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What kind of Belarus do we want to see tomorrow - Russian "Belarussia" or European Belarus?

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Let’s look at Belarus today. What is it?

It is a totalitarian dictatorship with an illegitimate and illegal regime in power. Lukashenko’s pro-Russian, Russia-controlled puppet regime. So, it is a puppet totalitarian dictatorship with a population of 9.3 million people, of which the vast majority of citizens with the right to vote voted against Lukashenko in the 2020 elections. But Lukashenko has not abandoned his throne.

Who is Lukashenko? A man who loves power more than anything else in life, he is not a representative of the clan and he did not create the clan. A man who today is an example of a bloody tyrant, on whose orders several dozen people have been killed in Belarus. During the last two years 60,000 persons were detained, thousands of political prisoners were jailed (1,441 people were officially recognized as political prisoners) and 950 NGOs were liquidated. There are no political parties and no independent mass media. And this is Europe. The West has been playing diplomacy with Lukashenko all these years, trying to negotiate with him. Lukashenko has always unilaterally broken off agreements and imprisoned the very people he had already released after another deal with the West. A prime example is Ales Bialiatski. He was released from prison in 2014 in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, but he is sitting there again, but already in the status of a Nobel laureate.

Repressions do not stop for a single day.

Why, after more than two years of violent suppression of peaceful protests and mass repressions, has Lukashenko not weakened them, but only increased them?

The answer is simple — since the end of February 2022 Lukashenko is not only a dictator, but also a military aggressor and Russia’s main ally in the war against Ukraine. And in terms of power, he actually performs the role of the Gauleiter of Belarus, the role of the head of the occupation administration. After all, since the 24th of February, 2022, when despite the end of the joint military exercises Russian troops did not leave Belarus, but invaded Ukraine from its territory, we can state that Belarus is an occupied territory.

And Lukashenko’s role, in addition to the military tasks assigned to him by the Kremlin, which he fully performs, is to maintain order in the occupied territory.

Thus, today we have Belarus, which is simultaneously under Russian occupation and the totalitarian dictatorship of Lukashenko, the Kremlin puppet.

Belarus, used by Russia for its military needs. Belarus, from which missile attacks on Ukraine are constantly launched. Belarus, where Russian troops continue to arrive and accumulate as part of the deployment of the so-called joint Belarusian-Russian regional grouping, where Russian and Belarusian militaries are being harmonized — which may well be assessed as the next stage in the creation of a common army with Russia, and as preparations for a new invasion of Ukraine.

And Belarus in which the ideology of "the Russian world" and war is actively implanted, the information field (television) is actually taken over by pro-Russian propaganda narratives, independent media have been completely liquidated, all their accounts in social networks are recognized as extremist and one subscription to their accounts in social networks is enough to get a sentence. Today, this is a country where anti-war sentiments are punished, active Russification is carried out and the national identity of the population of Belarus is destroyed.

And I return to the original question: so what kind of Belarus do we want to see tomorrow — Russian "Belarussia" or European Belarus?

If the answer is Russian, no special strategy of the West is required here. It is enough just not to have one. As it looks like there is no strategy yet. It is enough not to interfere with the Russians. It’s enough to forget about Lukashenko. And unfortunately, there is a feeling that the West has really forgotten about him. Or am I wrong?

If I am not right and the West wants to see Belarus as European, really wants to wrest this tidbit and strategically important bridgehead from the clutches of Russia — then a strategy is necessary. And it is necessary not only for us, but also for Ukraine. After all, Belarus under Lukashenko is Russia’s closest and virtually only ally in the war.

We have repeatedly drawn the attention of our partners to the available tools of external pressure on the Lukashenko regime. To the delays and loopholes in the sanctions policy, to the procrastination in starting proceedings within the universal jurisdiction, and so on. Perhaps we really have inflated expectations from our partners with their underestimated desire to use all available levers of pressure.

Or maybe we just need to look at the use of these levers from a different perspective?

Maybe, being aware of the Lukashenko regime as part of the global problem, as a military co-aggressor and Putin’s closest ally, we should look at the sanctions policy as a tool to weaken the latter?

We do not harbor any illusions that today sanctions or criminal proceedings against Lukashenko’s regime may bring it down. Today definitely not. Moreover, we understand very well that Russia will compensate Lukashenko for the losses caused by the sanctions; it will give deferrals on old loans, it will give new loans to avoid the risk of destabilization, protests, and strikes by Belarusians for economic reasons.

But it is obvious that every Russian ruble spent on Belarus is minus a ruble that Russia will spend on the war. Therefore, we propose to look at the formula in the following way:

The tougher the sanctions against Belarus — the higher the costs for Russia — the less money for the army and weapons.

So, to quote Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, who said:

"The toughest sanction we can impose against the Russian regime is the fall of Lukashenko’s dictatorship."

The second important point is the desynchronization of the sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus for the war against Ukraine. They should be identical — so that Russia would not be able to bypass them through Belarus, so that Belarus would not be a "gray area" and "offshore" for Russia. Which it is today.

As for the instrument of criminal prosecution:

In our opinion, the most effective solution to the issue of sanctions, as well as criminal prosecution of the Lukashenko regime, would be to recognize it as terrorist. Such a process has already been launched against Russia both at the level of parliaments of individual countries and parliamentary assEmblies, as well as the European Parliament. We would like to expect similar steps in relation to Lukashenko’s regime. But this requires political will which our partners obviously lack today.

The Lukashenko problem has long outgrown the borders of Belarus. The Lukashenko problem has long ceased to be a problem of the Belarusians only — today he is at war with a third country, Ukraine. And yesterday — using migrants, he launched a hybrid war against the EU, which is still going on. Of the three wars in which the Lukashenko regime is involved — one is waged inside Belarus, against the Belarusian people.

Today we do not need anyone’s concern. Not even the deepest. We lack the will and the strength. Precisely strength. Because this is the only position from which it is possible and necessary to speak to Lukashenko’s regime. It is the only language that not only he, but also the people around him, understand.

So let us create this power. Together.

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