A former KGB lieutenant colonel and a former Soviet collective-farm boss will meet today in St. Petersburg to talk business and hash out their differences.
They don't really like each other. But they do need each other.
And they really need to make a deal.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka needs Vladimir Putin's money.
He needs Russian subsidies to prop up his economy and his authoritarian political system.
But Putin doesn't want to give Lukashenka money for nothing -- at least not anymore.
He needs something too. He needs Lukashenka's loyalty.
He needs the Belarusian leader to stay in line and to stop flirting with the West.
He needs control over Belarus's energy-distribution network.
And he needs a new Russian air base on Belarusian soil.
And, there's another reason why Putin and Lukashenka need each other.
They're both facing down angry street protests.
They're both facing public fatigue with two regimes that have been in power far too long.
They both feel like their backs are against the wall.
So the smart money is that the KGB lieutenant colonel and the Soviet collective-farm boss will cut some kind of deal.
They may not like each other.
But they're Europe's last two dictators, after all -- and they need to stick together.
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