What are the Kremlin's plans for Belarus?
So far Russia has been reticent with respect to the protests in Belarus, but observers now see signs of growing support for Lukashenka in Moscow. Commentators question whether this is the right strategy given the broad-based mobilisation against the Belarusian leader and speculate on future relations in the region.
A discredited ally becomes a liability
Radio Kommersant FM fears that the Kremlin is betting on the wrong horse in Belarus:
“Does Russia have a partnership with Belarus, or with Lukashenka? This inflammatory question can no longer be avoided. For some reason the so-called civilised world can no longer turn a blind eye to what the Minsk leadership is up to and is now discussing how to react. Sooner or later it will probably take action. And that will inevitably have an impact on Russia. It looks as if our ally has lost whatever standing he had. To what extent will agreements that have been signed with him still have legal force in the future? Breaking up protests is not a victory by a long shot.”
Russia has nothing to offer
When the Belarusians look to today's Russia they see nothing they want for themselves, human rights expert Ilya Shablinski writes in a blog post on Echo of Moscow:
“Am I against integration and open borders? No, I'm in favour of them. But what, exactly, can our state now offer the Belarusians? A union of two dictatorships based on hatred of Europe and crushing the opposition? For the most part politically - although physically too, in fact. What else? Our stable rouble? Our passports? Our tried and tested production of toxic nerve agents? I'm afraid today's Belarusians aren't tempted by such things. ... They speak Russian. They're very much like us. But does our state want to make enemies of them? Unfortunately, I'm afraid the answer is yes.”
Time to form new alliances in Eastern Europe
This is a good opportunity for Poland to enhance its foreign policy profile, Rzeczpospolita writes:
“The brutality with which the regimes in Moscow and Minsk have treated opponents has reached a critical point. And this is not just an opportunity for Tikhanovskaya and the millions of Belarusians who support her. It's also a chance for Poland to get back in the game as a political actor in our region, and perhaps the European Union. However, for that it must cooperate more closely with Lithuania and other Baltic Sea states and do more to involve Ukraine and to build bridges to Berlin, Paris and Brussels.”