A Russian proverb says: ”If somebody is lying in the center of the road, he gets ran over”. In our case the opposition may meet this tragic end. And the factor, which may ruin it, is the relations with Russia. Let us remind you that this factor together with the concept of two national languages were among the reasons why S. Shushkevich and Z. Paznyak lost the presidential elections in spring 1994. Today’s situation is very similar. It is all the more dangerous because opponents of the present regime keep chanting their old party slogans and make believe that everything is OK. If somebody thinks that the opposition has left it all behind, we would recommend them to read the criteria for a democratic candidate for presidency, adopted by a BPF session.

Meanwhile, the number of those who are ready to vote in favor of the unification of Russia and Belarus in a hypothetical referendum has increased by almost 15% over the last year and a half. At the same time, the number of opponents of the unification has gone down by roughly the same percentage. It is understood, that the question regarding a referendum was incorrectly worded. But if this referendum becomes a reality, please be sure that the wording of the question would also be incorrect and unclear.
The situation with the choice of best relations between Russia and Belarus is not much more optimistic. The supporters of Belarus’ sovereignty are in the minority. Let us face it – over the last six months the number of convinced unification supporters has always been bigger than the number of its opponents (Table 1).

Table 1. Convinced supporters and opponents of integration, %

The easiest explanation we often hear is that the supporters of integration are all supporters of A. Lukashenko. However, first, over this period the number of A. Lukashenko’s supporters has gone down. Second, Table 2 shows that 16.8% of his opponents said that the best variant of relations between Belarus and Russia is the merger and 24.4% of them supported a union of independent countries.

Table 2. Attitude to A. Lukashenko, depending on preference in relations with Russia *, %

* The table should be read horizontally

Table 3 shows that more than 33% of respondents who are not sure about the integration are dissatisfied with the way, A. Lukashenko has ruled this country, i.e. not all of the supporters of “moderate” integration are convinced proponents of A. Lukashenko. Moreover, around 30% of integration supporters do not want A. Lukashenko to be president of Belarus for another term, and 38.9% of those who hesitate share this view (Table 4).

Table 3. Attitude to integration with Russia, depending on satisfaction with the way that A. Lukashenko has ruled the country*, %

* The table should be read horizontally

Table 4. Attitude to integration with Russia, depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko’s another term in office*, %

* The table should be read horizontally

The situation is similar with the voting in a hypothetical referendum about the merger of Belarus and Russia. As many as 36% of those who do not want A. Lukashenko to be president of Belarus for another term would vote in favor of the merger (Table 5). Neither do 34.6% of respondents, who think that a union of two independent countries is the best scenario and 27.9% of those who prefer unification want A. Lukashenko to win the next presidential elections (Table 6).

Table 5. Voting in a hypothetical referendum about the unification of Russia and Belarus, depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko’s another term in office*, %

* The table should be read horizontally

Table 6. Attitude to A. Lukashenko’s another term in office, depending on the preference in relations between Belarus and Russia, %

It is understood, that the opposition needs to promptly react to a serious discrepancy among different groups within Belarus, primarily between the elite and ordinary voters. Maybe, it makes sense figuring our what is the highest priority for a start – a victory over A. Lukashenko or the opposition to the “Russian imperialism”, and think whether the latter helps the former. It is clear that the hesitant majority and convinced supporters of the opposition need different methods of convincing. For instance, the actions which traditionally happen during street protests are unacceptable for the first group.
A. Lukashenko is trying to do a wise thing to grab a monopoly over the Russian factor. We must admit that Belarusian’s attitude to Russia is largely irrational. And if A. Lukashenko’s convinced supporters see the unification as the revival of the Soviet Union, those who hesitate have a less ideological and more pragmatic approach. For them integration is normal relations without borders and customs, warm homes and working factories.
The approach to Russia, shared by part of the opposition, is just as irrational. We need to openly admit, and the figures above confirm this, that radical approach to relations with Russia, shared by the opponents of the current regime, does not help them attract new supporters. It is worrying, that the opposition tries to ignore the political forces, which make important decisions in today’s Moscow. Whenever opposition leaders claim that they establish contacts with Russian elite, it means they have met another group of political outsiders or, in the best of cases, with right-wing politicians who are not major political players these days.
We feel that a winning the presidential elections without a comprehensive, efficient and understandable policy of relations with the East, which would answer the needs of common voters, would be difficult. This may sound trite, but we need to search for a balanced decision, which would equally avoid A. Lukashenko’s capitation and dreams of mighty military groupings, and arguments, which would normally be used to create posters for street rallies. A policy must be more detailed than a concept: “We are ready to discuss anything except our sovereignty”.
A. Lukashenko also talks about the preservation of Belarusian sovereignty. A comprehensive concept needs to be developed, which would combine a firm approach and flexibility. The independence of the Belarusian state is an unshakable basis, but voters must be presented a detailed and understandable variant of bilateral relations. High time we went down from a street rally platform and begin negotiating things. We have little choice: either to adjust our views, which are not supported in society or try to change the views of society. The latter did not change during the last ten years, after Belarus gained independence.