9 August marks a year of Alexander Lukashenka’s attempts to retain power after an apparent defeat in the presidential election. The usurper president seeks to “hold the ground with his bayonets”. The immediate evidence of this is the amendments to the law on the state of emergency signed on 15 July, which, inter alia, stipulate the involvement of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus in “protecting public safety, fighting terrorism, preventing riots, ensuring safety of protected persons and facilities.” In practice, this will mean that the Belarusian regime is ready to use the army to suppress opposition protests. Two tendencies are evident: on the one hand, Lukashenka is still afraid of losing power and is ready to take brutal dictatorial steps to preserve it; on the other hand, he seeks to rely more on his own Armed Forces than on “imports” of police forces from Russia.
Although Lukashenka held the “honorary” title of Europe’s last dictator prior to last year’s events, his aggression was largely aimed against his political opponents inside the country. He did not dare to openly confront the West. Now, the rhetoric and, most importantly, the policy of the Belarusian autocrat has changed. Today, he openly accuses the West of organising his assassination attempts and supporting “terrorism” (modern Belarusian propaganda equates opposition with terrorism). Just as the Iranian regime calls Israel “little Satan” and the United States “big Satan” in its rhetoric, Alexander Lukashenka sees the collective West as the main enemy, and neighbouring countries – Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine – as specific perpetrators of its “evil will.”
The Belarusian regime wages a real “cold war” with Lithuania, which granted asylum to Lukashenka’s main opponent in the 2020 elections: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. The diplomatic relations between the countries are almost severed (the embassy staff in both countries has been reduced to a minimum – this somewhat resembles the level of Ukraine–Russia relations), and Belarus resorts to frank provocations at the border. The number of illegal Belarus–Lithuania border crossings by migrants from Asian countries has significantly increased recently. Since the beginning of the year, more than 1,000 undocumented migrants have tried to move from Belarus to Lithuania, showing a 12.5-fold increase compared to 2020. Vilnius had to impose a state of emergency due to this situation. As Lithuanian portal Delfi reports, the migration crisis was obviously artificially provoked by the Belarusian side, most likely with Russia’s participation. In this way, Minsk is trying to destabilise the situation in Lithuania.
As for Poland, Lukashenka tries to blackmail Warsaw, using a large Polish community in Belarus, saying that they are “our Poles.” As for Ukraine, here Belarusian propaganda uses the already tried and tested scheme of “camps for training militants” and so on. On 2 July, Lukashenka said that too many weapons were allegedly delivered from Ukraine, and that the border with Ukraine should be “closed completely.” As expected, he did not name any facts or figures. Nor did he specify what he meant by the border crossing. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine informed, the mode of operation of border crossing points has not changed. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makei, in turn, said that, the border crossing conditions had not changed for ordinary citizens, and “more careful control” would just be imposed in border areas.
It seems that Lukashenka’s rhetoric is rather directed inside the country. He scares people with aggressive neighbours who send spies and saboteurs to Belarus, resembling the Soviet history in the 1930s, or North Korean propaganda that portrays North Korea as a fortress besieged by enemies.