The political scientist told how relations between Belarus and Ukraine will change.
Does Official Kyiv have a strategy in relation to Belarus? How do the Ukrainians treat the Belarusians?
Charter97.org spoke about this with Ukrainian political scientist Maksim Pleshko, an expert at the Center for Belarusian Communications.
– How would you characterize Belarusian-Ukrainian relations today at different levels: how do Belarus and the Belarusian people perceive Official Kyiv, and how do ordinary Ukrainians treat it?
– The question is complex and problematic. The fact is that the Ukrainians, and especially residents of the northern regions (Kyiv and Chernihiv), experienced terrible grief and huge destruction, and received traumatic experiences. I’m personally from the city of Irpin and I know about the atrocities committed by the Russians. Most Ukrainians remember that this horror had come from Belarus.
Social polls say that 90% of Ukrainians have a negative attitude towards Lukashenka, and 80% have a negative attitude towards the Belarusian state. If we talk about the attitude towards the Belarusian people and society, then there is a feeling that this trauma, pain, and resentment is inside a wide layer of the population. I think that in general, at least half of the Ukrainians have a negative attitude towards the Belarusian people.
In my opinion, the Ukrainian people make a certain mistake by shifting the idea of themselves to the Belarusian people. “Why did we overthrow Yanukovych, and when tanks came to us, the Belarusians were sitting silently?” they say. The Ukrainian people do not understand the general specifics of the Belarusian regime. The Belarusians cannot be compared to the Ukrainians. You have your national character, we have ours.
Many Ukrainians do not understand that there is a tough bloody regime in Belarus, and going out to protest in Belarus today is the same as doing the same on the territory of Ukraine occupied by the Russian Federation.
Specialists dealing with the Belarusian issue understand it, but the society in general. It is this misunderstanding that Russian propaganda uses, since this split and the distance between our peoples is beneficial, first of all, to the Kremlin. They are pouring more and more fuel on the fire of this topic.
We, the Center for Belarusian Communication, explain to the Ukrainian people this difference, the situation in Belarus. Unfortunately, most Ukrainians equate Belarusians and Russians. Then we tell them about the Belarusian fighters who are fighting for Ukraine. In Irpin, for example, Dzmitry ‘Terror’ Apanasovich died. The fact is that of all the legionnaires fighting in Ukraine, the vast majority are Belarusians. No other nation in terms of volunteers helps the Armed Forces of Ukraine as actively as the Belarusians.
When Ukrainians hear this, they have a certain collision. “Ah, well, yes, we respect these and those who come out to protest and support Ukraine, but those who are silent do not.” The problem is that those who understand the history and cultural features understand that we are extremely close. The Russians are far from us culturally, mentally and historically.
One of the tragedies of the war is this misunderstanding between our peoples. I’d like to emphasize, we are really close to each other.
– What do you think about the future relationships between the Belarusian and Ukrainian peoples after the end of the war?
– It will depend on many factors. Firstly, it depends on the war ending. If we imagine that Ukraine will end the offensive and reach the 1991 borders, then Russia and Lukashenka will crawl away to become as close as North Korea. However, Russia will face internal problems. Support for Lukashenka will weaken. And what will the Belarusians do? If they continue to remain silent, then in this case the attitude of the Ukrainian people will not change. So when will it change?
The situation will also depend on those Belarusians who consider themselves to be part of the democratic opposition. Those who left, or those who are fighting in Ukraine today. If they are active, then the Ukrainians will see it and understand that there are actually two different sides of Belarus.
We also explain to the Ukrainians that an alternative Belarus is actually being formed today. With its own national flag, ideology, the political and media environment. I would like to note that your independent media environment is quite developed. There are emerging armed forces in the form of volunteers at the Kalinouski Regiment.
You are forming an alternative Belarus, it should become a subject of international relations. When the Ukrainians see this, they will change their attitude. No need to make excuses, just do it. The Belarusian people have to be so in their spirits and not only passports.
Undoubtedly, the national interest of Ukraine prefers a free and democratic Belarus. Our Center for Belarusian Communications promotes the idea of the Baltic-Black Sea Union. It should start with something like Grand Duchy of Lithuania 2.0. Belarus is indispensable in this Baltic-Black Sea union. The ‘Belarusian Balcony’ is threatening Ukraine, and Ukrainian politicians are coming to the understanding that they are to address this problem. Poland and the Baltic countries do not just understand this. They are acting.
It is clear that our priority is victory on the battlefield. However, after the war, I hope Ukraine will recognize the Belarusian issue as a priority. Not without reason Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in Warsaw, said that freedom would definitely come to Belarus. As you remember, a little earlier, Joe Biden said in Warsaw that Belarus continues to fight for its democracy. This suggests that at the level of the US and NATO, there is an awareness of the geopolitical importance of Belarus.
Once, thanks to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the lands of modern Ukraine were freed from the Tatar-Mongols. Who knows, maybe after our victory the Grand Duchy of Lithuania 2.0 will appear, but this time Ukraine will help the liberation of Belarus from occupation.
I am convinced that the process is underway and the Belarusian people need to unite and strengthen their national identity. This is important for your future. Lukashenka, by the way, with his dead-end ideology, helps this. He simply tore himself out of the Belarusian national idea. Lukashenka banned everything national, which means that the Belarusians should, on the contrary, become a nation.
– Does the Ukrainian leadership have any strategy in relation to Belarus today?
– It’s an interesting question. Ukraine and the Ukrainian leadership are going through an active maturation stage. I think that not all in the Ukrainian government understand the geopolitical issue of Belarus and the role of Ukraine in the region. However, some understand. Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Aleksiy Danilov directly says that it is necessary to distinguish between the Lukashenka regime and the Belarusian people, sending such a signal to the Ukrainians.
I think that Kyiv’s stance on Lukashenka will totally change soon. One of the first signs is Zelensky’s bill to denounce the agreement with Belarus on state secrets.
The matter of the Baltic-Black Sea Union is a classic of geopolitics. The US knows this and has been prioritizing it for decades. It seems that coordination has also begun with the Ukrainian leadership on this issue. I emphasize once again that Zelensky’s statement in Warsaw was geopolitical in its nature.
“If we are free, this is a guarantee Moldova preserves its freedom, Georgia stays free, will definitely come to Belarus,” he said. The President gave figurative and precise descriptions.
The Baltic countries and Poland have long decided. Ukraine is fighting with arms for its freedom and the right to be part of Europe. Moldova and Georgia will defend their freedom. There is no freedom in Belarus yet, but it will definitely come. The whole current geopolitics and the future directions are in these words.
I firmly believe in the victory of Ukraine and the future of Belarus as a sane European country.
And if you look further, 20 years ahead, then you can see not only a strong union of free Belarus and Ukraine on the horizon but also, it’s possible, a wider confederation of states from the Baltic to the Black Sea, following the example of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
When we are together, we are strong and give rebuff to the horde from the East. When we are separate, the horde either dissolves us or simply kills us. This has been going on for a thousand years and it will continue. This rule of geopolitics in our region did not change.
“No other nation in terms of volunteers helps the Armed Forces of Ukraine as actively as the Belarusians.”
This should not be forgotten. Belarus also has quite an active partisan movement. I hope they get all the support possible.