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Critique Of The Ukrainian Government's Approaches To Working With Belarusian Democratic Forces

Over the past two years, the main attention of both Ukraine and the West has been focused on the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Lost in Time

Over the past two years, the main attention of both Ukraine and the West has been focused on the war between Russia and Ukraine. The main point of application of Ukrainian and Western forces was the AFU, and the goal was – according to official formulas – the defeat of the Russian army in the conditions of maximum weakening of the Russian economy and growing discontent of the Russian population. In this situation, in our opinion, very little attention was paid to methods of indirect influence on Russia (with the exception of the West's rather successful work in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Armenia), as well as to countering Russia's "soft power" both in the Eastern European region and globally and its ability to influence the leadership of countries key to the security of certain regions

One of the most obvious examples of such strategic mistakes is Belarus, a country that should have been in the focus of attention of the anti-Russian coalition even before the war started, and even more so after it began. Nevertheless, both the West and Ukraine left Belarus exclusively under the jurisdiction of the security services and sanction offices, seeking to achieve Lukashenko's conditional neutrality by the carrot and stick method.

This approach absolutely did not take into account the degree of Lukashenko's engagement in the war and the level of strategic stakes with regard to Belarus. As a result, all interested parties suffered - Ukraine, the West and Belarusian democratic forces, which did not become an independent political player and lost a significant part of their influence on the situation in Belarus.

Now, when Ukraine - so far, purely theoretically - could have formed a clear understanding of the necessity of systematic work with regard to Belarus, the most favorable moment for this has long passed, and it will be much more difficult to achieve success. Neither the West, nor Ukraine, nor the Belarusian opposition by themselves possess the necessary combination of influence, political will, military-technical and financial resources to achieve these goals independently. Consequently, it is necessary to combine their forces, which has not happened so far.

Lack of strategic vision and professionalism (on both sides)

There are two groups of problems that make fruitful cooperation between the Ukrainian government and Belarusian democratic forces impossible. We are primarily interested in the first of them, connected with the position of the Ukrainian authorities. This group includes the following:

  • Extremely weak political management both at the level of the government as a whole and in relation to Belarus in particular. At the moment, it is already obvious that Ukraine has not formed powerful think tanks on the leading political issues, in particular, on the issue of foreign policy. That is why the problem of Belarus remains the responsibility of individual representatives of various governmental structures - the National Security Council, Zelensky's Office, while, for example, the specialized Ministry of Foreign Affairs ignores this problem.

  • Lack of a clear, realistic strategic vision of future relations between Belarus and Ukraine. For a long time, the public consciousness of Ukraine has been dominated by a utopian notion of the imminent collapse of Russia and, consequently, the fall of Lukashenka's regime. In this connection, Ukrainian politicians discussed the issues of reparations from Belarus much more actively than any more realistic scenarios.

  • Excessive influence of Ukrainian special services. Special services in Ukraine actively interfere in foreign policy issues and, in particular, supervise the topic of Belarus through their proxies, such as the volunteer structure "Kastus Kalinowski Regiment" created by them. The inconsistency of goals and interests between them and the Belarusian opposition movement proper is the key hindering factor in the sphere of possible cooperation.

Full text is available only to partners of the think tank.


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