Belarus at crossroads - East or West?

Interview with Timofei Bordachyov, Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies.

How would you define the current regime in Belarus?

First of all, I don't think there is any kind of iron curtain existing in Europe. And I don't think we can put the nations on one side or another. The regime of Alexander Lukashenko is completely distinctive among other political regimes in Europe, including Russia. The EU has now made a decision to introduce very severe measures, according to the European standards, against Lukashenko and over 150 Belarusian officials. But I don't think these measures imply a complete breakup of the relations and will last for longer time than 1-1.5 years.

How effective new sanctions imposed on Minsk can be?

Actually, I don't think that visa sanctions against Lukashenko and Belarusian officials are going to undermine the regime. There is another thing important in this respect - some EU countries are introducing much softer requirements for ordinary Belarusian citizens for obtaining visas. Latvia and Lithuania, for example, introduced payment-free visas for people of this country and I think many other EU member states will follow suit. The strategy seems to be a combination of a relaxing attitude towards ordinary Belarusians and a severing attitude towards Lukashenko and his officials.

Do you think that the present-day standoff with Western Europe and the US will really push Lukashenko towards Russia?

It all depends on the relations between Russia and Belarus. If Lukashenko is active in showing Europe that he is not going to deepen into the integration process, European leaders will try to find new ways and possibilities of a dialogue with Lukashenko. But if he proceeds, as he doing now, with a further economic integration with Russia, European leaders will react to this not very friendly.


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