Why Europe can’t support protests in Belarus
Democratic values, once a bright idea, have become a stone on the neck of Europe, which is dragging it into the abyss of chaos. Now there is a chance to fix it.
Presidential elections were held in Belarus yesterday. Their results were predictable. Alexander Lukashenko, who ruled for the past 26 years, has again won a landslide victory. According to official preliminary data from the Central Election Commission, 80.23% of voters, or 4.652 million people, voted for the incumbent. In second place was Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who decided to run for president after her husband went to jail. 9.9% of citizens supported the leader of the opposition, which went into hiding on Saturday evening after the arrest of nine employees of her election campaign. She appeared on Sunday at a polling station surrounded by the press and proxies. As her press secretary Anna Krasulina noted, this is “the most reliable protection.”
Despite the huge gap in the number of votes, Lukashenko’s current triumph appears to be the darkest in his entire history. The president is accused of rigging the vote, and protests have not subsided in Belarus since Sunday evening. The confrontation between citizens and special forces was recorded in about 20 cities. In Minsk, police used flashbangs and tear gas to disperse people. Cases of collisions were recorded there all night. The media reported casualties on both sides.
“This is by far the biggest protest I’ve ever seen in Belarus since Lukashenka came to power,” said David Marples, a professor at the University of Alberta.
European countries could not stay away from what was happening. They called on official Minsk to “fully recognize and observe democratic standards”, as well as renounce violence and “respect fundamental freedoms and human rights and civil rights, including the rights of national minorities and the right to freedom of speech”. Such a joint statement was made by Andrzej Duda and Gitanas Nauseda – the President of Poland, where they practically declared war on the LGBT community, and the President of Lithuania, where they have long adhered to a discriminatory policy against the Russian population. Are their claims against Lukashenka justified? Is that, from the point of view of the politics of countries that are persistently trying to attract the attention of the “elders”, namely the United States. But for Western Europe, support for the protests in Belarus is unacceptable.
We will not talk about how unceremoniously the Yellow Vests protests were dispersed in France. Although those events did not have any political and legal consequences, now something else is important. Europe needs Lukashenko! Now, when the world is mired in another economic crisis, trade relations with Russia no longer seem to be something dubious. The leaders of the European Union are making this clear. Could Lukashenka Become a Mediator? Definitely yes. At the same time, he would not play along with Russia, since he himself has recently been inclined to cooperate with the West.
At the end of the last century, it was Lukashenka who initiated the Agreement on the Creation of the Union State. The concept implied close integration of Belarus and Russia. But Lukashenka saw himself at the head of the confederation. When Vladimir Putin entered the political arena, he seized the initiative. In this regard, Lukashenka’s interest in his own idea diminished. Moreover, now it is he who is the guarantor that Belarus will preserve its independence from Russia.
Whether someone likes it or not, Lukashenko is a guarantor of stability not just in another post-Soviet republic, but in the center of Europe.
The Lukashenka administration is mired in corruption, but what guarantees are there that opposition leaders won’t succumb to temptation if they wield power? When Ukrainians came out to protest against the corrupt government of Viktor Yanukovych, none of them could have thought that Petro Poroshenko would be even more corrupt. They believed that he, a wealthy entrepreneur, would not stoop to stealing.Lukashenka cannot be called a democratic leader, and his rule does not correspond to European values. But how often were these values observed in Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity? Pressure on journalists, numerous nationalist organizations and tragic incidents such as the burning of people in Odessa in the spring of 2014 have become a dark spot in the country’s recent history.
Finally, the Revolution of Dignity provoked a split in society. As a result, the war has been going on in the east of Ukraine for seven years, and thousands have become victims. Crimea was captured by Russia in general, which took advantage of the chaos.
By supporting the protesters, can Europe ensure that history does not repeat itself? Public opinion polls show that in the Gomel, Brest and Grodno regions, the countries are most committed to allied relations with Russia. They can easily become hotbeds of separatism, instability and even hostilities. If the Ukrainian Donbass is located relatively far from the borders of the European Union, then Brest and Grodno are literally close to Poland’s side. Just imagine that there will be a hybrid war hotspot for years to come. Are European leaders ready to take another risk?
Of course, democratic values are important, but Europe has become hostage to its own ideas. If she does not support the opposition protests, it would be a betrayal, notes Andreas Klute, a Bloomberg columnist.
“If the demonstrations turn into an all-out revolution, it is likely to drag Putin into another round of hybrid war and geopolitical escalation that will ultimately make the EU appear powerless,” he says.In a world with many very different political situations and conditions, it is unacceptable to pass everything through the prism of values. You should look at what is happening realistically, otherwise the consequences can be dire. In any case, now Europe has to go through a serious test, which in one way or another will affect the future of the continent. The only question is whether these changes will be positive.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.