At the end of the year 2017, Belarus is facing irrevocable changes.
“The outgoing year has become a milestone for Belarus and our people,” — leader of the Belarusian National Congress Mikalai Statkevich said in an interview to the Charter97.org, summarizing the results of the year 2017.
— How would you characterize the year 2017? How does it differ from the previous years?
— For me, it was a very significant year which showed that human dignity and desire for changes have finally awakened in our people.
This is confirmed by the mass protest actions, which started on February 17 in Minsk from the Outraged Belarusians’ March, organized by the BNC; and in a short while affected the entire country, with no exaggerations.
Belarusians showed that they are ready to fight and take on to the streets for the sake of normal life in a normal country. Due to these protests, the authorities saw the people's real attitude towards themselves and panicked.
And this is the main result of 2017. The Belarusians showed that they had transformed from the people to the political nation.
— What other events of the outgoing year would you like to note? Which of them have become the most significant, from the point of view of their influence on the situation in Belarus?
— In Belarus, much depends on what is happening in close proximity to our borders. The Belarusian dictator has made our country over-dependent on what is happening in Russia. All the events eastwards from our border, as well as the relations between our eastern neighbour and big states inevitably affect the domestic issues of Belarus.
Therefore, the most important geo-political tendency was the definition of the attitude of the new US administration towards the Russia-Ukraine conflict and imposing of sanctions against the leadership and the business elites of the Russian Federation.
This process is obvious and irrevocable: the pressure of the USA on Russia will be escalating, which may cause further radicalization of the relations between the Kremlin and the West.
Russia traditionally responds to pressure with the escalating aggressive policy — not only the military one, but also economic, diplomatic etc. Now, the most probable object of such complex aggression is Belarus. We can expect a rather sharp and unpredictable development of the events.
I even admit that the significance, depth and scale of the conflict between Russia and the West have not been fully assessed by us. The same as the possible consequences thereof for Belarus.
Other events, which were also important for Belarus, happened in the context of this most important geo-political tendency.
Those were, for example, the military exercises West-2017, in which the Russian armed forces were preparing to attack the Baltic countries from our territory, as well as to the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
The exercises became an indicator of the pressure exerted by the eastern neighbor on Belarus, and the manifestation of concessions made by the Lukashenka regime. It became clear that the position of the Belarusian regime allows to draw the country into a global conflict using nuclear weapons in our land.
Therefore, I would perhaps call these maneuvers the most important event of the year, after the mass protests in Belarus.
— What do you expect from the year 2018? What can be the further development of the situation in our country?
— The explosive timing device, planted under the economic fundament of the Belarusian regime, will continue to work in 2018. This is totally logical: none of the economic issues have been resolved, regardless of the economic crisis in 2017. No matter what the governmental statistics may say — Belarusians, especially in the regions, feel very well that the Lukashenka economic model is in agony.
And this “model” is loss-making in its very essence. The government has held no reforms; it seems incapable of holding any. The only hope of the pro-authoritative “economists” is for the growth of prices for oil and oil products. However, the policy of Trump’s administration, which allowed extraction of shale oil on the ocean shelves, leaves no chance to the Belarusian regime. The economy will continue its further collapse in 2018, taking its misfortunate “constructors” with it.
We already see the disturbances of people in the regions, despite the statements of the state propaganda about some sort of “stabilization”. The social tension will grow in 2018. Together with the anger of people towards the regime.
Belarus is facing irrevocable dramatic changes. The most interesting and important things start happening right now. Citing the classic, “people, horses mixed in a mess”: economic problems, falling of the government’s “image”, the dead-end in foreign policy where Lukashenka had led himself, can mix in a mess in Belarus.
Now, in fact, it is in the air that we are on the verge of democratic changes. A new window of opportunity really opens for us. For the patriotic forces it is extremely important to do everything possible to organize around themselves a large part of the society. This is all the easier to do, as we are already expressing the interests of the majority. You just need to structure and organize this majority.
The BNC in 2017 made a strategically correct step: supported, and then led mass social protests caused by the Decree #3. In 2018 it is important to continue to feel the mood of the people, to be the spokesperson for the interests of the majority that supports us and expects us to fight for their rights.
I repeat: now we can confidently say that most of the citizens of Belarus are on our side. It is important not to slow down the pace and strengthen this position, expand its bridgehead. Then we will be ready to meet these important and irreversible changes that may occur in Belarus in 2018. We can manage the situation and dictate our agenda.
I urge everyone who are still undecided to join the common deed. Moreover, there’s something like panic in the camp of Lukashenka now. They are skipping from side to side, searching for some “miraculous” means to solve the situation. This reminds how the Goebbels propaganda claimed there was some kind of “super weapons”, but in reality the regime skipped around the corners, not knowing what to do.
The panic skipping of the authorities will not push them to the right path. This regime will never dare to do the main thing: give full economic freedom to Belarusians and foreign investors. Hence, there will be no political freedom.
The authorities will continue to imitate “vivid activities”, but in fact all their decrees are dictated by fear of change. The regime is panic-stricken, that people will start to come out into the streets and squares. When across the whole of Belarus hundreds of thousands of people come to the streets — this authoritarian machine will simply get stalled and fall apart.
We now can strengthen ourselves in the areas of freedom we have obtained and prepare for the fact that there will be more people. Sooner or later, together with us, almost the entire Belarusian nation will take on to the streets.
— What would you like to wish Belarusians in 2018?
— First of all, faith. We are normal, hard-working, European people. We can live decently, when we have normal government and normal state. We will accomplish this mission. We can do it — most of the European nations could, and we will also succeed in this.
So, I wish faith to all of us. Alongside with strength and vigor. As everything should be done by ourselves. Real freedom cannot be received as a gift. After all, everything that comes easily is easy to lost. Belarusians will not be happy on a foreign land — they must build their own homes on theirs. And I wish Belarusians for the New Year so that it will happen.