Alexander Lukashenko Regime is Already Like a Regional Destabilizing Factor

We can see more signs that the European Union (EU) probably will not impose personal sanctions against the dictator of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, despite the initiative of the Baltic States (they already imposed sanctions …

We can see more signs that the European Union (EU) probably will not impose personal sanctions against the dictator of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, despite the initiative of the Baltic States (they already imposed sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko and one of his sons Viktor, who is father’s advisor on national security matters). Such a presumption was published on 4 September by an influentional Berlin daily Die Welt, according to which Germany, France and Italy were strictly against the sanctions by giving arguments that they would eliminate the communication channel between the EU and Minsk.    
The Community did not recognize the result of presidential elections held in Belarus on 9 September, however it stopped just there. After a special meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU on 14 September on the issue of Belarus, they announced about future sanctions against approximately 16-19 persons, who falsified elections and were responsible for the terror against protestors. A list of the restrictions is standard – blocking of the EU accounts (if any) and a ban to go to the countries of the Community. We should also remind that Alexander Lukashenko has been already included in the list of sanctions after presidential election in 2010; however in 2016 he was removed from it when he released political prisoners.        
Actually, the current solution is generous to the autocrat of Minsk, having in mind that after the end of election eight thousand protestors were arrested and arrests still continue. Fifteen experts of the human rights from the United Nations (UN) confirmed information about 450 documented torture and violence (also against women and children) events, three deaths have been confirmed, the destiny of 6 arrested people is still unknown.     
Maybe for that reason the dictator, who has become very brave and his eastern curators recently generously made threatening statements and not only that. At first the armed forced under his command were training ‘against NATO’ in Grodno region close to the border with Poland at the end of August – beginning of October. On 3 September Alexander Lukashenko announced that he deployed almost 50 thousand armed forces of Belarus at the border with Lithuania and Poland and that these forces actually surrounded Grodno (earlier he blamed Poland in trying to take over this town) and that this demonstration finally gave fruit. It means that it deterred NATO (or maybe Poland, in particular?) from ‘occupation’ of Belarus.    
During the meeting held at the beginning of September between Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Mishustin, who went to Minsk and the dictator of Belarus, the dictator complained about unfriendly behaviour of the Alliance, as if it (‘from the deep territories of NATO’ – Alexander Lukashenko’s wording) relocated American and other divisions to the border of Belarus and also 16 or 18 fighters F-16. He was scaring the guest that the Western ‘aggressors’ would not stop in Belarus; as if Belarus is just a springboard on the way to Russia. Same as in 1941. He also comforted him, as if Minsk is ready to protect its independence.      
Finally, NATO had to react and from the lips of the official representative Oana Lungescu indicated that the defence forces of the Alliance have been deployed in the Baltic region before the events in Belarus.
If we started talking about ‘heroic defence of sovereignty’ we have some facts about the armed forces of Belarus. The Belarusian army overcame three stages of modernization since a newly adopted military doctrine in 2016. According to the military strength index ‘Military Strength Ranking-2019’ organized by the organization Global Firepower Index last year it was in 39 position; which rose by ten positions within a couple years. Around 65 thousand people serve in it, 45,500 soldiers among them. According to agreements that limit the usual armament the Belarusian forces have a right to dispose 1,800 tanks, 2,600 armoured fighting vehicles, 1,615 artillery systems, 294 aircrafts and 80 attack helicopters. De facto military equipment was mostly inherited from the former Soviet Union; there are very little modern armaments.
According to the military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer from the Russian daily Novaya Gazeta, the army can be supplemented with 300 thousand reservists and also three Special Forces brigades: air-borne forces, assault combat group of 6,000 soldiers should also be mentioned. Although Alexander Lukashenko likes to show off in the uniform of the commander-in-chief, the priority of his regime has always been divisions of the Ministry of Interior and Special Forces. The reason of that is that they are significantly cheaper than divisions with heavy weaponry; besides, Special Forces can help to repress demonstrations.
Alexander Lukashenko consistently reduced the armed forces, because he considered the expenses for it were purposeless and was referring to the union with Russia and its defence capabilities in a pragmatic way. According to observation of Pavel Felgenhauer, expenses of Russia to the defence of Belarus have already given fruit: after the end of the unannounced massive operational readiness test of the Russian armed forces (up to 150 thousand soldiers) held on 17-21 July, Minister of Defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu reported about successfully solved objectives in organization of flexible defence and offensive combat also in the direction of the West.
