Thursday, September 23

Is Alexander Lukashenko testing the “mad” theory of foreign policy? | Andrew Wilson

These have been times of great activity for the rebellious state of Belarus.

In recent days, an opposition activist, Vitaly Shyshov, was found dead, hanging from a tree in a park in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in what is now officially a murder case. Shyshov led an NGO that helped Belarusians escape growing repression at home, having fled himself in 2020. Olympic 200-meter sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya narrowly escaped being put on a plane on his way home from Tokyo, and received a humanitarian visa from Poland. And the EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson from Sweden flew to Lithuania to try to do something about the smuggling of migrants organized by the state of Belarus across the border to its neighbor (the Minsk government has been accused of organizing flights from Baghdad to Belarus: Migrants are guided by guides to the border and the whole operation is announced. on social media).

Is there a pattern? The hijacking of a Ryanair flight in May and the arrest of social media activist Raman Pratasevich were a warning to all opponents abroad that they would never be safe. Leaked documents and recordings have shown that Belarusian leaders allegedly plot assassinations. in Germany, in 2012. In the same year, what is still called the Belarusian KGB was allegedly registered referring to another émigré, the journalist Pavel Sheremet, as “a huge headache”, saying “the president is waiting for these operations.” Sheremet’s assassination by a car bomb in Kiev in 2016 remains unsolved. Another leak caused President Alexander Lukashenko to allegedly threaten to build a concentration of barbed wire. camps in Belarus. Since his arrest, Pratasevich has appeared not once but various times in what are effectively videos of hostages on Belarusian television, along with their increasingly hysterical propaganda about gun coups and chimerical plots against the president’s life.

Lukashenko may not have read many biographies of Richard Nixon, but it seems that he is testing those of the US president.mad“Foreign policy theory, according to which unpredictability and hasty behavior are actually an advantage, disturbing opponents and even allies. In this case, the softer states of the EU will be concerned whether the sanctions now in place against Belarus are worth it. President Vladimir Putin also appears to be a target. He and Lukashenko have met many times since the rigged elections and mass protests in August 2020; But Putin has repeatedly refused to issue him a blank check. Another reason to provoke a conflict with the West is to bring Putin closer.

The Belarusian pirate state is now a big scoundrel. Coercion is so far off the scale that the West doesn’t know how to respond. As of June 2021, there are reportedly 526 political prisoners in jail, with almost 4,700 test shows since last year’s bogus elections. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Belarus, Anaïs Marin, informed the Security Council that 35,000 have been arrested since August 2020. There is a growing refugee crisis: people like Pratasevich, who was based in Warsaw, Shyshov and now Tsimanouskaya are just three of the Tens of thousands who have left Belarus since August 2020. Foreign policy unpredictability is everywhere. In June, Belarus left the eastern EU association, having been a founding member since 2009. In July, Lukashenko closed the border with Ukraine, citing stories of non-existent arms smuggling and threatening to open a second front in Ukraine’s war with representatives Russians. in the East. Lukashenko has threatened to flood the EU with drugs and immigrants.

Economic piracy can be the next. The economy is in a precarious state of survival, but there are worrying reports that the surviving elite are appropriating everything for profit. The Russian word for this is reiderstvonot just corporate forays, but physical acquisitions. A dying economy would exacerbate the refugee problem and the regime’s siege mentality.

What is to be done? On August 3, Boris Johnson met with opposition leader Sviatlana Tikhanouskaya at number 10, but his warm words that the UK was “on his side” have not translated into much. Online investigators Bellingcat have said they will investigate Shyshov’s case. Belarusian dissidents need adequate protection when abroad. Lithuania needs help to police its forest border. The deaths in Kiev of Shyshov and Sheremet underscore the importance of helping Ukraine reform and modernize its security forces. The UK has helped train the Ukrainian army; a bill to reform the super-powerful but often incompetent and corrupt SBU, the Security Service of Ukraine, is now before the Ukrainian parliament. The UK should also be looking at the London-based assets of the Russian and Belarusian oligarchs propping up the regime.

Whether or not its folly is calculated, the country’s dictator can no longer be allowed to act with such impunity. Although while protecting ourselves and other states, we must not forget that the biggest problems are for the Belarusians themselves.

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