Belarus Sitrep 2: Battle of the Rallies

Despite Westernist hopes that the Lukashenko rally would end like Ceausescu’s last one, where the unexpected booing of the masses signaled the end of the regime, there was no such reaction here. Despite claims of many of them being state workers who had been coerced into turning up, there was even some limited enthusiasm.

You can read the full text of his defiant speech (in Russian) here.

However, to no surprise, the opposition rally was much bigger (see photo right) – perhaps by around an order of magnitude or so.

But it still remains unclear how this is supposed to translate into an overthrow of Lukashenko. While the regime continues to fray around the edges – in the past 24 hours, some Embassies have started replacing the flag with the white-red-white of the German puppet state that was the Belarusian People’s Republic – the silovik core appears to remain consolidated.

The economy will go kaput if the general strike that has affected many state-owned enterprises goes on. Still, Belarus has $8 billion in foreign exchange reserves. Russian loans are probably on the table, given concessions on integration. China might chip in. That’s enough to keep the siloviks paid, and the workers will have to eat sooner or later.

So as of now I’m not writing off Lukashenko, nor am I proclaiming the death of the “Belarusian Revolution.” Current odds of ~50/50 on Metaculus remain about right.

In fact, if Russian interests are best served by (1) Lukashenko remaining in power, but (2) greatly weakened to the point he has no choice but to concede to integration – as I said at the outset – then things are going near optimally for Russia to date.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

  2. AltanBakshi says

    I dont know if its wise to support Lukashenka, it may tarnish Putins and Russia’s reputation in the Belarussian eyes. But maybe there are no other short term choices? What does the silent majority of Belarussians want?

  3. For the RF, the fundamental question is: Do they support more integration or not?
    Losing the part of the Belarussian public who rejects more integration altogether and wants to weaken ties to the RF is preferable to losing a regime that supports it.

  4. Caspar von Everec says

    I think the end stage will be one of two scenarios:

    A. The protests drag on for a few weeks but the regime stands firm. It avoids large scale crackdowns and instead vanishes the ring leaders quietly. After a few weeks, the masses will tire of the woke college idiots and abandon them. The protests will simply fizzle away and the police will easily mop the remainder of the woke crowd that has been abandoned by the CIA.

    B. The protests succeed and the regime starts to fray. Luka in fear of his life and wealth agrees to the union state and invites Russian troops in to stop the unrest. Luka becomes a regional governor for Putin basically. Moscow will have a perfect casus beli. They were invited in by the elected head of state who is merely enforcing a treaty both countries agreed to ages ago.

    I think one of these are the likely outcomes. Another third option, less likely but more volatile is that the Lukashenko regime collapses. Russia invades directly and conquers the country in a day. The Belarussian military is just 46,000 strong, it will fold instantly.

    I don’t think Russia can afford to lose Belarus, it will mean Putin is next and worse, the Belarussian border is just a short tank ride to Moscow

  5. The Alarmist says

    If Luka hangs in there, he’ll have plenty of fecal matter about fair elections to throw at the US in November.

  6. Anybody want to give an analysis of what is going on in Thailand?

  7. What if that part makes up the majority of the population, how is Russia in the long run planning to run a place in which the majority of the population sees it as a hostile illegitimate occupation force propping up its front man, or at least someone without the support of the majority of the population? Even if Russia agrees to this, the upshot is that it will have to hold the bag on an economically depressed Belarus with its cognitive elite heading to the exits. China has the stomach to do that in HK, does Russia have the stomach to do that in Belarus.

  8. Sher Singh says

    I wonder how this relates to or accelerates the great bifurcation.

  9. Basically there is the scenario that Belarus turns into Russia’s Tibet or Xinjiang.

  10. The majority of the population is apolitical. They will accept the outcome, no matter who wins.

  11. I think the majority wants outright peaceful re-integration into Russia, whilst somehow managing to give all the dinosaur industries in Belarus a soft landing. But that’s a hard ask considering the one thing Luka did well was keep oligarchs and petty-corruption under control, whereas in Russia that’s unquestionably Putin’s biggest personal failing.

  12. Actually Lukashenko has already beat you to it and has invited Russian troops in to help what he perceives as a “foreign attempt” to create instability in Belarus. From what I read, Putin is still weighing up the options.

    We have to remember though that Putin also has problems with his own domestic liberal youth to contend with. Should he outright try to annex Belarus and it leads to more sanctions, I think there could be major protests throughout Russia. Putin realises this which is why he is weighing the options very carefully.

  13. Lukashenka is done. Dictators have only 1 trick: preventing the people from realizing how unpopular they are. Now that everybody knows that he is unpopular and everybody knows that everybody knows the only question is how and when that knowledge translates in political change. Lukashenka can’t put the genie back in the bottle.
    The siloviki have no reason to go down with him when past experiences across Eastern Europe show that they will be the first to benefit from looting the economy through privatizations and other “shock therapies”. There’s no honor among siloviki.
    I bet some KGB dude is scheming right now, thinking of using this event to make a fortune to rival that of the Radziwill’s of lore who owned much of Belarus.

