16 August 2020   2 comments

President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for the last 26 years and he claims to have won the most recent election last week with 80% of the votes cast. Tens of thousands of people in the country disagree and they have taken to the streets to protest what they regard as a fraudulent election. Lukashenko’s opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, fled to Lithuania to avoid arrest and is organizing an opposition movement to demand a recount of the votes. For many years, Lukashenko has tried to maintain a degree of independence from Russia, but the protests have led him to ask for help from Russian President Putin. The Hill observes:

“Lukashenko’s plea to Putin marks a dramatic turnabout. Putin has been pressing Belarus for several years to integrate militarily and politically with Russia under an umbrella entity called the Union State. Lukashenko has resisted Putin’s demands, including the demand for a Russian military base in Belarus. Until very recently, in fact, Lukashenko was suggesting that Putin himself was behind the unrest following the election, and he sought to distance himself from Moscow. But either the situation has gotten bad enough that he fears losing control or else Putin has threatened to intervene against his wishes, or both. In any case, it seems likelier than ever that Putin will get the integration and basing he has sought.”

Nick Paton Walsh of CNN outlines the options available to Putin if he decides to support Lukashenko. The situation is similar to that facing Ukraine in 2014, although the stakes would be much higher for Russia which is already under sanction for the earlier invasion. Any interference by the Russians in Belarus would pose a challenge to NATO and the European Union.

Belarus has struggled economically in the last few years and the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. The economic weakness has made the country more dependent upon Russia. The EU has not made financial commitments to the country and the US has been completely absent from any economic assistance. The Belarus economic system retains many vestiges of the old communist system which ruled the Soviet Union until 1991. It has yet to make the transition to more market-oriented economic policies.

Posted August 16, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “16 August 2020

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  1. If they did help, and a similar annexation were to occur- what would the potential punishment be? I’m assuming there would be sanctions, fuss, and fear- but with the US being pretty much neutralized on the world stage right now, who do you think would be the loudest opposition? Would China care about land grabs- or are they more focused on economic grabs?

    As always- thanks for the great read!

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    • I suspect that no state wants to see an escalating crisis with the pandemic raging right now. Putin would be taking a great risk if he sent troops in. I am sure he has lots of people in Belarus, but they are not uniformed. China has no dog in this hunt, but I suspect it will protest if troops are sent in. I think the most likely scenario is protracted civil unrest. Not a good outcome, but not the worst either.

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