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Minsk as a priority

Published on March 9, 2012 by: in: Politics

New, more radical actions of Lukashenko’s regime should move Belarus to the top priority place in Polish foreign policy. We need iron consistency. Resolute diplomatic steps should be combined with an effective information campaign directed at Belarusians and with breaking any talks with Lukashenko.

photo: Kasia_Jot

photo: Kasia_Jot

For Poland objective number one should be to persuade the European Union to apply genuinely lasting sanctions and permanent political isolation of Lukashenko. The worst scenario after current diplomatic crisis would be the return to status quo from recent years. The West cannot once again become involved in a game with Minsk and Moscow. Both capitals skilfully manipulate the West, tempting that if Brussels or Warsaw is ready to make a compromise, then maybe Minsk will turn its back on Russia. This is illusion. Lukashenko shall never act against Russia for good, as indeed only Moscow has enough influence to depose him. That is why in a decisive moment he will always bet on Russia. Lukashenko has to be rigorously isolated; any talks with him are a bad sign for the Belarusian society and for the opposition, which grasps that the West regards Lukashenko as a partner. We need to abandon such way of thinking, according to which relations with a dictator who ruthlessly locks up and represses dissidents may be justified by the fact that the West continues anti-Russian policy. Not only does the West adopt an ineffective policy, but also it deprives itself of moral arguments and mission of democratization, which could be the best weapon against Lukashenko and Putin. The West simply should not negotiate with such a regime. There is no sense in talking with Russia about Belarus too. In Russia’s best interest is to keep Lukashenko’s regime lasting or to replace it with yet another one, even more dependent on Moscow. There are no chances of finding a common interest on this ground.

That is why in affairs with Belarus we should deal with Belarusian society and the opposition, and not with civil servants of Lukashenko’s or Putin’s regimes. Poland and the European Union ought to develop solid programmes of financing a civil society in Belarus. They should allocate substantial resources for scholarships to enable young Belarusians to study in the West. Such programmes should be combined with training of social activation and participation in the life of local NGOs. The situation in Belarus may be changed only by changing people’s mentality – this is the key to success, that is, to democratization of the country. The media have to be effectively employed in this fight. Today Bielsat Television is an interesting, but so far unsuccessful instrument of impact on the situation in Belarus. Poland and the European Union ought to benefit from the experience of Al-Arabia and Al-Jazeera televisions, which significantly influenced the events of Arab Spring of Nations. Dynamic, effective TV channel addressed to Belarusians, co-created by Belarusians, also present in the Internet, will do more than any political talks with the regime. Besides, we should help to build the Belarusian opposition and work on the recognition of its leaders. Moreover, the European Union must create a special system of coordinating actions of its services towards Belarusian dissidents. Scandalous mistake made by Polish public prosecutor’s office in the case of Ales Bialacki can never happen again. Such incidents challenge Polish and Western credibility in the eyes of Belarusians and radically decrease their willingness to act or their acceptance of Western support. Procedures should also be expanded, enabling the West to transfer means in a way acceptable for the opposition. They have to start to feel the real financial and propaganda support coming from the West. They have  to know that western partners will not simply stand the Belarusians up and will not negotiate with Lukashenko once again.

In policy towards Belarus Poland should show the European Union the long-term line of iron consistency in isolating Lukashenko and supporting actions of democratic opposition.

Translation: Alicja Bratkowska

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About Błażej Lenkowski

Graduate of International Relations at The Faculty of International and Political Science Studies of the University of Lodz; president of Industrial Foundation the publisher of Liberte!; entrepreneur.

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