The Future of Democracy in Belarus: Europe’s Next Challenge
In Kiev, assessed the threats to Ukraine in the event of the implementation of the Kremlin’s plans to increase Russia’s influence over Belarus
KIEV – If Russia gains full control over Belarus, it will become “an immediate threat to Ukraine.” This was stated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in an interview with the German magazine Internationale Politik, which is published by the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP). Dmitry Kuleba.
Half of the country in such a scenario, quotes the words of the Ukrainian minister “Deutsche Welle” on December 28, will be surrounded by Russian forces. According to Dmitry Kuleba, Russian servicemen will be stationed in Belarus, Crimea annexed by Moscow, in Donbass, as well as in Transnistria, where the operational group of Russian troops is based..
“Russia has managed to penetrate so deeply into the Belarusian elites, economy, society and politics, as well as into the security apparatus and armed forces of the country that one can hardly expect a radical change in circumstances, even if at some point Lukashenka is replaced by another leader,” believes Kuleba.
The Ukrainian minister also notes that the problem may be the extension of Russian control to one of the important sectors of the Belarusian economy – the arms industry. He recalled that Ukraine closely cooperates with Minsk in the field of security and defense. “If Moscow gains full control over these industries, we will have to look for other options,” concluded Dmitry Kuleba.
The Insider on the Kremlin’s plans
According to the online publication The Insider, which specializes in investigative journalism, the Kremlin has begun to work with a certain Belarusian “asset” in order to create a new party with the tentative name “People’s Right”, which will oppose Lukashenko, but for integration with Russia.
At the disposal The insider there were documents that indicate plans and some results of the work of the Administration of the President of Russia in the Belarusian direction.
They list spheres of influence, social and political projects, resources, mass media assets, a number of persons responsible for maintaining Russia’s influence over Belarus..
The publication publishes the founding program of the party, which in the Kremlin received the working title “The Right of the People”.
“The party has not yet been officially announced, but according to its program, a lot can be said about the Kremlin’s plans. Firstly, judging by the program, the Kremlin expects to channel its discontent towards “constitutional reforms”, hoping that this will distract Belarusians from the fight against the stolen elections, ”the investigation says..
The documents, which were at the disposal of the newspaper (photocopies are published on the website), say that the party will promote the idea of privatizing the public sector. The program also involves “dismantling censorship” and “respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual,” the authors of the material note..
Ukraine is ready to support Belarusians
According to the Government portal of the executive authorities of Ukraine, on December 23, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution that simplifies the procedure for obtaining a residence permit for citizens of the Republic of Belarus – entrepreneurs, highly qualified specialists, including in the field of information technology and innovation, and their family members.
The message draws attention to the fact that “this procedure will be valid until December 31, 2021”.
It should be reminded that popular protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka do not stop in Belarus. Belarusians demand the departure of Lukashenka, opportunities for holding presidential re-elections. The protests have not stopped since August 9, – since the day of voting at the election of the head of state.
Recall that the United States and the European Union after the end of the presidential campaign did not recognize the legitimacy of the elections in Belarus and imposed sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko and his entourage..
On the website of the US Treasury Department on December 23, a message says that the sanctions list has been replenished with one individual and four structures – for their role in falsifying voting results and violence against participants in peaceful protests. The persons indicated in the list are responsible for undermining democratic processes or institutions in Belarus, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement..
An integral part of the government financing law, signed on Sunday evening, December 27 by President Trump, is “Act on Democracy, Human Rights and Sovereignty of Belarus”, giving the President of the United States additional powers to impose sanctions in connection with the protests in that country.
The updated “Act on Democracy in Belarus” recognizes the Coordination Council as a legal institution for participation in the dialogue on the peaceful transfer of power and does not recognize Alexander Lukashenko as “the elected leader of Belarus”; Calls for new presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in a free and fair manner in accordance with OSCE standards; calls for the release of all political prisoners unconditionally; supports the striving of Belarusians for freedom of religion.
The act also states that the United States does not recognize the inclusion of Belarus in a “union state” with Russia..
Medium-term prospects for Lukashenka
People’s Deputy of the “European Solidarity” faction, chairman of the inter-factional deputy association “For Democratic Belarus” Alexey Goncharenko notes that the Kremlin “plan B” is a desire to maintain influence in the republic after the fall of the Lukashenka regime.
“Russia is starting the implementation of Plan B and the formation of puppet parties that will be in opposition to Lukashenka. The Russians understand that Alexander Lukashenko will not stay in power in the medium term. The Kremlin does not want to lose control over Belarus after Lukashenka leaves, ”Aleksey Goncharenko told the Voice of America Russian Service.
According to the Ukrainian politician, the question of the development of democracy in society should be addressed to the Belarusians themselves, who have shown that they do not accept Lukashenka’s dictatorship..
“The Belarusians have shown that they do not accept the dictator Lukashenka, but have not yet been able to bring the democratic protests to the end,” Aleksey Goncharenko emphasizes..
A democratic and independent Belarus, according to him, is necessary for the European Union and Ukraine, with which it has a thousand kilometers of a common state border..
“How can we help Belarusians? We have the same toolkit – we need to join the sanctions of Europe against the Lukashenka regime, it is necessary to accept Belarusians who are fleeing political repressions, ”notes Aleksey Goncharenko.
On the indirect influence of Russia
Executive Director of the Center for Applied Political Research “Penta” Alexander Leonov believes that Russia’s strategy is not to weaken its influence over Belarus, but to make it more hidden and not so direct.
“The events in Ukraine, when they tried to manipulate the fourth president, Yanukovych, led to a public explosion. Attempts to help Lukashenka, to impose their agenda on him were met with resistance among the Belarusians. It is obvious that the Kremlin will not leave Belarus and will increase its influence, but not by means of direct pressure, but using other mechanisms, for example, to create its own party, ”Aleksandr Leonov told the Voice of America correspondent.
He believes that the democratization of Belarus under the influence of Russia is impossible.
“Russia cannot allow Minsk to go the other way, because this will obviously lead to a rift, to the formation of two elites – one pro-Russian, the other pro-European, as it happened in Ukraine,” notes Alexander Leonov.
At the same time, the political scientist believes that Ukraine, unlike Russia and Belarus, has always been a country with a great development of democratic freedoms..