Minsk gambles on the collapse of Euro-Atlantic unity and Russian victory
Geopolitical alignments following the Russian-Ukrainian war both inspire and concern the Belarusian regime. Minsk’s main bet is that Russia will be victorious, Euro-Atlantic unity will collapse, Western pressure on Belarus will be reduced, and a New Union will form in Eurasia between the EU and Russia in opposition to the United States. Such a union should not threaten the existence of Belarus as an independent state.
Judging by the rhetoric, the Belarusian regime believes that Russia will not only win the war against Ukraine but will also undermine the Euro-Atlantic unity of the West. The expectation is that the negative consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war, which, following Russian propaganda, Lukashenka considers a US war against Russia, will cause the collapse of the unipolar world as Europe withdraws from the US sphere of influence and orients towards an alliance with Russia. The European Union is envisaged as the technological base of the future association, with Russia acting as the resource base.
Meanwhile, Lukashenka is concerned about the loss of Belarusian relevance in the eyes of the West, seeing this as a threat to the existence of Belarus as an independent state because of a possible geopolitical pact with Russia. With reference to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s revelation that Vladimir Putin does not see the independent existence of Belarus and Ukraine as a possibility, he reproached both parties for discussing the fate of his country without his participation.
Meanwhile, contrary to the expectations of the Belarusian regime, Western countries have begun to develop the eighth package of EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus, further restricting trade, access to the SWIFT system and the including even more people and institutions in the sanctions list. This package aims to further increase the cost of military aggression against Ukraine.
Western countries continue to hold the Lukashenka regime accountable for human rights abuses and support Russia’s illegal war. This approach includes targeted sanctions packages and support for measures to ensure accountability to the international community. However, Western countries are leaving a window of opportunity for the regime to reconsider their current course of action, end support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and actively implement the recommendations of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism report following the elections and protests of 2020. In particular, the OSCE again called on the Belarusian authorities to initiate an inclusive dialogue with Belarusian society.
Minsk authorities continue to ignore these recommendations, hoping for an early collapse of the West and to bypass the Western blockade through cooperation with the countries of the “far arc”. Particular emphasis is placed on increasing rail traffic to Asia via the North-South corridor to Iran and India. A new express Belarus – Russia – Azerbaijan service has been launched.
However, contrary to Belarusian regime expectations, geopolitical pressure from the West on Russia and Belarus is increasing. Russia still has some bargaining leverage, as shown by the grain deal, but Belarus, expected not only to withdraw from the war but to fulfil the conditions for resolving the political crisis of 2020, has no such cards to play.
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Situation in Belarus