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Russia

The Next Big Move? What Would Happen If Belarus Enters War Against Ukraine

As the war in Donbas is bogged down, the most likely major new gambit in Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine would be to get military support from his ally in Minsk, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. How would that actually go down?

What will Lukashenko do? It’s a high-stakes corollary to the even higher stakes "what-will-Putin-do" question that has been weighing on the world since the beginning of the year.

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Few doubt that the role of Belarus and its leader Alexander Lukashenko is absolutely crucial to the outcome of the war in Ukraine, and the risks of escalation. Will he invade Ukraine? Will he bide his time? Will he do whatever Putin tells him to do? But the questions themselves remain unanswerable; aka: only he knows … or maybe he doesn’t either!

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Flashback In The USSR? How Former Soviet Republics Are Reacting To War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has been upfront about his desire to rebuild Russia’s influence in the region. Former Soviet states are watching developments in Ukraine closely, with many trying to ensure futures free of interference by Moscow.

For 69 years, the Kremlin was able to keep what were de facto separate nations within the Soviet orbit by the use of weapons, hunger and fear. Even after the collapse of the USSR, every Russian leader considered the former republics to be at least a zone of his influence.

Yet Vladimir Putin has revealed his true understanding of neighborliness, repeatedly stating that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a huge tragedy for Russia. And on this, one might agree, he is right.

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Under the Communist Party, each of the national republics also had their own government, albeit ultimately controlled by the Kremlin. Each of the republics, whether in Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, or Ukraine, had their own capital, culture, language and traditions. For each of the national republics, secession from the Soviet Union brought liberation and independence — an opportunity to build their own state. For every former member state, that is, except Russia.

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Unpacking Why Belarus Will Or Won't Join The War Against Ukraine

Analysts have closely followed whether Belarus, a loyal Kremlin ally, will invade its neighbor. But even though the Belarusian president toes the Kremlin line, he is unlikely to want to get in over his head in Ukraine.

-Analysis-

KYIV — For several months, Belarusian troops have been conducting regular training exercises, particularly in the regions bordering Ukraine. Combined with the specific statements by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, this raises logical fears about the direct involvement of the Belarusian army in the war.

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From Lviv, Worrying New Signs That Belarus Is Set To Join The War

After Minsk recalled all its embassy staff from Ukraine over the weekend, additional reports now show evidence around the northwest territory that Alexander Lukashenko may be ready to join Putin in the assault on the southern neighbor.

LVIV — Here, distinguishing between what’s true and false is particularly difficult — and particularly important. The first question is to understand if something has been said to provoke a reaction.

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One local news sources in Lviv, Zaxid reported this weekend, citing Ukrainian military sources: “According to Ukrainian intelligence, in the next one or two days, Belarus will enter the war alongside Russia.”

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Ideas
Jacques Attali

What Putin Feared Most About Ukraine: It's A European Democracy

For authoritarian leaders from Beijing to Moscow, it’s unbearable that democratic institutions like the European Union succeed. So it is vital that we Europeans build measures to protect democratic sovereignty.

-Analysis-

PARIS — For a dictatorship to endure, it needs more than just surveillance and terror. It must also be able to convince the people it enslaves that their future, in a regime of freedom, would not be sufficiently better to justify taking the risk of rebellion.

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So dictatorships have always done everything possible to discredit any neighboring society their subjects could look to for a comparison. Before starting the war, Nazi Germany spent its time denouncing the weaknesses of European and American democracies and ridiculing their leaders. It must be admitted that the latter provided it with good arguments to do so.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Putin's Puppet - Or Worse? Lukashenko Is The Real Wild Card On Ukraine

With Russian troops now deployed through Belarus, the risk is growing of an invasion through Ukraine’s northern border. Vladimir Putin’s regional strategy and Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorial demands are not always what they seem.

-Analysis-

Ukrainians have a joke that started in the 1990s: Russia will never feel ashamed as long as there is Ukraine, and Ukraine will never feel ashamed as long as there is Belarus.

This bit of dark humor used to reflect the economic situation in the former Soviet republics. But somewhere in the interval, after the two democratic revolutions in Ukraine, in 2004 and 2014, we acquired a different vision of things, a sense of direction and demand from society. It was as if we broke away and swam in the opposite direction, away from where Russia was heading … leading Belarus by the hook.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Greater Russia? Four Scenarios For Putin’s Expansionist Ambitions

A mind map of the Russian leader’s possible plans to increase his influence, and expand his territory.

Vladimir Putin has always had his eye on the neighborhood.

In Georgia, the border with Russia has effectively been controlled by Moscow’s FSB security services since 2008. Washington this week accused Russian agents of recruiting pro-Kremlin Ukrainian operatives to take over the government in Kyiv and cooperate with a Russian occupying force. Meanwhile, all of Belarus has been on a short leash for two decades.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Belarus: 18 Years For Tikhanovsky, Grim Prospects For Democracy

The jail sentence against the opposition leader is a clear sign that strongman Lukashenko is not looking back.

-Analysis-

Headlines in the West about this week’s sentencing of Sergei Tikhanovsky identified him as “husband of opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.” While it is of course true, the description is also wholly insufficient.

Indeed it is worth remembering who Tikhanovsky was — and is — now that a Belarusian court has sentenced him to 18 years of hard time in a prison colony.

Tikhanovsky was a popular blogger who’d gained a national following criticizing the government and sharing stories of the struggles of ordinary Belarusians, and had dared to announce his candidacy in the spring of 2020 to challenge longtime strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko in presidential elections.

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Geopolitics
Nikolaus Doll

Diplomacy 101 In Belarus: Talking To Bad People Is Part Of The Job

A German politician lashed out after Angela Merkel spoke on the phone with Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. But like in other hot spots, avoiding the worst along the Belarus-Poland border means casting aside moral superiority and naiveté.

BERLIN — It may well be that in just a few weeks there will be a Green Party politician at the helm of the German diplomacy. It may be co-party leader Annalena Baerbock, or someone else. Either way, what would it mean if the foreign minister was from the Green Party?

Well, we may get a hint of what could happen by looking at Green politician Omid Nouripour's reaction to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's actions regarding the refugee crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. It does not bode well.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Modi Bows To Farmers, Belarus Camps Cleared, Extra-Long Eclipse

👋 Dia dhuit!*

Welcome to Friday, where Indian farmers win a major victory against the Modi government after a year of protests, Austria announces a full lockdown and mandatory vaccines and the world is treated to the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years. We also have a feature story from Jeune Afrique magazine that traces the international origins of twerking.

[*Gaelic]

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Russia Space Blast Endangers Astronauts, Belarus Border Clashes, Leo’s Beach

👋 ሰላም!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia is under fire for blowing up a satellite in space, clashes erupt at the Poland-Belarus border and Leo's Beach opens again. Courtesy of German daily Die Welt, we also look at the reasons behind the major discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccination rates across Europe.

[*Selam, Amharic - Ethiopia]

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Migrant Lives
Wojciech Czuchnowski

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seem to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

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