Gordon Hahn – Belarus: The Slavic Knot Tightens

By Gordon Hahn, August 23, 2020

As previously thought, Aleksandr Lukashenko’s harsh rule in Belarus is likely finished (www.facebook.com/gordon.hahn1/posts/10223340676086689). A few scattered thoughts on the dynamics taking shape around the Belarus crisis; one that threatens both the ‘stability’ and peace of Europe, Eurasia, and the world.

BELARUS

1. The situation is likely to deteriorate slowly over time.

2. Aleksandr Lukashenko is an unsteady element, who is likely to become more desperate and trigger-happy the longer the protests persist. His overreactions will provoke greater resistance. In this way, Belarus 2020 is not necessarily Russia 2021 or 2024. Putin is a careful, balancing, soft authoritarian. Where Putin nudges and prods with incentives and disincentives, Lukashenko shoves and batters to intimidate.

3. The regime thus far has split only on the edges, with the state bureaucracy and security forces still remaining loyal. However, Lukashenko’s popular support base is slowly disintegrating, as the protests by factory workers and others indicate. Over time, regime unity is also likely to deteriorate.

4. Lukashenko is using a ‘besIeged fortress’ strategy now to reinforce his support base in state and society, warning of possible intervention by NATO forces. His defense minister has raised the specter of a NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ model in order to conduct an air campaign against Minsk as Washington and Brussels did in Serbia (www.rbc.ru/politics/23/08/2020/5f41b8479a79471b497ceef8?from=from_main_3&fbclid=IwAR2bppfrQ3XQEkXuakn6zh5xlszi6xTV4QH9EAFKy06XD0KYChEzo-mmkpE). The Serbian campaign, NATO expansion, and color revolution policies have had a profound effect on the politics of several pro-Russian Slavic and post-Soviet states in addition to those of Russia herself. The threat of NATO expansion and humanitarian interventions can be something in which some politicians and opinion makers sincerely believe and/or a bogey man deployed to create a rally around the flag effect and to discredit domestic opposition.

5. The risk of violence on the part of the opposition, which would likely spark a ruthless and bloody crackdown far greater than that which we have seen hitherto, grows the longer the protests continue. Some leaders will become frustrated with peaceful demonstrations, and Belarusian nationalists – while fewer in proportion than in Ukraine or Russia – will be increasingly inclined to turn to violence. In this case, the Maidan example is unfortunately germane.

RUSSIA

1. Putin is cautious in general. In this crisis he will be exceedingly so. At this point, he appears to be hedging his bets, making no threatening sounds towards the West and maintaining some separation from Lukashenko’s listing ship.

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