SERGIY SYDORENKO, EUROPEAN PRAVDA
Ukraine, which is waging a heroic war against the aggressor, is also achieving tangible and perceivable results on the diplomatic front. The joint efforts of diplomats, state representatives, and non-governmental players secure international support for Ukraine.
But one foreign policy sector has wholly failed – Ukraine’s policy towards Belarus. Ukraine is in touch neither with the self-proclaimed government nor with the anti-Lukashenka opposition.
Meanwhile, thanks to the newly created Belarus “government in exile,” the window of opportunities has opened up. It lets Ukraine fundamentally change the situation.
What is the Belarusian government in exile?
On Tuesday, August 9, the anniversary of the nationwide wave of protests in Belarus in 2020-2021, Belarusian oppositionists who fled the regime organized the “New Belarus” in Vilnius. Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya announced a creation of a government in exile – the Belarusian Democratic Government.
So far, we know only four members of this government. They are responsible for the “transit of power,” law and order, defense, and international relations of Belarus.
Such “alternative state bodies” function quite standardly in world practice.
Even Ukraine has been using such a tool since 2014. After the annexation of Crimea, Kyiv announced that the Prosecutor’s Office of Crimea, the representation of the president in Crimea, etc., would continue to work outside the occupied territory. These bodies in exile helped Kyiv develop a strategy for Crimea and documented the occupiers’ crimes.The activities of the Belarusian “transitional cabinet” are yet to come. We will still have to answer whether it has become effective. However, regardless of this, it gives Ukraine an opportunity to break out of the current matrix of relations with Belarus. Unfortunately, it is closer to Russia than to such EU countries as Poland or Lithuania.
Ukraine as Russia
Kyiv sees Alexander Lukashenka as “the self-proclaimed leader of Belarus.” Two years ago, with a big delay and after fair criticism, Ukraine joined the EU states in this matter. It recognized the scandalous elections of August 2020 were rigged, which led to mass protests, arrests, torture of thousands of people, and several deaths.
Later, the EU and Ukraine diverged on the Belarusian issue.
In 2020-2021, Ukraine joined some EU sanctions, but not all of them. In particular, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately made a decision not to impose sanctions against Lukashenka personally.
Kyiv set an acceptable line for the mad dictator not to let him get closer to security cooperation with Russia on the border, such as giving the Russians the right to allow their spies into Ukraine.This logic was valid until February 24, 2022, when the south of Belarus turned into a large military base for Russia. However, Ukraine has not yet joined the sanctions against Lukashenka.
While the leaders of the democratic world, from Merkel to Biden, held personal meetings with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and invited her to the European Parliament, Ukraine flatly refused.
Attempts by Tsikhanouskaya’s team to visit Kyiv have been declined since 2020. Zelensky and Kuleba also refused to meet with her during their visits to Vilnius, where the opposition leader resides.
Kyiv’s main claim was her unclear position on Russia, as well as her contradictory statements on Crimea.
After fleeing to Vilnius, Tsikhanouskaya began to make amends slowly.
In spring 2021, she dotted the is and crossed the ts regarding Crimea. But Ukraine still didn’t want to meet with her. Moreover, it refused to recognize her status as the opposition leader.
Ukraine faced a paradoxical situation.
All of Europe recognizes that Tsikhanouskaya represents the people of Belarus. European leaders or top diplomats hold meetings with her.
Among the European countries, only a few avoided her: pro-Russian Serbia, Bosnia, several dwarf states led by “perpetually neutral” Vatican, Ukraine, and, of course, Russia.
Why is this bad?
Belarusians themselves ask Sviatlana many questions. Recently, they have accused her of not sharing the brand with other opposition representatives outside her close circle.
But even for skeptical Belarusians, she remains a symbol of the opposition. Because they do not have anyone else, she is the only representative of Belarus with social legitimacy and international recognition.
Therefore, the vast majority of Belarusians, who are against Lukashenka, PAINFULLY perceive the ignoring of Tsikhanouskaya by Ukraine. They see this policy directed against the entire opposition.
As a consequence, Belarusians tend to stop being pro-Ukrainian.
It looks like, despite everything, Kyiv seeks to restore relations with Lukashenka.
If the situation changes rapidly in the region, Ukraine may find itself next to a renewed Belarus without trust among its leadership.
And most important: Ukraine cannot influence its agenda, avoiding the opposition. Moreover, the further, the more difficult it will be to overcome mistrust.
The creation of the government in exile gives Ukraine an opportunity to break the deadlock.