  14. A key question as it relates to external actors is: do they have a goal and a plan to achieve it?

    In the case of the US empire, the answer to both appears to yes. Their goal is to have a leader who is subservient to Western interests – including to serve as part of the spear against Russia – and who once in power is free to use as much state power to put down dissent as needed as in Ukraine.

    The plan to achieve it is to stoke both genuine opposition as well as manufactured ones using informational warfare (transitional media, social media); diplomatic warfare; economic sanctions and bribery both via supranational bodies like the IMF and more covertly through intelligence agencies.

    In this scenario, even if Lukashenko manages to retain power it would be in a highly weakened state. So even if not an Ukraine or Bolivian scenario, a Venezuelan scenario with the US/EU recognizing a rival government seems to be on the cards.

    In either case, Russia would be weakened since either a) it loses Belarus outright; b) it would be forced to support an unpopular leader and would weaken its reputation among a larger section of Belarussians.

    The US is highly skilled at playing this game and now uses advanced analytical tools drawing on social media data on how best to influence events to their favor.

    Meanwhile Russia’s goal is equally obvious. To not just prevent Belarus from turning into another Ukraine but draw it closer into its orbit with a leader who is popular so that the populace will accept him as well as the direction.

    But what is Russia’s plan to achieve that goal? Is there even one – did Russia war game the current scenario as surely the US did – or is it in reactive mode hoping that things will somehow work out?

  15. Caspar von Everec says

    I think the US has maxxed out on the sanctions weapon. Germany runs the EU and Russia is its major trade partner and means to extricate from the US. I doubt Germany would care enough or any European countries would want an economic disruption in the midst of the corona crisis, that too for Belarus which is basically a Russian province tbh.

    If anything, retaking Belarus would send Putin’s popularity through the roof like taking Crimea did it. If the US failed to bring about liberal revolution back then, it can’t certainly do it now

  16. However, to no surprise, the opposition rally was much bigger (see photo right) – perhaps by around an order of magnitude or so.

    It is a matter of will and persistency rather than numbers. Even in Maidan it was.

    the silovik core appears to remain consolidated.

    That’s the key.

  17. “NO Western Nation Supports a color revolution in Belarus.” – No, every western country supports the awakening of Belarusians. White-Red-White flags indicate that Belarusians want to cut off from the Soviet past and clearly joining Russia is not their dream or the first choice. In this sense this is white-red-white revolution. What restrains governments of western countries is the fear that Karlin’s final solution for Belarus might be enacted by Putin. Nobody even the craziest neocons would consider drawing Russia into Belarus as a good thing. Belarus is not going to be Russia’s Vietnam or Afghanistan but rather much more costly Crimea operation due to big sanctions and isolation that would follow. Perhaps I do underestimate Belarusians’ resolve and fervor but I do not think they would give much trouble to Russian occupation. But Russian occupation would be extremely costly to Russia by cutting it off from the West completely, even Germany, for another 30 or so years, but in Karlin’s universe that would be a welcomed outcome. Is sitting on bayonets for 30 years is Karlin’s strategy? But it is true that at this point the western countries do not have many cards to play. Certainly imposing sanctions on Belarus would not be a good thing. In fact they should rather impose more sanctions on Russia preemptively while offer no-interest loans to Belarus regime that will be emerging from the current events. Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine should open borders for visa-free travel for Belarusians and they should offer programs of free higher education for Belarusian youths. Beyond that and the moral support I do not see what else could the West do.

  18. There’s a good chance (70%+ according to Nate) that hardcore Russiagaters will be running the US in another half a year.

    Missing a once in a generation (possibly even the only) chance to reunify with Belarus based on what some schizos in Washington D.C. will do or will not do come either which way seems rather stupid.

  19. White-Red-White flags signal opposition to Lukashenko so far as the vast majority of protesters are concerned, only ~10% of autistic zmagars read “We Wuz Litvins” into it.

    Russian nationalists don’t even have any principal objections to it, why should we give preference to one larp flag (the BNR 1918-19) over another (the BSSR 1920-1991), LOL.

    We even have our own version of it:

    And actually yes, gives its pathologies, which increasingly seem to be of a terminal nature, I do indeed think a 30+ year Iron Wall between the West and Russia is increasingly ideal. Even better if its imposed by the West, less liberast whining about it then.

  20. Philip Owen says

    There are oligarchs, at least privately wealthy businessmen, in Belarus but like pre 2004 Ukraine, they are all closely tied to the regime. Lukashenko going or even staying in a weakened position will bring them to the surface.

  21. Caspar von Everec says

    Even if democrats were to take office would it make much of a difference? The neocons in the Trump admin are just as anti-Russian as the Democrats. There’s Pompeo, Bolton and the other bona fide Judeo Christians in the regime right now.

    They’ve done everything they can to Russia, short of declaring war. I doubt the democrats would be any different.

    Its important to remember that this not 1997 anymore. Back then the US was like the Royal capital of the world, the ministers of the whole world went to DC to beg for favor. It was always simply a question of WILL the US intervene.

