The regime loses agency in the eyes of the West despite of trying to do the opposite
Amid escalating tensions over Ukraine, the Belarusian regime is trying to demonstrate its loyalty and usefulness to the Kremlin by supporting Russia’s campaign of military intimidation of Kyiv and Western capitals. Meanwhile, Minsk appeals for joint military-political steps with Russia to pressure the West to negotiate on its terms.
It comes as no surprise that the U.S. and its European allies see the upcoming joint test of the Belarusian-Russian response forces (Allied Determination 2022) as a show of strength and a smokescreen as Russia plans a possible invasion of Ukraine. This is supported by the rhetoric of the Belarusian regime, including Lukashenka, who issued warnings and threats regarding a joint military response with Russia to the West and Ukraine should sanctions on Belarus continue.
The arrival of Russian troops in Belarus against the background of the escalation of the situation around Ukraine cannot but cause concern among Western countries. However, in their eyes, Belarus is becoming an increasingly destabilising regional actor, and Lukashenka’s ability to pursue an independent policy is increasingly questionable.
Despite the official position that Belarus will not report to the United States, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry is ready to discuss issues of concern with Washington.
However, Washington demonstrates little interest in such negotiations. It is significant that immediately after the presentation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) report regarding the Ryanair aircraft incident, US prosecutors in Manhattan charged four officials of the Government of Belarus with conspiracy to commit aviation piracy.
Meanwhile, the Belarusian authorities are trying to exploit loopholes in the sanctions regime to continue working in foreign markets. After the decision of the Lithuanian government to declare the concluded agreement between the Lithuanian Railways (LTG) and Belaruskali invalid (due to the threat to national security), the Lithuanian Railways received requests for the transit of potash from the Belarusian Potash Company, Belintertrans and Belkalii-Migao (a project of Belaruskali and the Chinese company Migao). LTG responded by appealing to a special government commission, which will rule whether such transactions represent a similar national security threat.
Playing along with the Kremlin in escalating tensions with Ukraine is unlikely to push Western countries into dialogue with the Belarusian regime and is likely to lead to a final loss of agency by the regime and tougher sanctions pressure. Such a scenario increases the risk of a package deal between Russia and the United States on both Ukraine and Belarus in the context of negotiations on security guarantees and strategic stability.
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Situation in Belarus