The West contemplates increasing sanctions pressure as Minsk tries to restart the distant arc of foreign policy

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04-10.10.2021
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Belarus is firmly entrenched as a global problem in the eyes of Western countries, which continue to view sanctions pressure as the most effective tool to change the behaviour of the Belarusian regime. In response to this growing pressure, Minsk is unsuccessfully trying to reanimate more distant foreign policy objectives.

On October 7th, members of the European Parliament (EP) approved a resolution declaring that the EU does not recognize the results of the 2020 Belarusian presidential election, condemns repression, regards the weaponization of migrants as unacceptable, and opposes the agreement between Lukashenka and Putin on the preparation of roadmaps for integration. The resolution further calls the hijacking and forced landing of the Ryanair aircraft an act of state terrorism. Members of the European Parliament call on the EU member states to invoke the principle of universal jurisdiction and initiate criminal cases against the perpetrators of repression. The EU Council is called on to further strengthen targeted economic sanctions focusing on key sectors of the Belarusian economy, particularly companies that support and finance Lukashenka's regime. However, the resolution concludes with a call for inclusive dialogue.

The following day, similar assessments were presented at an informal “Arria Formula” meeting of the UN Security Council, dedicated to the situation in Belarus. The meeting was called by Estonia, which regards the Belarusian situation as a threat to regional stability. Representatives of 31 countries took part in the discussion, during which Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN Richard Mills stated that the United States will not lift sanctions until the Belarusian regime fulfil their international obligations and stop violating the rights of citizens.

Against this background, the Belarusian regime were forced to partially de-escalate the migration crisis, in an attempt to avert even tougher sanctions. Belarus has, therefore, stopped accepting migrants flying to Minsk from the city of Erbil in northern Iraq, and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry has suspended visa applications from citizens of Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.

Meanwhile, Minsk continues to lose credibility in the eyes of the West, which will not capitulate to migration blackmail. The EU is trying to limit air traffic between Belarus and migrant source countries, and Turkey and Poland agreed to bilaterally strengthen the fight against illegal migration. The resident of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Rick Dams, discussed the "critical situation" on the Belarusian-Polish border during a visit to Poland during which he met with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The threat of tightening Western sanctions is becoming a constant source of concern for the Belarusian regime because of the potential to trigger new mass protests. At the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Belarusian Foreign Minister, Vladimir Makei, protested the inadmissibility of Western sanctions that allegedly run counter to the provisions of the UN Charter and international obligations, Minsk is also trying to breathe life into more distant foreign policy objectives, revising joint construction projects with Venezuela and improving coordination with China.

Belarus remains on the agenda of the West as a global problem, virtually guaranteeing new rounds of sanctions. Minsk is trying to contain the negative consequences by diversifying foreign policy, but as the discussions in the UN Security Council have shown, the hopes of the Belarusian regime are unlikely to be realised, particularly when taking account of the neutral position of India and China,

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