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Foreign Policy

Scenario 1: Strengthening of Lukashenko and non-assertive Russia

The main issue affecting Belarus is frustration; the imminence of penalties cements security forces around Lukashenko.

Lukashenko remains the main unifying figure on the political stage in Belarus. He continues the politics of blurring of Belarusian national identity through the marginalization of the nationalistic wing of the opposition. More than 33 thousand protestors are temporarily detained by now and the continued detention of the most radical protestors results in the weakening of the protest movement in its current form. His closeness with the power poles in the country strengthens the State’s nomenklatura to the extent where the possibility of building a camp for most active protestors was actually discussed, as outlined by the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Nikolai Karpenkov, in a published audio recording, The All-Belarussian National Assembly on 11-12th of February provides a constitutional status for the Assembly itself through the proposed constitutional changes, so that it will be transferred into the main institutional pillar of the regime, while some opposition representatives will be allowed in the House of Representatives in the Parliament.

A similar taking of control by Alexander Lukashenko is in line with Russian goals, supporting the latter’s policy towards non-assertiveness and leading to concessions in energy prices for Belarus. This will possibly support the local oil refining sector, especially under the possibility of a trade embargo on oil exports from the EU – a scenario that would be the most painful option of sanctions from the EU against the Belarussian economy. The Russian Federation will give the last third of 1,5$bn. credit, and this would allow preventing governmental enterprises from strikes.  With the appointment of Mrs. Yermakova for the position of Head of Belgazprombank, a Russian-owned commercial bank based in Belarus, it may be assumed that the course to direct lending to chronically loss-making enterprises is already under way.

The state will gradually deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, by the mass vaccination of the citizens. The plan to buy 2 mln. dozes of the Russian vaccine (Sputnik V) will be implemented throughout the year. However, Lukashenko’s refusal to support the opposition reform plan of the medical system transformation towards the private sector will leave it ineffective and poor. The trend for medical personnel to emigrate to the West, namely to neighboring Poland, will remain strong. The ability to address crises by the public healthcare system remains doubtful.

The economy would most probably continue to shrink due to the policy of crediting of non-profitable state enterprises, but an image of stability would be sustained and managed successfully. This constriction would result in a decreasing inner demand, an outflow of deposits from banks, the SME sector would focus on survival rather than expansion, thus the demand for credits would continue to decrease, resulting in crediting stagnation. An attempt to finance the state deficit at the cost of the tax increase will substantially decrease internal funds of enterprises and force SME actors, mainly the IT sector to emigrate from the country.

The opposition would lose actual leverages on the regime, as fewer and fewer people under the strengthening of Lukashenko, and an economic downturn would be willing to risk their lives and health on open protests. Members of the Coordination Board would be probably threatened with imprisonment and would be forced to leave the country. The awareness of the danger of Russian military actions in the country would restrain the EU from active measures and the proceedings against perpetrators from the Belarussian military block that are taking place in some EU countries, would not have serious practical implications. The logic of the necessity of dialogue will prevail among the EU states.

The existing media market would be marked by an even higher degree of regulation. State-friendly private-owned media could be seized by the government. The Ministry of Information will find out ways how to block the Internet traffic and to control independent bloggers or such telegram channels as Nexta. In that regard, the Chinese experience of web-site prohibition seems to be the lucky scenario, although the Russian assistance in the creation of alternative messengers, that will become common for Eurasian Union, is possible as a response to the protest movements’ threats.

Consequently, the status-quo would be sustained, with the practical implication that Lukashenko’s model of power withstood another protest wave and retained its partial sovereignty. The Russian Federation would not force rapid integration of Belarus, rather sustain it in a form of continuous discussions and wait until the end of the protest movement.

By Ihor Bobyr

I am a student of BA in International Relations and European Studies at Lazarski University. My main research interests are democratization on post-Soviet space, European Integration, ethical and religious conflicts, political conflicts, and historical traumas.

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