This also means that if it is necessary to ‘stabilize the situation in Belarus’; these reservists will have no time even to gather when ten thousand of Russian soldiers with their machinery will be there. Commands to defence will collapse and this will be the end.
Let’s go back to the meeting with the Prime Minister of Russia. In the meeting Alexander Lukashenko named specific countries as ‘the baddies’, which did not let to live a peaceful life, provoke and coordinate protests and thus interferes with internal affairs of Belarus. It seems that every country except for Russia. It seems that the roots of the ‘evil’ are in Poland, Czechia, Lithuania and Ukraine. I wonder how Minsk dictator is going to project a slightly constructive dialogue with neighbours after all this.   
Probably it is not relevant to Alexander Lukashenko anymore, because after he was driven to the wall, he decided to give up a traditional manoeuvring practice between the East and the West and finally decided together with the armed forces of Belarus, the orientation enemy vector of which has been known for long and does not raise any doubts. The fact that defence strategies of Minsk categorically are focused not on the East has been proved; let’s say by a routine, a matter-of-course common training of armed forces of Belarus and Russian soldiers. For instance, every second year the exercise is organized. Common training Slavanskoje Bratstvo of Russian, Belarusian and Serbian divisions in the base of Brest 38 airborne assault brigade planned in September this year are also regular. In August military commanders of Belarus and representatives of the military industry visited in the military-technical forum held in the Patriot Park at Alabin in vicinities of Moscow. And so on and so forth.   
An important ‘supporting’ outcome of these exercises and related events, we can say, is already ‘coinciding’ mentality of soldiers from both countries with a clear image of the enemy (we have already mentioned training against NATO close to Grodno).   
Probably trying to strengthen statements about ‘Western imperialism’, the dictator of Belarus appealed to very sound statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov at the beginning of September. Sergey Lavrov on 1 September, the Day of science and knowledge, who was addressing freshmen from the Institute of International Relations MGIMO and teachers, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia stated that the neighbours Lithuanians in his opinion have already crossed the limits of decency with their produced demand (probably he had in mind sanctions – A.S.). Thus, we can presume that they together with Missis Sviatlana Cichanouskaja use undemocratic methods, which do not show too much respect to sovereignty of Belarus. The Minister did not produce any specific proof of disrespect.    
Next day after the meeting with the Belarusian colleague Vladimir Makei, Sergey Lavrov during the press conference announced that Moscow will strongly react to attempts to tear away Belarus from Russia. Potentially there will be a strict response to those, who try to rock the situation in Belarus and those who try to tear away it from Russia almost every year in way of dirty games, to undermine functioning foundations of the Union state. He also emphasized that any changes in the country have to be made according to the Constitution of Belarus and following the public order.    
According to Sergey Lavrov, Russia denounces pressure of foreign countries on Belarus by openly supporting the opposition. He mentioned 200 shock troops trained in Ukraine for ‘disturbances’ that were redeployed in Belarus as a proof of pressure, however again with no evidence. Sergey Lavrov called statements of the EU and NATO about the situation in Belarus destructive and emphasized that Moscow admits the presidential election held. The cards are laid on the table. As we say, I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine…  
Scripts of half of the week finally was summarized by the news agency at the beginning of September when it published a piece of news about decision of the American commanders in chief to relocate 500 soldiers and 40 units of the military machines, including tanks Abrams and fighting vehicles Bradley from Poland to Lithuania for a longer time in the background of the protests against Alexander Lukashenko regime and militant statements. Relocation for the training that will be held on 14-25 September was already planned in July. The current matters corrected the situation in the way that it was planned to keep this contingent with soldiers of France, Italy, Germany, Poland and other countries for a couple of weeks (as long as the exercises will continue), now it will stay until November ‘just in case’.     
We are tired to repeat that the politician, who stayed in power for too long, is not adequate and who has lost smartness, raises the situation ‘smoothly’ to an obviously threatening situation. He is not happy with just internal policy; he is trying to ‘nip’ on a wider scale in order to stay in power. It is not easy to say how long this geopolitical stalemate that reminds of a hostage drama will last.
As the Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseny Yatseniuk mentioned on 4 September on one Ukrainian TV channel the period from 2014 to 2016 was particularly dramatic to this country, it is not fair that only three countries of the EU (Baltic Republics) announced about sanctions against Minsk regime and all Community is waiting around when the President of Russia has a political concept based on ‘usurpation’ of Belarus. In this context the situation in our neighbour country poses a threat not only to the situation in our region but even in the whole world.
Arūnas Spraunius

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