the Belarus economy was the fastest growing one in Europe; its GDP grew 10% a year. After the terrible collapse of 1991, Belarus was the first to rebound in 2002, while Russia made it only in 2006. Just think about it:  the totally unnecessary destruction of the USSR was overcome economically only 16 years later by the rather privatised Russia, 12 years later by Belarus that remained state-owned; and totally privatized Ukraine hasn’t even yet succeeded:  their economy is 65% of what it was in the last Soviet year, 1990.You can see the graph of Russia (light grey) and Belarus GDP (solid line) between 1990 and 2018, to see that good old Belarus managed quite well under AGL. Salaries grew faster than labour productivity (as opposed to, say, the situation in the  US or UK where labour productivity grew while salaries stagnated); there was (and is) practically no unemployment.After 2015 Belarus stagnated, as it was closely connected to the stagnating Russian economy, but still they managed fine.One of the secrets of the Belarusian miracle is that Belarus has practically no corruption. I was told by friendly Russian businessmen that it is almost impossible to bribe a Belarusian official (as opposed to in Russia where officials are supposedly corrupt). They told me that their KGB (they retained the brand name) is always vigilant in fighting corruption; plenty of electronic devices, a transparent banking system, citizens’ support of the anti-corruption drive makes a Belarusian official very, very reluctant to accept a bribe. (It has to be paid into a European bank in another country, and it is not an easy thing to arrange in the present climate.)As a post-Soviet state, Belarus is quite strict. The country is so clean because AGL is known for prowling the streets personally. If he discovers some garbage lying around, he calls out the local mayor and forces him to clean it up right away. He has more than a touch of Lee Kuan Yew, the legendary Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. Perhaps he will also serve as long as LKY, 31 years – so far, it is only 26 years.Another mark of strictness is a special tax non-working people are obliged to pay. It is an heir to the Soviet Parasite Tax. The non-working person can even be tried and sentenced. Their socialism is not great for welfare abusers.The average tax in Belarus is 30%, unless one works remotely in the IT industry. Computer-savvy Belarus has 75,000 IT consultants, engineers and technicians who work for the companies located in the EU, Russia and the US. If an average salary in Belarus is about $500 per month, the IT specialists earn over $2500 and pay only 7% tax. Apparently AGL thinks that otherwise they will evade paying  tax altogether. One would think these guys should be happy, but they are not. Many of them joined the protests. They naturally want a more liberal society.The US wants to bring Lukashenko to its side; and wily AGL is ready to play along.  He is now is processing American oil in his refinery. AGL wants to stay friendly with everybody, and his new close friend is China. The Belarus men in power say their country will become the Chinese hub in Europe. Belarus is very, very close to Russia, but it is afraid of being engulfed and devoured by this friendly giant. If the pressure on AGL increases he may have to decide to get off the fence and join Russia. The US feels that and tries not to push him too far. But the Russians are smart enough to encourage the protests with exactly this goal in the mind.Will Lukashenko liberalise his country? Is it possible, without surrendering all social achievements? I am not so sure. Perhaps, while there are imperialist powers, there is no way to create a liberal socialist state. That was the conclusion of Vladimir Lenin: he wrote that the liberal stage would be reached when there are no predators lying in wait. He was decisive in smashing the Krostadt revolt.The workers of Belarus should understand what would happen to them after the rebels’ victory. Their industries will be sold off and dismantled so they won’t compete, as happened in Russia, Poland and Latvia. The terrible example of the Ukraine should keep them out of the revolt. But will it?Such differences can be solved by force, not by the vote. It is force that will decide whether socialism will survive. After all, colour revolutions are not doomed to succeed – they failed in many countries. In case of pro-Western coup, Russia is likely to intervene, as she is permitted by their CSTO treaty. But Russia is not in favour of socialism, in Minsk or elsewhere.My advice to the US administration is to expand the Venezuela experiment. When the US weren’t happy with Venezuela’s president, Mr Maduro, they didn’t bother with elections but instead, they chose ("recognised") a certain Mr Juan Guaido, a rather junior member of the opposition. They assigned to him the assets of Venezuela, including gold the country carelessly kept in the Bank of England; they took over Venezuelan embassies and assigned them to Mr Guaido, and the man gratefully signed a contract promising millions to the US-based mercenaries for kidnapping the actual president and enthroning Guaido.Now the West is dissatisfied with the Belarusian presidential elections. The Belarusians apparently chose to reconfirm their president Mr Alexander G Lukashenko (AGL) in his position, and he is a stubborn guy who refuses to sell his country’s assets and invite in NATO tanks. My advice to the US