Kyiv currently has nothing to blame, for instance, Pavel Latushka, responsible for the transition of power, or international representative Valery Kovalevsky. Therefore, Ukraine has got the opportunity to leave this “Russian company” regarding the Belarusian opposition and cooperate with it.
How should this happen?
Kyiv gains nothing by de facto continuing relations with Lukashenka. It definitely loses opportunities and trust of anti-Lukashenka Belarusians, who could be naturally by the Ukrainian side but turn their back on it because they consider such a policy of Kyiv unacceptable.
This is a great opportunity to revive the “Lublin triangle” (union of Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania). The last two countries advocate Belarus in Europe the most. So they may be the first ones to recognize the government in exile. And if Ukraine unites with them and recognizes this body in the forefront as a joint “Lublin” decision, it will be an excellent signal.
Another scenario is also possible. Ukraine can simply start cooperating with the “Tsikhanouskaya-Latushka government” without officially recognizing them. For example, to meet with one of its representatives in Kyiv.
I agree fully. Ukraine’s government should finally recognize Mrs. Tsikhanouskaya as the rightful president of Belarus. This is a natural course to take, especially since she changed her mind about Crimea. Anything else would be a grave mistake. The majority of Belarusians see her as their leader, and this makes it even more essential. Ukraine gains absolutely nothing by sticking with loony Luka. He hasn’t participated in the war yet, but this is not because of any friendly feelings toward Ukraine, it’s mainly because of the Belarusian people, who don’t want this. This could change if Kyiv doesn’t change, regarding Mrs. Tsikhanouskaya.
I agree. Seems sensible. Lukashenko is on the same short rope as his buddy Putin
I am not sure.
Of course the Belarusian army is probably not so capable, I think flirting with the government in exile can make Lukashenko cause some troubles at the border. And we have never seen them in combat, so we should not underestimate them yet.
And Ukrainian troops are needed somewhere else at the moment.
I would focus just on Russia, as a Russian defeat will also mean the defeat of Lukashenko and I think the Belarusians will be graceful enough for that.
If Ukraine stays neutral, Lukashenko will have an even harder time selling a war at home.
I think the West should support the government in exile. Ukraine is already doing enough on its own.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lukashenko is against this war. He has always been avoiding Russian bases in Belarus and I think it is very suspicious that he leaked Russia’s intent to attack Moldova. I think Lukashenko is doing the bare minimum to help Putin.
I think Lukashenko is only thinking about one thing: his own survival. And I don’t think this war is in his favour, especially because he knows Russia is losing: he even made remarks about how effective Ukraine is fighting this war and that Belarus should learn from this.
I think if he had resisted Russia using Belarus as a launchpad, the war would have started in Belarus with him being overthrown.
There is also a reason he wanted to host the Minsk negotiations as he probably didn’t like the war in Donbas as he feared he would be next.
You got some good points, Bert. But, I think Luka would throw his army into the fight if things were going much better for Putler.
Be it as it may, there is one important point that many people are forgetting about; Ukraine already has a military force stationed along the Belarusian border. So, it’s not that they have to move some there if Belarus were to step into the fight. Ukraine dares not remove their forces as long as danger is looming from there, and as long as mafia land has troops in Belarus, there is always danger. Mafia land might not be assisted by the Belarusian military directly, but, nevertheless, it still uses Belarus territory like a cheap whore. Its mere presence prevents Kyiv to use its troops elsewhere, and the orcs launch their missile and air attacks against Ukraine from there.
I agree, of course Ukraine is not leaving Kyiv for grabs.
But when for example the U.S. sees satellite images of a military build-up in Belarus I am sure some of the troops located in the East now will make their way to Kyiv.
Many soldiers in the East had liberated Kyiv before.
Also, Ukraine will lose men and equipment if Belarus starts an invasion.
Even if the invasion was would have been successful, I doubt he would have joined, because the Belarusian population is largely against thus a coup would be possible.
Also the economy would be in peril as war is expensive and the West would respond with even more sanctions which would also increase the risk for an uprising.
And I think the most important reason he doesn’t want to participate is that Lukashenko doesn’t want Russia to win, as if they do and Ukraine is no more, Belarus will be next.
I don’t think he and Putin are necessarily best buddies, as Lukashenko betrayed Putin many times and he tried to sabotage the “Union State” for 2 decades.
So when Putin doesn’t need Lukashenko anymore and will replace him, I don’t think there will be a luxory dacha for him somewhere near Sochi where he can enjoy his retirement.
He will probably die of “a heart attack” within a year.
I think Lukashenko completely depends on Putin, but that doesn’t make them friends.