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Belarus: Whose Provocation?

There will be no Maidan in Minsk. Hence, no need for regime change. There was further a self-serving message to the West: do not support the opposition to try to kick out “the last dictator of Europe” or else there will be a Russian intervention. Get it? Loud and clear.

“Europe’s last dictator” Oleksandr Lukashenka, blasted Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union as the main sponsors of the so-called “Fifth Column” of Belarusian dissidents, who not only fomented mass demonstrations in Belarus in February and March, but also, allegedly, prepared a coup d’etat against the Minsk regime. Most observers see this as the end of the latest bout of liberalization in Belarus. It is also possible, however, that the calumnies shouted publicly, although phrased in an anti-Western manner, were intended for the Kremlin.

After all, destabilizing Belarus is in Moscow’s interest, and not the West’s. The U.S. and EU are still in a state of shock following Ukraine’s Maidan revolt and the consequent Russia’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula as well as the war in the Donbas and its environs. Why would they wish another violent conflict on NATO and the EU’s fragile eastern border? Russian president Vladimir Putin, however, wants to reintegrate the post-Soviet zone. Destabilization in Belarus must be turned to his benefit, in particular if the local dictator Lukashenka cannot keep order himself. Even if the Kremlin did not foster the current bout of demonstrations, as it almost certainly did not, Russia is ready to take advantage of them. If there is to be a regime change in Minsk, it will be in line with Moscow’s scenario, and not in accordance with the wishes of the Belarusian dissidents and their domestic and Western supporters.

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