Lukashenko challenged by isolation

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April 22, 2016 18:06

Main challenge the authorities face today is how to ensure external financial support for the Belarusian economy and political support for the regime – ideally – without changing the disposition.

The past week demonstrated that the current demands of the EU (release of political prisoners) are more painful to implement in terms of reputation, but less challenging than Moscow’s demands in terms of preservation of the monopoly on power by the ruling group.

Deterioration of the relations with the EU presumed to a certain extent that Kremlin will get involved in the Belarusian-EU conflict on the side of Belarus, thereby increasing the value of Belarus vis-à-vis Moscow as an ally. As a result, Belarus hoped for concessions by Moscow in terms of economic reforms (privatization and unification of the economic rules within the Customs Union) and for additional financial support.

The EurAsEC Summit demonstrated to Lukashenko that if Europe was not interested in him, he would be of no interest to Kremlin either. If there is no threat of the intensification of the relations between Belarus and the EU, while relative stability is preserved in Belarus, the Kremlin sees no point in applying additional efforts in the current circumstances. Stability of the Russian transit is secured and the sale of Belarusian industry and infrastructure assets becomes a matter of time, which is playing on the side of Russian business (state-owned assets in such circumstances become only cheaper over time). Furthermore, the less Belarus is capable of implementing independent policy towards the EU, the sooner Russian business will be able to take over the financial and logistics schemes.

Consistency of the EU’s expansion of sanctions against the ruling elite is most likely to provoke an increase in ad hoc repressions against civil society and tension on the official level. The logic of the regime suggests that the pressure will continue increasing.

Meanwhile, Minsk sent mixed signals last week. In his traditional manner Lukashenko made it clear that he was prepared to discuss a moratorium on the death penalty. A celebration of the 94th anniversary of the Day of Belarusian People’s Republic (a traditional rally organized by the opposition) passed peacefully. These signals suggest the authorities are not yet ready to abandon plans of normalization of the relations with the EU, regardless of the threats voiced by Lukashenko and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

We believe, during the next week or two Lukashenko will be choosing between two options and neither of them is good for him.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.

The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.

Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.

For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.

Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.

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