Will Putin intervene in Belarus?

In Russia, the politicians and the public are at odds as to how to react to the developments in Belarus - also because Lukashenko has always been a close ally. While many express solidarity with the Belarusians, others fear alienation like in Ukraine. Commentators discuss the pros and cons of active intervention by Russia in Belarus.

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Postimees (EE) /

By force of arms if necessary

Commenting in Postimees, Eerik Kross, a member of the Estonian parliament, is convinced that Russia will not stand by idly for much longer:

“More important than avoiding a 'colour revolution' in the neighborhood is the question of Belarus's strategic significance. Russia regards Belarus as an important territory for defence against the 'Nato threat'. Belarus, as Russia's last true ally, is a sine qua non for Putin's dream of restoring the Russian Empire. He will avoid at any cost even the slightest risk of Belarus opting for neutrality or even adopting a Western orientation. ... Compared with that, the risk of new sanctions or a deterioration in relations with the West is a mere trifle. ... Only the fear of defeat is making him cautious. ... This is why Putin's first choice is not to take up arms against the people of Belarus. But he will not shy away from this either.”

Adevărul (RO) /

A strategically important position

Access to Belarus is enormously important for Moscow in a crisis scenario, military expert Alexandru Grumaz explains in Adevărul:

“Complete freedom of movement for Russia [in Belarus] would increase the ability of Russian troops to threaten the 'Suwalki gap' [the Polish-Lithuanian border between Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad] in order to isolate Nato members Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from the rest of the alliance. The Kremlin could also use Belarus as a base from which to take action against Ukraine. Kiev is only 95 kilometres from the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, and Ukraine's defensive position is not prepared for a threat on its northern border. ... Even if Lukashenko remains in control without the Kremlin's intervention, the protests have weakened his leadership. Either way the Kremlin's influence in Belarus will grow.”

Kaleva (FI) /

Lukashenko's hopes are in vain

Putin has no interest in intervening militarily in the conflict, Kaleva believes:

“Although support for Lukashenko is waning on all fronts, he is not prepared to give up power. He is counting on his last trump card, Vladimir Putin's Russia. He implicitly called on the Russian military for help when he pretended that Nato tanks were on the border. So far Putin has not indicated how he will react to the call for help. But his threshold is high because the rioting in Belarus is not directed against Russia and the population is not questioning the union between the two countries. Putin cannot want another occupation like that of Czechoslovakia in 1968, or further sanctions like those imposed in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea.”

The Times (GB) /

Intervention would be counterproductive this time too

An intervention would be the latest in a series of geostrategic blunders on Russia's part, The Times concludes:

“Threats and sabre-rattling against the Baltic states and Poland prompted Nato, reluctantly, to muster plans and forces to defend its eastern flank. Repeated bullying of Sweden and Finland pushed those non-Nato countries into rearmament and closer ties with the alliance. Victimising Ukraine, by far Russia's most important neighbour, scarred public attitudes there for a generation. The protests in Belarus are not anti-Russian - yet. But Kremlin intervention would guarantee that a struggle against election-rigging and police brutality would become a resistance movement against Russian hegemony.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

The Kremlin's inaction is dangerous

Radio Kommersant FM criticises the Kremlin for not taking a clear stand on Belarus:

“The situation there is spiralling out of control. This is not the time to sit back and watch. Theoretically we could join forces with our [Western] partners and try to find a common position. At least it would be worth a try. But so far all we've seen are efforts to uncover an international conspiracy. As if it were US Army Rangers or EU Special Operations Forces who were bludgeoning ordinary Belarusians with batons, damaging cars and shooting rubber bullets at crowds. If things go on like this, Russia risks losing Belarus. The power vacuum that is currently emerging there will be filled very quickly.”

newsru.com (RU) /

Putin will help his unloved neighbour if need be

Liberal publicist Leonid Gozman describes the danger of a Russian intervention in a Facebook post republished by newsru.com:

“On a personal level, Putin can't stand Lukashenko, and he'd like to see someone else in his place. But what he can't allow is for him to be ousted by the people. Russia and Belarus are too close culturally and mentally for that - the Belarusian dictator being overthrown after an election would fuel the democracy movement in Russia, where the authoritarian regime is barely managing to hold on to power. So if Lukashenko can't deal with the situation on his own, there is a good chance that the Russian Federation will come to his aid.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

The EU has no business interfering here

What Belarus needs now is a deal between the US and Russia, Rzeczpospolita believes:

“Lukashenko will be removed in return for maintaining the status quo. The status quo would be for the West to recognise that Belarus will remain Russia's military ally and that its future president is likely to be pro-Russian because that is how most Belarusians define themselves. The Kremlin, for its part, will refrain from trying to annex Belarus. ... Is the European Union needed? Yes, to finance future reforms in Belarus - but for nothing else. The Franco-German leadership has been mediating to end the war in Donbass for six years, and the consequences of this are visible every day. What its influence would lead to in Belarus doesn't bear thinking about.”