leaders is to re-use Mr Guaido; recognise him as the new President of Belarus, and have done with it. He has proved his devotion to Uncle Sam; he has experience of being a recognised president. Long live President Guaido of Belarus!P.S. Re Beirut. Some people suggest "mini nukes". I do doubt it, for Israel and the US do not possess the required technology, as I’ve been told by a Russian physicist. Only the USSR had the mini nuke technology; Russia inherited a few; new ones weren’t manufactured for years.The problem is that mini nukes are made of californium and suchlike isotopes, and can be produced only in the course of large-scale military grade plutonium production as its byproduct. Israel never produced that much of plutonium, and the US used a different process altogether. So I’d advise to take mini nuke revelations with a grain of salt.(5) 2011 Protests in Belarus: Social networking sites incl. Facebook tell protesters when & where to gather Belarusians organize flash mob protestsSocial networking sites including Facebook tell protesters when and where to gather, silently, before they break into applause.David L. SternJuly 2, 2011 13:21Editor's Note: The vKontakte webpage — detailed in this article — and dedicated to the Belarus demonstrations has now been blocked by the site's administrators because "some users believe that the page does not correspond to the site's rules."KIEV, Ukraine — In Belarus, officials are now restricting applause.Weeks of flash-mob "silent protests" in the capital Minsk and throughout this former Soviet republic of 10 million have left authorities edgy and lashing out at any perceived threats.The idea behind the rallies is straightforward and elegant: People simply gather in main squares around the country, stand silently and clap.Since any public opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko’s hardline government is met with crushing repression, organizers have tried to create a form of protest that contains as few overtly political elements as possible — a non-protest protest, so to speak.The demonstrators mill about the designated spot as if they are just taking an evening stroll or chatting with their friends. Then at the appointed hour — seven o’clock in the evening every Wednesday — they start clapping.And the rallies have an added, entirely unprecedented, aspect: they are being organized anonymously through social networking sites like Facebook and its Russian equivalent vKontakte. Authorities have struggled to track down the leaders and take the page off the internet, but to no avail.The organizers’ page on vKontakte is called "Revolution through the social network.""The revolutionary hurricane has spread throughout the world," the site says. "Now Belarus has found the recipe of revolution through social networks. The goal of our meeting is to overcome fear and begin to act!"Public discontent in Belarus has grown ever since the government, faced with a severe shortage of dollar and euro reserves, was forced to devalue the national currency, the ruble, by nearly 60 percent. Peoples’ salaries and savings were slashed, and prices skyrocketed overnight.The protests are now in their fourth week and have grown steadily. What started out as a few hundred people in Minsk has increased to a reported 3,000, and spread to other towns and cities.Lukashenko has promised to snuff out the actions."We have the opposition in Minsk on social networks," he said. "They use the internet to call for strikes. I will look and watch, and then I will strike hard so that they will not get a chance to defect abroad."Despite the fact that the demonstrations are more symbolic in nature, and too small to be called a mass movement, they have visibly thrown the authorities for a loop.For this week’s demonstration, police cordoned off and set-up an impromptu "free disco" on Minsk’s main October Square. Then as the anti-government crowds formed, toughs in civilian clothes — believed to be associated with the state security service, the KGB — attacked and apprehended participants, who were thrown into unmarked busses, beaten further and then driven away. Journalists were also attacked, including a film crew from the BBC.Human rights activists said that 13 protesters were sentenced to between six and 15 days in jail, and 17 were fined between $20 and $175. After the third week of protests some 450 people were reportedly arrested for a short period and then released.With Belarus’s Independence Day celebrations approaching this Sunday, both sides are gearing up for a major confrontation.Rally organizers describe a three-staged protest on their vKontakte page. First, demonstrators are supposed to get as close as possible to the official tribune during the official ceremonies. There they are supposed to break into applause as President Lukashenko begins his speech."We will not stop until he ends," the site reads. "In this way he won’t be able to give his speech normally."Two more clapping events are also planned, but will be announced one hour before they are to take place.And so Belarus officials have taken the extraordinary step of dictating when members of the Independence Day crowds can and cannot applaud. "Citizens won't be detained on July 3, if they don't disturb public order," said Igor Eseev, Minsk’s police chief for public security."If [applause is] for our veterans or servicemen — then of course, it is allowed," he added, as quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax.