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Cablegate: Former Presidential Aide On Lukashenko and Cronies

VZCZCXRO5530
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSK #0915 3051540
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 011540Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MINSK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6612
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1711
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

C O N F I D E N T I A L MINSK 000915

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/01/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR BO
SUBJECT: FORMER PRESIDENTIAL AIDE ON LUKASHENKO AND CRONIES

REF: A. MINSK 336
B. 06 MINSK 641

Classified By: Ambassador Karen Stewart for reason 1.4 (d).

Summary
-------

1. (C) Former Presidential Administration Press Advisor Aleksandr XXXXXXXXXXXXX told Pol/Econ Chief on October 23 that Lukashenko has not decided whether to run again in 2011. The dictator's inner circle does not fear a managed transition, but still wants to avoid significant steps toward democratization. End summary.

Lukashenko: "Should I Stay or Should I Go (in 2011)?"
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXX argued that Lukashenko feared losing power, but was nonetheless contemplating the installation of his son Viktor as president in elections scheduled for 2011. For such a succession to be possible, opined XXXXXXXXXXXXX, Lukashenko must start now building his son's political credibility. The first stage in such a plan, according to XXXXXXXXXXXXX, could be Viktor's emergence as a power player in parliament following 2008 elections. Lukashenko's inner circle would accept a managed transition with limited political and economic changes. Even if Viktor forced some insiders to leave power,
they have amassed enough wealth to retire comfortably, according to XXXXXXXXXXXXX.

Support for Better Relations with the West
------------------------------------------

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXX reasoned that several important groups favored improved relations with the West to ward off increasing Russian influence. Viktor Lukashenko and his supporters understand that just like democratic reforms, any real movement toward union with Russia would strip them of their privileged position. Belarusian business and financial elites such as Yuriy Chizh (reftels) and Aleksey Vaganov (ref
B) understand that they cannot compete against Russian business in open privatizations. In non-transparent deals they could use their connections with European partners to buy up property. Finally, Prime Minister Sergey Sidorskiy, his first deputy Vladimir Semashko and others in the Council of Ministers such as Energy Minister Aleksandr Ozerets feared losing influence.

Lukashenko: A Soviet-Style Ruler Sans Mass Executions
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXX described Lukashenko as a product of his
upbringing -- a Belarusian Soviet peasant turned ideology officer. Raised in the Soviet Union, Lukashenko naturally believes that the state rules the people, but as a Belarusian he wants to develop the country apart from Moscow. Lukashenko, like any peasant, relies first and foremost on craftiness to achieve his objectives. As a former Soviet
Army political officer, the dictator understands the use of ideology as a veneer to mask the true intentions of one's actions.

5. (C) Lukashenko can make decisions, including harsh ones, said XXXXXXXXXXXXX, but he knows to stop short of allowing opponents
to tie him to extra-judicial executions. Murder is the only sin a ruler could commit that the Belarusian people would never forgive. XXXXXXXXXXXXX said that the MFA had advocated the release of political prisoner Aleksandr Kozulin in the event his wife neared death to avoid the backlash likely if Kozulin was kept from seeing her before she passed away. Lukashenko has taken no action, however, according to XXXXXXXXXXXXX.

Comment: Keep Driving a Hard Bargain
------------------------------------

6. (C) Lukashenko would like the West to think that he can always turn toward Russia rather than face continued isolation. In fact, options for improved relations with Moscow are limited. Many of those around the dictator seek to resist Moscow's gravitational pull. Unfortunately, Lukashenko's Soviet instincts have not allowed his underlings to appease the West with even minor democratic reforms. If XXXXXXXXXXXXX's assessment that the dictator may hand over power as early as 2011 is correct, his son may seek to make new overtures to the West in order to curb Russia's perceived power to derail his succession.
STEWART

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