Can Putin Save Europe's Last Dictator?
Tens of thousands of people have gathered in cities across Belarus protesting against their President Alexander Lukashenko who is also often regarded as Europe's Last Dictator. The protesters gathered to protest against the alleged victory of Lukashenko in the recent presidential elections which are widely considered to be rigged.
According to various media reports, Lukashenko has made repeated calls to Putin to intervene and save his regime. He also sought confirmation that Russia would provide military assistance against "external threats". In a statement, the Russian government said that they are ready to provide help to Belarus in accordance with a collective military pact. However, Putin did not express his support for Lukashenko. It is likely that Kremlin will wait and see whether Lukashenko can survive the next weeks or even days as pressure is mounting on him to leave office.
It is not wise for Russia to intervene in the protests as it is too risky. The protests do not have an Anti-Russia dimension yet. It is likely that intervening in the protests will make the Belarusian people extremely unhappy with the Kremlin and affect Belarus-Russia relations once Lukashenko's regime ends. Therefore, although Putin can save Lukasehnko by deploying military forces, the best option for Putin is to pressure Lukashenko to give up his office and develop better relations with his opponents.