«

»

SUPPORT OF INTEGRATION DOES NOT MEAN WEST AVERSION

As one could see from Table 1, over the last two years the number of those who would vote for unification of Russia and Belarus at a possible referendum has increased by 17%. At the same time, the number of those who would vote against it has dropped by 14%. Naturally, one can say the question is incorrect. But, first, if there is such referendum, undoubtedly, the question would be no less intricate and ambiguous. Second, negative dynamics is seen even when questions about relations with Russia are formulated in a more correct way (see Table 2).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “If a referendum on unification of Belarus and Russia has taken place today, how would you have voted?”, %

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which variant of Belarus-Russia relations seems the best for you?”, %

So, over the last 28 months the number of proponents of neighborly relations of two independent states has decreased twofold, but at the same time the ranks of those who consider unification the best variant have grown. It is worth looking at Table 3, which shows dynamics of numbers of integration supporters and opponents (we shall remind, that convinced supporters are those who would vote for unification of Belarus and Russia at referendum and consider it the best variant of bilateral relations; convinced opponents are those who are intended of voting against unification at referendum, and consider friendly relations of two independent states the best variant of bilateral relations). Here we have the following picture – over the last six months the number of convinced supporters of integration has always exceeded the number of opponents, and today it is twofold higher.

Table 3. Dynamics of numbers of convinced supporters and opponents of integration*, %

* Convinced supporters are those who would vote for unification of Belarus and Russia into one state at referendum, and consider unification into one state the best variant of bilateral relations. Convinced opponents are those who are intended of voting against unification at referendum, and consider neighborly relations of two independent states the best variant of bilateral relations

The simplest explanation that we could hear – supporters of integration are convinced supporters of A. Lukashenko – the elderly living in rural areas, with low level of education and income – i.e. social outsiders. But, first, over the stated period the ranks of A. Lukashenko’s supporters have gradually shrunk. Second, the number of integration supporters is growing not by means of A. Lukashenko’s supporters: and many proponents of integration gradually stop supporting A. Lukashenko, but are still in favor of integration. What puts on alert is that all this time there have been no reaction from the opposition at the above mentioned tendency. Previous slogans and arguments (which were based on denunciation of ancient Russian imperialism) are not suitable for explaining it. So far there have been no new arguments.

Reason for increasing popularity of integration moods in Belarus’s society has been cited many times: Belarusians found new idol – V. Putin, who moved A. Lukashenko to the second line. Under V. Putin Belarus-Russia integration acquired new face – its political-ideological components diminished, though previously it served as basis for many scandalous initiatives and statements by A. Lukashenko. It seems that now economic interests take priority for the Kremlin in this respect. And this change seems to be positively perceived by Belarus’s society – more than one fourth of respondents claimed that under Putin Russia-Belarus relations have improved, with 5.6% having an opposite opinion (see Table 4). In turn, the opposition has so far failed to offer Belarusian voters an efficient model of relations with Russia what causes serious concerns over the fate of candidate from democratic forces (several months before the election), who could face real problems over the Russian issue.

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “How, in you opinion, have Russia-Belarus relations changed after V. Putin became the president of Russia?”

Personalistic attitude of our voters to many phenomena of domestic and foreign policy seems especially clear on the example of integration. This thesis proves attitude of respondents to detention of State Secretary of Union State of Belarus and Russia P. Borodin, and also A. Lukashenko’s statements in his defense. P. Borodin is in fact the third person of the Union State and we could expect that reaction at his detention would be connected with desire not to let this state and its high-ranking official be offended by the insidious West (what A. Lukashenko did in his statements presenting everything that happened in ideological light). However, we see a different picture. Only 13% of respondents connected the detention of P. Borodin with the West’s negative attitude towards the Union State, whereas 21.9% and 23.5%, respectively, are confident that the official version of his detention is true, or there were other reasons having nothing to do with the Union State (Table 5). Most probably it happened because no support of integration “in Putin-like manner” would help personal reputation of P. Borodin. Therefore assessment of A. Lukashenko’s actions after the detention of P. Borodin turned out to be relatively low (see Table 6). Perhaps in the eyes of Belarusians P. Borodin, as well as numerous integration structures, are not a symbol of integration, unlike the Russian president.

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “In late January of 2001 Union State Secretary P. Borodin was detained in New York. What, in your opinion, were the reasons for his detention?”

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “How do you assess A. Lukashenko’s actions which followed P. Borodin’s detention?”

One could assume that increasing pro-Russian sympathies of electorate will have an indirect effect by means of growing anti-West moods in society. Fortunately, today these fears seem somewhat exaggerated. Only one third of respondents consider NATO’s eastward enlargement as a threat to Belarus, whereas one forth of pollees do not see a threat in this process (Table 7). Considering what efforts and means authorities bend to demonize “horrible monster”, this figure does not seem a serious argument proving that anti-West moods are dominating.

Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question: “As we know, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became full members of NATO. Do you think that NATO’s eastward expansions poses a threat to Belarus?”

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “About 14.000 observers to monitor voting process during the presidential election will supposedly be trained under the auspices of OSCE AMG. How do you view it?”

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do, in your opinion, OSCE AMG’s activities violate Belarusian laws?”

Before the presidential election official Minsk is trying to do its best so that there were no independent monitoring of voting procedure. The major target in this respect is OSCE AMG, which authorities have charged with all possible sins many times. Not long ago A. Luakshenko groundlessly charged OSCE AMG with preparing no less than “14.000 militants, who work during the day, and take rifle from under the bed in the night”. It is no secret that presidential decree #8 is partially aimed at complicating activities of OSCE AMG to the maximum. Nevertheless, as we could see from survey results, titanic efforts of A. Zimovsky, Y. Koziyatko, V. Azaronak, etc., and their employers bring no desired result. Public opinion does not support official authorities’ stance towards OSCE AMG. Only 14.4% of respondents spoke negatively of training of independent observers under the auspices of OSCE, whereas almost half of respondents think in the opposite way (see Table 8). It is noteworthy that almost the same number of respondents (14.5%) believe that activities of OSCE AMG run counter to Belarusian laws (see Table 9). One could assume that “secret springs of politics” and other masterpieces of official propaganda provoked response only in the hearts of A. Lukashenko’s convinced supporters.