Can Belarus Stick to Neutrality Despite Russian Pressure?
Last week, pro-government Russian experts and media launched a new series of attacks on the Belarusian government. Minsk, they insisted, is going the way of Yanukovych’s Ukraine.
Russian commentators agree on that regardless of their ideological colours. Be it the liberal Kommersant daily, government-affiliated think tanks or the radical right-wing Zavtra daily. They warn Lukashenka of Yanukovych’s fate.
The attacks have been triggered by Lukashenka’s statement that the issue of the Russian airbase is far from settled. Minsk already irritated Moscow by its cautious building up neutrality since the late 2000s.
Moreover, while earlier Minsk could collude in Russia’s politics with influential right- and left-wing elements who dreamt of restoring a multinational empire, it now has to deal with new powerful forces which hate compromise with allies like Lukashenka. Exclusive Russian nationalism is ever more influencing Moscow’s policy.
Despite raised hopes, a full turn toward Europe seems unlikely.
Do recent events indicate that Belarus could fully turn towards Europe and pull away from Russia politically? In the last few months, a number of developments have excited observers in international media and revitalised old debates about the former Soviet country’s future. But despite positive indications, a broader view suggests that this prediction may be overly optimistic.
In the judgment of most media freedom or democracy indexes, the Eastern European country is labelled as one of the worst in Europe and in recent years Belarus has shown no tangible progress towards establishing a free media atmosphere.