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October 3 – October 9, 2022
Belarus-West relations

The regime tries to telegraph the West with nuclear threats and “non-participation” in the war

The situation has not changed

The Belarusian regime continues to test the ground for possible bargaining with the West and Ukraine. The non-participation of the Belarusian army in the Russian-Ukrainian war was once again proposed as a bargaining chip. When this received no response, Lukashenka returned to speculating about the possible deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, against a background of Vladimir Putin hinting about the possibility of their use against Ukraine. An unsuccessful attempt to renew a communication channel with the Vatican ended with a new campaign of pressure by the Belarusian authorities on the Catholic community of Belarus.

Lukashenka stated that Belarus and Russia already have a response strategy regarding the possible deployment of nuclear weapons in Poland, but they will keep their options open. Earlier, in June, he announced the preparation of Belarusian infrastructure for storing atomic weapons and adapting Belarusian aircraft to carry nuclear warheads. In July, he announced his readiness to protect the border with nuclear weapons and said that he had already agreed with Vladimir Putin to respond reciprocally to the use of nuclear weapons within a day. In September, he said stated Belarus should have tactical nuclear weapons.

These statements must be seen in the context of Kremlin threats to use nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine and the West, which the United States and its allies see as the most severe threat of its kind since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

However, Minsk does not appear to believe in a “nuclear apocalypse” scenario, thinking that the West will not dare to retaliate against Russia because of guaranteed mutual destruction.

Minsk still hopes to leverage its unique position to achieve dialogue with the West and Ukraine and to protect itself from future retaliation using the (non) involvement of the Belarusian armed forces in the conflict as a bargaining counter.

On the one hand, Lukashenka confirmed Belarusian participation in the “special military operation”, however, he again stressed that the Belarusian military is not engaged in Ukraine. According to him, the Belarusian participation prevents the spread of the conflict to Belarus and a “stab in the back” of Russian troops from Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

On the other hand, given the strategic defeat that Russia is suffering, Lukashenka is beginning to realise that “the collective West has its accounts for Belarus“, and Ukraine is preparing strikes on Belarusian territory in response to assistance provided to Russian troops and recent missile launches from Belarusian territory.

The West once again ignored these signals. Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anushauskas stated that Lukashenka’s being used in the war instead of nuclear weapons to tie down as many Ukrainian troops as possible at the Belarusian border. Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak believes the Belarusian regime should bear the same responsibility as the Russian Federation for the war against Ukraine.

The response of the Belarusian regime was not long in coming. Retaliation against the Belarusian Catholic community took the form of the closure of a school at the Minsk Christian Social Centre and the termination of the contract for the use of the Red Church on Independence Square by the Minsk City Executive Committee “for [the possibility of] carrying out repair and restoration work.”

Before that, Minsk tried to open a communication channel with the Vatican. First Deputy Foreign Minister Siarhei Aleinik held a meeting with Apostolic Nuncio Ante Jozic, discussing issues of bilateral cooperation in the humanitarian sphere and exchanging views on regional developments.

The statements and actions of the Belarusian regime demonstrate its confusion and complete lack of understanding of the emerging foreign policy and military-strategic realities in the region. Instead of the desired effect of attracting dialogue with the West and Ukraine, the Belarusian regime is ostracised and faces increasing pressure.

 

 

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of leading Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries to the most topical and relevant issues, including on behind the scenes processes ongoing in Belarus, in Russian and English.
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