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Crisis in Belarus – possible path towards a new Soviet Union

- The result of the last presidential elections in Belarus has unleashed chaos in the country.

Crisis in Belarus – possible path towards a new Soviet Union

The result of the last presidential elections in Belarus has unleashed chaos in the country. On August 9, the Central Electoral Committee of Belarus gave Alexander Lukashenko victory with 80% of the votes. Almost immediately, a series of demonstrations began in the streets of the country. At 65, this would be Lukashenko's sixth term. The Belarusian held the position for the first time in 1994, just 3 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The first protests of the week were met with strong police repression, as well as an attempt at media sabotage in order to hide the situation from the international community. However, the demonstrators demonstrated a high degree of organization and the protests not only continued, but also reached a greater degree of participation - gathering a total of 200,000 in the march on Sunday the 16th. Although the response of the State changed to the lessen the use of force, Lukashenko's speech remained constant. He even going so far as to declare that the only way new elections would be held would be through his death.

This landscape of rigidity changed when the participation of state workers joined the protests. Workers from different areas such as mining, agriculture, communications and energy began strikes throughout the country – a situation that took the president by surprise. Given this, Lukashenko met with different companies in Minsk, the capital, where the response of the workers was the same: Уходи! (go away).

Perhaps as a reflection of national pressure, or as a conciliatory gesture, the president announced that if the people wanted new elections, it should be under a constitutional process. To which he added the fact that a reform to the country's charter is currently under review. In the words of the president, this would be the third draft of a new constitution since the first two were rejected by himself because he did not consider them "different enough from the current constitution." Despite Lukashenko's apparent good sense, the European Union has kept abreast of events in Belarus. On August 16, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, asked via Twitter for the

Next Wednesday, August 19, the 27 members of the European Council will meet virtually. Curiously, this is the second time in the history of the European Union that the council meets in August. The first occasion was in 2014, when European leaders met to discuss Russia's annexation of Crimea. Ironically, the Russian federation and Putin will once again be the subject of controversy within the European council, since Lukashenko has repeatedly declared that he has the support of the Kremlin to solve the chaos inside Belarus.

The role of Russia in the crisis

Over the past weekend, Lukashenko told the press that he had been in talks with the Russian Kremlin and claimed to have obtained Putin's support. The Belarusian president also mentioned that the country was under threat from NATO, a situation in which Russia would provide military support to the president[[1]]( -election-lukashenko/belarusian-leader-says-no-to-new-election-accuses-nato-of-build-up-idUSKCN25C0FH). All these statements have raised the following question among analysts: What action will Putin take?

Although nothing is written, there is a kind of consensus that a Russian intervention is unlikely. Unlike what happened in Ukraine 6 years ago where Russia had a pivot on which to turn – Russian identity – in Belarus an intervention could, in fact, prove counterproductive for Putin due to the lack of support and legitimacy. If he intervenes, Putin would take action for a dictator whose power has slipped out of his hands, which would damage the image of the Russian president inside and outside the country. In addition to exposing the Russian Federation to possible economic sanctions from the West.

However, the Kremlin cannot afford inaction either, given that Belarus is perhaps one of the spaces with the greatest geopolitical value for Russia. Given its location, the country serves as a buffer state between the Russian federation and Poland, which has been a NATO member since 1999. In addition, Belarus represents a gateway to Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave that provides strategic access to the Baltic Sea. And as if all this were not enough, both countries share great ties and cultural, economic and social ties. If direct intervention is not appropriate in risk-benefit terms, what are Putin's alternatives?

One of the options that internationalists have considered is possible support for the opposition. One need not look far to find that, in 2018, during the “velvet” Armenian revolution, the Kremlin agreed with the leader of the protests, the current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, on the condition of an Armenian rapprochement with Russia on terms politicians and military.

The problem with this alternative is the fact that the opposition leader seems to be looking at NATO. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who at 37 was just starting a political career, obtained 10% of the vote and due to possible political reprisals (as happened to her husband who was imprisoned) she fled to Lithuania at the beginning of the protests. Welcomed by the Lithuanian government, Tikhanosvkaya declared herself ready to take the presidency on an interim basis and serve as a national leader. Lithuania, which has been a member of NATO since 2004, has shown strong support for the candidate and has made clear its intentions to sanction Belarus for violations of the human rights of its population[[2]](https:/ /

With this in mind, Putin also could not afford the rise to power of someone who would possibly tilt Belarus towards the West. A third option that the president could be considering is influencing the call for new elections, where he appoints someone who can be under his control. Such an intervention practice would not be new for the Kremlin, since, according to various media outlets and different organizations, Putin already runs a network of digital disinformation with the aim of influencing democratic processes and public opinion – such as the presidential elections. of the United States in 2016, or the referendum on the permanence of the United Kingdom in the European Union.

For now, the safest bet for Putin is to wait. Let the pressure build on Lukashenko and let the chaos escalate as the protests begin to affect everyday life. Other protest movements have dwindled over time, as riot police violence has subsided, protesters' bruises have faded, and common concerns have become more important.

For decades, practical concerns dominate over ideology when a population has faced a corrupt and repressive government. The importance of jobs and wages will come to light as the euphoria of free speech and revolt begins to fade. The leader of the protesters is currently in Lithuania, so over time the crowds may lack focus and motivation. Given how imperfect the previous options are, this may be Putin's preferred alternative to take advantage of the situation and pursue an old objective: the formation of a supranational union.

The State of the Union

Also known as the Union of Russia and Belarus, the State of the Union is a supranational entity that includes both countries since its formation on December 8, 1999. Citizens of both parties are guaranteed the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the other party. In addition to this, the State of the Union has a Supreme Council of State made up of the presidents of both nations, their prime ministers and the heads of parliament.

The formation of this supranational union has also contemplated other elements such as the creation of a common currency, management of military operations, unification of national symbols and the joint administration of economic activities. However, all these items have continued to be negotiated to a greater extent due to reluctance on the part of the Belarusian legislative body. That is why the crisis generated as a result of the elections represents the opportune moment for the Kremlin to consolidate a greater union between the States and specify the next level of integration.

The State of the Union has generated interest in other countries, all members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Among them, Kazakhstan stands out, the economic and energy power of Central Asia, which in 2010 formed a customs union with both countries and declared that it could form part of the supranational entity in the near future[[3]](https://web Other countries that have shown great interest in the union have been Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

And although for some the idea of a union of this magnitude could be far-fetched, the truth is that it is a serious possibility. It must be emphasized that the Lukashenko administration throughout his 5 presidential terms has taken advantage of the Soviet image. Whether it's the Stalinist architecture, the streets named after prominent Soviet figures, the statues of Lenin, or the fact that the October Revolution is an official celebration, almost every citizen maintains a certain nostalgia for the spirit of the USSR.


    [1] Belarusian leader says no to new election, accuses NATO of build-up, Reuters, consultado el 16/08/20:

    [2] Lithuanian lawmakers vote for sanctions against Belarus, ABC News, consultado el 17/08/20:

    [3] Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus might set up joint business councils in Europe, Archivo Web, consultado el 14/08/20:

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undefined, CEMERI. “Crisis en Bielorrusia – posible camino hacia una nueva Unión Soviética.” CEMERI, 13 sept. 2022,