Lukashenko - Saakashvili: common interests

There have been disturbing reports in the Georgian media that after meeting President Yanukovich of Ukraine, or rather gatecrashing his birthday party, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. There has been little official information about this meeting, so what transpired there can only be guessed at. One supposition however is that Saakashvili invited Lukashenko to Georgia. So what common interests did Russia's ally Lukashenko and Russia's bogeyman Saakashvili discover during this visit?

Some think this meeting will not lead any further, others that Belarus-Georgian relations will improve. But we do not even know exactly where this meeting took place. Some say Kyiv, some the Crimea. Nor are the date and time of it known, and all this is very strange, as usually President Saakashvili shouts every detail of his meetings with world leaders. Director of Political Technologies in Russia Sergey Mikheev thinks that the Belarus President wants to show Moscow that he can choose his own contacts, demonstrating his independence from Moscow's dictate and thus teasing The Kremlin. He has added however that no serious outcomes will emerge from this meeting as Lukashenko has a negative attitude to any type of colour revolutions.

It is known that Moscow's greatest objection to Minsk is that the latter does not recognise the independence of Georgia's breakaway territories and the meeting of the Presidents could also be understood as Belarus confirming Georgia's territorial integrity. Russian political figures and pro-Government analysts are clearly irritated by it. Some are wondering why the Belarus President has not recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Analysts cite as one possible reason Lukashenko's recent statement during negotiations with European Commissioner Stephan Fule in which he stated that Belarus will not bow the knee to anybody, including the EU, US or Russia. Annoying all equally could be seen as an equivalent policy to being equally friendly with everyone, particularly when people have competed against each other to criticise your country in recent times.

Georgian analysts think that probably Georgia and Belarus have far more in common than previously thought, principally the EU's Eastern Partnership Programme which should facilitate further integration with Belarus and Georgia. This project encourages these countries to distance themselves from other alliances and follow independent European-oriented policies. Of course many questions remain about how this will pan out in practice and the major one, following on from its desire to be independent of everyone, is how consistently Belarus will pursue a pro-Western policy. Any independent moves by any former Soviet country irritate Moscow, and Belarus may not want to be seen as being too much on one camp. But whatever the answer to this, there remains one overarching question: if this meeting served any good purpose, why are we not being told a lot more about it? Maybe there is some truth to the rumour that this meeting did not actually take place at all.


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