    Now its increasingly, CAN the US intervene? Iran attacked US air bases directly in retaliation and the US simply took the hit, they did not retaliate all out, even against a third world country like Iran. I find it extremely doubtful they’d do anything to Russia. Russia might actually be able to militarily defeat the US in Eastern Europe

  22. “Russian nationalists don’t even have any principal objections to it”. – This is a correct approach. Do not make an issue of it. However still what matters is what the w-r-w flag symbolizes for Belarusians. Does it stand for the opposition to Lukashenko regime only or does it stand for greater nationalist aspirations like the true sovereignty of Belarus?

  23. Nationalism in Belarus has often included such a Westernizing, Christian orientation. It’s because the opposition of the national idea and commonwealth has been Russian Empire, USSR, now Russia, Lukashenko, etc.

    (They also listen to this not very good sounding rock music N.R.M which was banned by Lukashenko.)

    So you can see nationalist opposition movements can add EU flags, which seems strange but can probably make sense on a local perspective, when Lukashenko is your opponent.

  24. “Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine should open borders for visa-free travel for Belarusians and they should offer programs of free higher education for Belarusian youths.”

    But who would be interested in Ukrainian education? I suspect that, similar to most other countries where an apartment prices is less than 50 thousand, you’d be able to buy a law degree and a medical degree, on the same day, and for less than one thousand euros. It’s not like you could use them anywhere in the rich world.

  25. Colour revolution says

    Does anyone know what the next steps are for the rabble of the streets???

    How do they turn a demonstration into a revolution?

    Strikes? We shall see on Monday if people go to work

    Sanctions ? EU meets in two weeks

    Army/police- Lukashenko must ensure they are solid

    Lukashenko – it’s time to begin stronger messaging about his version of. what is going on – he needs to emphasis the economic damage these people will do / privatisation / unemployment/ scare the older people about pensions

    He also needs to start closing the NGOs / getting rid of some of these ambassadors Baltic’s/ Ukraine / Poland : UK /USA

    Withdraw his from these countries first / then make them leave

    His country was better off without these scum in the country

    Also in the long term needs to look at education – liberal courses teaching this kids crap

  26. Poland already has Belarusians in the work force and in universities (not as many as Ukrainians but the pool is smaller). Some apparently are not thrilled when people mistake them for Ukrainians (in Poland now any person with a vaguely of “Eastern” accent is assumed to be Ukrainian).
    But the appeal is basically that Poland is similar linguistically and culturally but with a decidedly more western feel (more appealing to more young people than some kind of neo-Soviet model).

  27. ” the unexpected booing of the masses signaled the end of the regime, there was no such reaction here”

    Well there was this… (taking the twitter description at face value, which….)

    That “spasibo” seemed ….. like a turning point, will it be his epitaph or the harbinger of something worse?

  28. Kent Nationalist says

    I am glad it includes Pahonia, which is objectively aesthetic

  29. RadicalCenter says

    Other than the Belarussian people

    (1) being of the same race as the Russians,

    (2) being of the same religion (and mostly the same “denomination”) as the Russians,

    (3) speaking a dialect of the same language as the Russians,

    (4) having largely overlapping culture, folk ways, mores, songs, jokes, and values with Russians,

    (5) having been previously united with “Great Russia” more than once,

    (6) having fairly recently fought on the same side as “Russia proper” in the most devastating, traumatizing, glorious and unifying victory in their joint history,

    and (7) needing concerted external meddling and propaganda to begin prying them away from the Russians in meaningful numbers,

    your analogy is excellent. You have convinced me that Belarus could or should be Russia’s Xinxiang or Tibet.

  30. Russian Unionist says

    “Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine should open borders for visa-free travel for Belarusians and they should offer programs of free higher education for Belarusian youths.”

    The first thing won’t happen (with Poland and Lithuania), because the matter of granting visa-free travel is decided by the EU as a block. And you will be happy to find out that Belarusians have never needed visa to travel to the Ukraine.

    With regards to the latter, why would these countries want to engage in such a charity when their own students have to pay thousands of euros for their study every year? And that’s just for the courses taught in their national languages (those in English aimed at foreign students would cost even more).

  31. RadicalCenter says

    Thank you for your observation, Mr. Yevardian.

    Speaking of corrupt ultra-rich elites, couldn’t Putin align himself with the people by doing a brutal public take-down of a few of them when the RF rolls in?

    Putin would prosecute some of Lukashenko’s cronies — daily news as prosecutors report their corruption and humiliate them — imprison them for life and confiscate their ill-gotten wealth. Then use it to build useful infrastructure or expand and modernize some medical facilities. Perhaps distribute the proceeds as cash, equal shares to all residents of the new Belarus oblast. Something that directly and tangibly helps regular people. (This would also be a useful reminder to crooked rich elites elsewhere in the RF as to what can happen to them.)

    Also, the RF might be wise to let the people of each region of Belarus decide whether to teach kids “Belarussian” in school if they wish.

  32. Hugo Silva says

    It would be even better if he did the same in Russia.

  33. There are oligarchs in Belarus

    Are there now? What are their names? Speaking untruths in an authoritative tone doesn’t make them any more true.