- In an interview, Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko first expressed his astonishment at the length of the war in Ukraine, then news of Putin’s apology to Israel spread.
- Are these indications that something is crumbling in Russia?
- Political scientist Martin Koch is skeptical.
Disputes actually get a lot more attention than the subsequent apology. This time it was different: because not just anyone is said to have apologized – but Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin himself. A man who is otherwise only interested in the rules of the game if they are in his interest.
Specifically, it is about the anti-Semitic statements that his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had previously made. Many Jews in Ukraine are anti-Semites, and Lavrov claimed that Hitler also had “Jewish blood.” Israel reacted outraged, summoned the Russian ambassador and demanded an apology.
Phone with Putin
According to Israel, these should have existed in the meantime. At least that’s what the office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said after a phone call with Kremlin boss Putin. Bennett accepted the apology and “thank you for clarifying the President’s attitude towards the Jewish people and Holocaust commemoration,” it said.
The Kremlin initially left this unconfirmed. From Moscow it was only said that the Russian President had emphasized the friendly relations between the two countries in the telephone call. However, there was no denial of apology either.
Lukashenko has doubts about success
As unusual as an apology from Putin sounds, it is not the only incident that caused a stir: almost at the same time, the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko drove into the parade and questioned Russia’s successes in the Ukraine war.
In an interview, the close Putin ally admitted that from Russia’s point of view the invasion was apparently not going according to plan. “To be honest, I didn’t think the operation would drag on that much,” Lukashenko said in an interview with the AP news agency. “But I’m not familiar enough with the problem to say if everything is going according to plan, as the Russians say,” he added.
Quiet criticism of Putin
The affront to Moscow included even more: Lukashenko described a nuclear strike as “unacceptable” and called for an end to the fighting in unusually clear words. “We categorically do not accept war. We have done everything and are doing everything to ensure that there is no war,” said Lukashenko. In Putin’s words, however, it is only a “special operation”.
He initiated negotiations, Lukashenko further claimed, but asked: “Why is Ukraine, on whose territory the war is actually taking place – military actions, people are dying – why is Ukraine not interested in these negotiations?” The Kremlin must have taken note of his interview with displeasure. Moscow cannot rely on Belarus’ unreserved approval.
And this despite the fact that Russian troops also invaded Ukraine from Belarusian territory at the end of February and Lukashenko blames Ukraine and the USA for the war. Is something crumbling in Moscow or how do you explain these strange occurrences?
Expert is skeptical
Political scientist Martin Koch is skeptical. “I don’t think it’s a given that Putin really gave a clear apology,” he says. The Kremlin only confirmed the phone call, but there was not a syllable of an apology. “I doubt a real ‘mea culpa’ from Russia,” says the expert.
Nevertheless, he is certain: “It is in the interest of Russia and Israel that the quarrel is settled quickly.” In fact, both countries need each other: Putin does not want to anger Israel because its weight in the Middle East is not insignificant. Israel has one of the most modern armies in the world. At the same time, Russia is an important strategic partner for Israel’s security, especially in view of archenemy Iran.
“Crumbling in Russia can certainly not be deduced from this process,” clarifies expert Koch. However, Lukashenko’s statements surprised him too. “Through his interview, he actually built up a certain distance and moved away from unconditional brotherly defence,” analyzes Koch.
Also read: All current information on the war in Ukraine in the live ticker
What could be behind it
Although the Belarusian ruler has repeatedly and clearly defended in the past that Russia had to attack Ukraine, “but now he has also shown respect to Ukraine for being able to delay the war for so long,” says Koch. What is behind it is difficult to assess, according to the expert. Only a few years ago, Putin and his allies ensured that the protests in Belarus could be crushed. Putin had now hoped for support from Belarus.
“Lukashenko apparently doesn’t want to fraternize too closely with Russia, but doesn’t want to annoy Putin too much either,” says Koch. After all, there are many people in Belarus who fear that Russia could annex the country, which is economically completely dependent on it.
No evidence of resistance
According to the Ukrainian portal “Nexta”, when Putin spoke of a “triune” nation of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, Lukashenko felt compelled to deny that there were no plans to join Russia. Lukashenko’s statements could put Putin in his place, at least a little bit.
“Despite everything, I don’t see any crumbling within Russia, not even within the military,” emphasizes expert Koch. Hoping for domestic resistance is unrealistic. “I don’t currently see any signs of resistance that could pose a threat to Putin,” he says. There is no real opposition movement, no strong anti-war movement or anyone who takes a clear stance against Putin. “The opposition has been consistently suppressed, and the population cannot obtain information through alternative communication channels,” he recalls. From the point of view of the Russian population, the war was going successfully.
About the expert: PD dr Martin Koch is a political scientist and teaches at Bielefeld University. His research interests include theories of international relations, world society research and political sociology.
- Merkur.de: Putin’s “trinity”: Lukashenko now even has to deny Russia’s accession – “We’re not that stupid”. 04/16/2022.
- AP News: The AP Interview: Belarus admits Russia’s war ‘drags on’. 05.05.2022.
Updated on 05/09/2022 at 09:57
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