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Belarus’ quandary: No longer Putin’s dependable ally?

Belarus has long had a reputation as “the last dictatorship in Europe,” for being the Kremlin’s lapdog, and for its generally anti-Western orientation. For several years, however, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has at times surprised observers by bucking Moscow and charting a more independent course. In the past year, the Russian takeover of Crimea and involvement in eastern Ukraine, as well as the implosion of the Russian economy, has seen a much quickened pace on the part of Minsk to distance itself from Russia and to build ties with the West. The fact that the ongoing Ukraine crisis and its broader impact on Russia and the region has altered the strategic calculations of one of Vladimir Putin’s best friends, illustrates the degree to which the situation has harmed Russia’s long term interests.