As the brutal crackdown on Belarusian pro-democracy protests enters its second month, the nation is showing how it can complete the collapse of the USSR with its protests. Across the former USSR, the republics are now establishing national identities that diverge from the imposed trajectories of imperial history. And now it is the Belarusians who are putting an end to the shadows of the past. The protesters have shown that the conflict between the rule of law and its elective legitimacy can be resolved by giving up either the elections or the rule of law.
However, to succeed, Belarus now needs European support more than ever. If the European Union as well as the US and the UK, as always, will limit their actions to “deep concern,” the “integration” of Belarus and Russia will go very quickly and smoothly. Speaking to the Financial Times on September 6, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius warned that inaction over Belarus undermined the EU’s foreign policy credibility. “The Belarusian people should not feel deserted,” he stated.
The integration of Belarus into the Russian orbit may untie the hands of the Kremlin in subsequent aggressive actions on the return of the former Soviet Union republics to Moscow’s rule. This will be followed by a final return to the state of “cold war,” which in modern conditions will be carried out by other methods, which the Russian Federation has used over the past 6-10 years, including large-scale information campaigns and interference in the electoral processes, murders of the activists, financing of terrorists and working out their goals from among the representatives of diplomatic services of democratic states and even could justify the use of tactical nuclear weapons if they suddenly consider themselves a threat.
The Kremlin was not stopped by the half-measures of the Western world with their expanding of the “individual list” or targeted sanctions for crimes committed from a seizure of territories from Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine. It is not enough to simply warn the Kremlin not to send its soldiers to a neighbouring country. The international community should have a tough reaction to the actions of the Russian Federation with a complete economic embargo, shutdown of the SWIFT payment system, and international isolation.
The EU’s hesitant response to the crisis has now left many Belarusians feeling that they are on their own with the problems. This is very similar to the situation in Ukraine where the local army has been fighting against Russian mercenaries in the east of the country for the last six years as the West looks at the “Europe’s only country at war” with the “deepest concern.” While numerous European leaders did express their support to the people of Belarus and condemned unfair elections, officials from several major EU member states including France, Germany, and Italy have also reportedly argued against targeting the Belarus dictator directly.
As the EU is hesitant to take a strong stand against the Belarusian dictator, the Russian leader is waiting to turn this situation to his benefit since the Kremlin will only win from having weak Lukashenka’s regime. Tougher EU sanctions could still cause a change into this scenario but there is no sign of a unified EU decision on Belarus soon as Cyprus is currently delaying the introduction of the sanctions against Lukashenka.
The Kremlin might use the right moment to involve a controlled transfer of power and replace it with another pro-Russian figure at the head of Belarus. The Kremlin has already invested enough resources in destabilizing the situation and “buying” the opposition and continues to do so to use this moment in the future so that Lukashenka will no longer be the only and irreplaceable pillar of Russian influence in Belarus.