Wednesday, September 27, 2017


"Mr. Lukashenka has created a repressive dictatorship on the doorstep of the European Union (EU) and NATO. Unlike any other leader in Europe, his actions impede realization of a Europe whole, free and at peace, and introduce an element of unpredictability and potential instability and insecurity in Europe. Through his track record of fraudulent elections; state-orchestrated "disappearances" of opponents; imprisonment of peaceful, democratic political figures on spurious charges; and repressive tactics to intimidate civil society, Lukashenka has demonstrated that he is incapable of leading Belarus toward a democratic future. Furthermore, as Belarus’ self-imposed isolation intensifies, Lukashenka is increasingly seeking partners from other states of concern".
Department of State, "Report on Belarus, the Last Dictatorship in Europe, Including Arms Sales and Leadership Assets". 16 March 2006, in
"Minsk has been testing the limits of how far it can distance itself from Moscow and rebuild relations with the West, which were frozen between 2010 and 2016. Belarus has released its political prisoners and sought to engage with the European Union, while rejecting Russian demands for an airbase and staying neutral in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. However, Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin seemed to patch up most of their differences at a summit in St Petersburg in April 2017. So how much has really changed between Belarus and Russia? How real have the tensions been? How far is Lukashenka able to turn to the West, and is he really interested in doing so? The key to answering all of these questions is to understand that Lukashenka is still a dictator and his priority is his own survival....There is a modest opportunity for Europe to bring Belarus closer, both in terms of strategic alignment and in pushing for democratisation. Europe should embrace Belarus’s efforts to strengthen its external sovereignty and to pursue a policy of ‘strategic hedging’ and avoid steps that would increase its dependence on Russia. There are constituencies within the administration that see the advantages of moving towards the West, but which also recognise the realities of how far Belarus can go. European states should accept Minsk’s invitation to send military observers to Belarus for Zapad 2017. The invitation provides a degree of transparency but is also a manifestation of Belarus’s sovereignty (given Moscow’s displeasure with this move). An overall deepening of military ties, through military-to-military cooperation and exchange programmes, would also be beneficial. The EU should also further support Lukashenka’s balancing act of maintaining a neutral stance with regard to Russia’s conflicts with its neighbours. The hosting of talks in Minsk has proven useful for the West as well as an effective insurance policy for Belarus. It has allowed Belarus to deflect pressure by Russia and not follow it on crucial foreign policy issues. The net effect of this neutrality has been greater alignment with the EU".
Fredrik Wesslau & Andrew Wilson, "So far from god, so close to Russia: Belarus and the Zapad military exercise". European Council on Foreign Relations. 11 September 2017, in
The military exercises on Belorussian soil have come and gone. Without it appears Belarus being occupied or annexed by Russian forces. So much for the more extreme concerns of some diplomats and commentators a few weeks ago. With that being said, the advice pro-offered by the European Council on Foreign Relations is indeed correct. The only way or means of assisting Minsk to distance itself from Moskva's embrace and to come closer to the European Union, AKA the Western bloc is by the latter exercising its diplomatic arts to the full. To ignore as much as is humanly possible the contretemps that the Lukashenka regime provides by way of its human rights record (egregious as that is). And to endeavor in a sotto voce fashion to fund, support and nurture Belorussian civil society. In short endeavor to grow in a quiet a manner as is possible another color revolution in Belarus. With of course the proper preparation for the very same. That is unfortunately, the only means of trying to maneuver Minsk from Moskva's putative sphere of influence. In the words of the former diplomat and historian Sir Harold Nicolson, what is needed by the West in its dealing with Minsk is the ultra-subtle art of diplomatic patience:
"Patience is an indispensable quality for he successful negotiator. The wind is bound to be contrary at times, and then one has to tack to get into port" 1.
1. Sir Harold Nicolson. Diplomacy. (1939), p. 118.


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