September 26 – October 2, 2022
Belarus-West relations

The Belarusian regime protests at being labelled a co-aggressor but does nothing to refute this term

The situation has not changed

The Belarusian regime continues to try to distance itself from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict while making overtures to the West. However, the calls for dialogue with the West are mixed with expressions geopolitical loyalty to Russia. Some of Minsk’s comments on nuclear matters are considered as an escalation by the West, resulting in further pressure on Belarus.

Lukashenka used the credential presentation ceremony of eleven ambassadors to once again send signals to the West:

  • Belarus pursues a consistent peace policy, including “peace initiatives” regarding the war in Ukraine. Responsibility for the Russian-Ukrainian conflict lies with “strategic intrigues and stupidity of Western politicians”;
  • Support for Russia in this conflict derives from allied obligations within the framework of the Union State but does not provide for the direct participation of the Belarusian army in military operations against Ukraine.
  • Belarus fulfils all allied obligations to the Russian Federation, but that does not make it a co-aggressor. Ukraine is to blame for initiating tension following the forced landing of the Ryanair aircraft, by banning Belarusian aircraft from Ukrainian airspace and declaring an economic blockade on Belarus;
  • The Belarusian regime supports negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and is ready to contribute to resolving the crisis.
  • Lukashenka demands the lifting of sanctions on Belarusian potash fertilizers and opening ports for Russian grain for the sake of global food security;
  • The position of the Belarusian regime on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is linked to the West’s sanctions policy against Belarus.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei continued with such messaging, speculating on regional security issues, and combining themes of both escalation and de-escalation.

On the one hand, there is no reason to create Russian military bases in Belarus today. It is enough to place appropriate Russian equipment in the Smolensk region.

On the other hand, regarding the potential deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, Makei does not have an unambiguous answer. Everything will depend on the immediate threats to Belarus and Russia posed by the military activities of Western states. If the military-political situation requires it, then Russia and Belarus will be ready to take the most decisive steps, to ensure their security.

Previously, these signals have been ignored by the West and have not led to the diplomatic détente that Minsk hopes for. The United States welcomed the release of some political prisoners, considering it a step in the right direction, but emphasised that the gesture is still insufficient; the USA calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. In addition, the United States has imposed new sanctions on Russia and Belarus in connection with “referendums” and the annexation of the occupied Ukrainian territories. Specifically targeting the Belarusian military and the enterprise “SvetlogorskKhimvolokno”.

Despite the fact that the Belarusian regime is trying to distance itself from the Russian-Ukrainian war, the new round of escalation arising from Russian mobilization and annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories will lead to increased sanctions on both Russia and Belarus.

The overtures of Minsk to the West are ignored because of they are vacuous or garnished with unacceptable conditions. Attempting to use possible deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as nuclear blackmail to force Western countries to negotiate is wrong headed and futile given the readiness of the United States and its allies to respond to Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine with a retaliatory nuclear missile strike on Russian troops and military infrastructure in Belarus.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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