Fake love of dictators: why Putin and Lukashenka cannot do without each other

December 26, 2022

So far, Putin has not managed to force Lukashenka to go to war

The leaders of Russia and Belarus have recently seen each other more often than their own wives. Especially since Putin hasn't had one for a long time. On Saturday, December 24, Aliaksandr Lukashenka is going to Moscow to see Putin. Before that, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Minsk for the first time since 2019 to meet with Aliaksandr Lukashenka. Analysts called it Putin's attempt to create a media pretext for a new stage of the war against Ukraine and preparation for an offensive from Belarus. In what context should the summit of the two dictators be evaluated, whether it will really influence the war in Ukraine and what to expect from the new rendezvous of the two dictators — read the "Apostrof" material.

Has Putin broken Lukashenka?

Before the visit of his boss to Minsk on Monday, December 19, "Putin's tongue" Dmitri Peskov said that during the talks, the dictators would have an opportunity to discuss military issues, "given the turbulence." Interestingly, neither Putin nor Lukashenka mentioned Ukraine, directly. Already after the meeting, Aliaksandr Lukashenka said that the strengthening of Russian-Belarusian relations was a natural response to the changing situation in the world. According to him, the priority of Belarus is to resolve sensitive economic issues. He did not forget to remind that "the main issues recently have been security and defence." On his part, Vladimir Putin said that Belarus is an ally of Russia "in the literal sense of the word."

According to Mykhailo Pashkov, co-director of foreign policy and security programmes at Razumkov Centre, Putin's visit to Minsk has a "hidden agenda", all statements at the joint press conference — in particular, about cooperation in the production of weapons, space exploration — are a "smoke screen", and Lukashenka will play the role of a passive participant in the war, who will divert the Ukrainian forces — border guards, territorial defence, etc., which cannot be redeployed to other directions, and the Russian strike will be delivered in a completely different place. However, according to the expert, it is necessary to monitor the build-up of manpower and equipment of the aggressor in Belarus.

"On the eve of the meeting, many experts predicted that Putin would encourage Lukashenka to participate in the attack on Ukraine. There could have been such backroom agreements. It cannot be ruled out that they were planned for the beginning of next year. Here we can mention the case with the Belarusian Foreign Minister Makiej: after his death, Lukashenka could well "break down" and make concessions to Putin. Such an option will materialize given the build-up of manpower and equipment in Belarus, including Russian troops," Pashkov told "Apostrof".

The expert emphasizes that the Ukrainian authorities perfectly understand the circumstances of the visit: before it, the Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief met to discuss the situation with Belarus, and the defence lines in the north, including the Kyiv region, were being prepared for more than a month.

Perhaps, the visit was also kind of a response to recent foreign policy developments: the G7 summit, the UN General Assembly on Crimea, the decision of the European Parliament and the joint statement of Macron and Biden. All this indicates the gradual isolation of Moscow and weakening of its influence, forcing Putin to look for ways to show everyone that he is determined and creates a threat to Ukraine, together with Lukashenka — here we can mention the line-up of Putin’s delegation in Minsk: Shoigu, Lavrov and others. Loud statements about putting S-400s on combat duty, joint manoeuvres of Belarusian and Russian troops, training Belarusian pilots on aircraft that can carry missiles with a nuclear warhead and joint production of weapons, of course, are in line with the joint Russian-Belarusian policy with regard to Ukraine.

On the other hand, it is clear that production of ammunition and military equipment is not a one-day task but a complex and expensive thing. If Moscow, which is negotiating the purchase of ballistic missiles and drones from Iran, has exhausted its potential, the question arises how Minsk can help Moscow, given the limited capabilities of Belarus itself. That is, this is clearly a propaganda step, but it must be taken into account, and the Belarusian defence industry does have certain capabilities — but they are not critically important for strengthening Russian military power.

Disgruntled dictators

At the same time, Yevhen Magda, director of the Institute of World Politics, believes that none of the dictators got and could get from the meeting what they wanted, and their attitude towards each other is far from the stereotypes that exist in Ukrainian society. The fact is that Lukashenka once invented the Union State and saw himself as its leader. Then Putin appeared, and Lukashenka had to give it up, that is, the relations between them are neither friendly nor fraternal.

"In Ukraine, Putin's visit is viewed as an attempt to finally drag Lukashenka into a full-scale war, but the Russian dictator's visit pursues home policy goals. He shows his fellow citizens that everything is stable, goes according to a plan, and he will move on. By the way, we see symbolism in the date of Putin’s visit. It coincides with the 12th anniversary of protests against the falsification of the 2010 presidential elections, when 7 presidential candidates were detained, which is a world record," the expert told Apostrof.

According to Mr. Mahda, Ukraine was not the main topic of the talks between the two dictators. The announcement of Belarusian pilots’ training on nuclear-capable aircraft is a signal to the West, not to Ukraine, because the Ukrainians have already been threatened with "nukes", and Kyiv does not react to this, while in Poland or Lithuania, with their economic problems, this topic will be heard, that is why it was mentioned.

Returning to the possible direct involvement of Belarus in the war in Ukraine, Mykhailo Pashkov stresses that it is extremely disadvantageous for Lukashenka to throw his troops to Ukraine: the Belarusian military do not welcome this idea, they understand the consequences. The dictator himself realizes that if he enters the war, Russia will not be able to compensate him for the losses. Lukashenka also perfectly understands that he cannot expose his armed forces and transfer many weapons to the Russians. By the way, intelligence has repeatedly reported about conflicts between the Russian military personnel in Belarus and their Belarusian counterparts, as well as the local population.

"Lukashenka will continue to manoeuvre as much as he can, because he perfectly understands that the involvement of Belarusian troops in the aggression will mean his very quick end," Pashkov believes.

In his turn, Yevhen Magda claims that every month of Lukashenka's "manoeuvres" is good for Ukraine, because the fact that the Belarusian military did not enter the war directly in course of 300 days gives him further opportunity to manoeuvre.

"In the event of an attack by Belarusian troops, Belarusian-Ukrainian relations will be finally destroyed, and it will also put an end to Lukashenka's rule. The "packaging" of fellow citizens of the Belarusian dictator will cause violent discontent among people who took to the streets in 2020 under white-red-white flags, and this option definitely does not suit the Belarusian dictator," sums up the expert.

Meanwhile, Lukashenka is flying to Russia, where he will see Putin once again. At the invitation of his Kremlin counterpart, the Belarusian dictator will visit the Gagarin Research and Test Center for the Training of Cosmonauts in the Star City near Moscow. Lukashenka also plans to take part in the informal meeting of the heads of the CIS member states on December 26–27 in St. Petersburg. Hence, there will be no major changes for Putin in terms of involving Belarus in the war in the near future. Lukashenka still has room for manoeuvre.



Mykhailo Pashkov

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes

Born in 1958 in Roslavl, Smolensk oblast, Russia


Smolensk Institute of Pedagogy, Faculty of the Russian Language and Literature (1979)

Moscow Institute of Youth, Faculty of Journalism (1986)

Kyiv Institute of Political Science and Public Administration (1991)

Ph. D. in Philosophy; the author of more than 50 publications

1979 – 1989 — worked at different positions in district, regional and republican newspapers in Russia and Moldova

1991 – 1994 — worked in scientific institutions of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1994 – 1998 — Diplomatic Service at the Embassy of Ukraine in the Russian Federation

Since December 1999 — Razumkov Centre's Leading Expert

Diplomatic Rank: First Secretary. Most recent position in state structures — Chief Consultant, Analytical Service of Ukraine's NSDC Staff

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