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January 30 – February 5, 2023
Belarus-West relations

The EU prepares sanctions in the event of a new invasion from Belarus. The US leaves open the possibility of dialogue with regime

The situation has gotten better
The EU prepares sanctions in the event of a new invasion from Belarus. The US leaves open the possibility of dialogue with regime
Робін Данігэн, намесьніца памочніка дзяржсакратара ЗША; www.svaboda.org

The EU will soon announce a new package of sanctions against Belarus and Russia to coincide with the anniversary of military aggression against Ukraine and suspected Russian preparations for a new offensive. The United States continues to increase pressure and strengthen ties with the Belarusian opposition in exile. However, Washington retains channels of communication with the Belarusian regime in the hope that Lukashenka will make concessions.

The new EU sanctions package against Belarus will be decided before the 10th package of sanctions against Russia. The new restrictions on Belarus will include an export ban on service provision and more import restrictions, intended to prevent the circumvention of sanctions against Russia.

The new measures are apparently prompted by the Belarusian regime’s participation in both the initial Russian aggression and preparations for a new offensive. The EU representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Josep Borrell, has stated that he does not rule out a new attack on Ukraine from the territory of Belarus.

The United States has taken action against 22 entities and individuals in several countries associated with the sanctions evasion network supporting the military-industrial complexes of Russia and Belarus. The network was headed by Cyprus based Russian arms dealer, Igor Zimenkov and his son Jonathan, who used a network of intermediaries to facilitate the sale of Russian armaments to third-country governments. Zimenkov assisted sales by the sanctioned Belarusian defence enterprise GVTUP “Belspetsvneshtechnika” in South America. Belarusian businessman Alexander Zaitsev, who is also subject to sanctions appears to be another member of the “Zimenkov network”.

On the other hand, despite these sanctions, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Robin Dunnigan, stated that the United States is engaged in dialogue with the Lukashenka regime and considers it necessary. The United States requires the Belarusian regime to hold free, democratic elections, release of all political prisoners, allow civil society and independent media to operate freely, and cease to behave as an accomplice in the war. The issue of political prisoners is a key element of every conversation with the regime. Dunnigan noted that Lukashenka does not represent the will of the Belarusian people and does not embody what the Belarusian people want.

However, in the United States Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is only regarded as the leader of Belarusian democratic forces. Washington still does not want to cede Belarus to Russian military control, as doing so has already put Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states at a strategic disadvantage.

Nevertheless, the United States plans to appoint a special envoy for Belarus who will work with the democratic movement. Tsikhanouskaya’s office and the Joint Transitional Cabinet are lobbying for a new, proactive, strategy towards Belarus, and the possibility of holding an intergovernmental summit of partner countries supporting democracy. The strategy could include steps to protect Belarusian independence, the withdrawal of Russian troops, further isolation of the Lukashenka regime, and support for democratic reform.

Echoing the USA, the German Bundestag proposed the appointment of a contact coordinator with the democratic opposition of Belarus and Russia. It is significant that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Khodorkovsky have been invited to the Munich Security Conference in place of regimes’ functionaries.

The Western hope that the Belarusian regime will reconsider its position on complicity in the war and democratic reforms is unfulfilled, leading to increased sanctions and greater attention paid to other actors, such as the Belarusian opposition in exile. The geostrategic importance of Belarus in the context of Russian military aggression against Ukraine will sooner or later push the West towards greater cooperation.

 

 

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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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