The West must cooperate with Russia on Belarus

Regime change in Belarus is increasingly a common interest if Russia and the West.

Russia has the largest influence on the Belarusian government among all international players. The influence is both economical and political.

Russia also poses the largest potential threat to the independence of Belarus. This is based on long-lasting post-imperial revanchist sentiment among a serious fraction of Russian leadership. The de-facto president of Belarus Aliaksandr Lukashenka has been successfully exploiting this post-imperial stigmas of the Kremlin to get economic and political support since the very beginning of his rule. However, the relations between Russia and Belarus under Lukashenka eventually took the form of Russia subsidizing Belarus for several millions US dollars annually.

The Russian government has went away from this scheme a few years ago. This has been accompanied by what seemed a serious personal conflict between Lukashenka and Russia’s ruling tandem of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

Russia has launched serious PR attack on Lukashenka in all Kremlin-controlled media. The wave goes on now.

The current approach in relations with Belarus is very pragmatic. The Kremlin now tries to get concrete economic benefits from Lukashenka in exchange of credit facilities to support the struggling Belarusian financial system.

There is only a limited number of benefits Russia can get from Lukashenka: privatisation of assets, customs union and a few more. As soon as Russia gets them, Lukashenka won’t be needed anymore. He would then only be an obstacle and remain a troublemaker in the regional cooperation systems of both Europe and the former USSR.

It can therefore be assumed that Russia is also interested in a gradual removal of Lukashenka from power. At least, the Kremlin is now more willing to support a regime change in Belarus than ever before.

It is therefore essential that the EU and the US cooperate with the Kremlin in creating a common policy on Belarus. The policy should both foresee a path to democratisation of Belarus and protection of stability and its independence.



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