16 January 2021, Saturday, 9:34
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Every Day of Delay in Sanctions Will Cost Europe Too Much

Every Day of Delay in Sanctions Will Cost Europe Too Much
Grigory Melamedov

It is difficult to overestimate the problems that the Belarusian regime creates for Brussels.

Admiring the courage of the Belarusians, European leaders are still in no hurry to impose really serious sanctions against Lukashenka's regime, such as disconnecting Belarusian banks from the SWIFT system. They view the situation mainly in the context of a political game with Russia and do not take into account the threat from international crime. Meanwhile, this threat is growing with every extra day the Belarusian dictator is in power.

Lukashenka's Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei recently tried to blackmail the European Union by saying that in response to the introduction of economic sanctions, Belarus would stop cooperation in the fight against drugs. In fact, Lukashenka and the European Union do not and cannot have any joint struggle against drug trafficking. But the fact is that, under the existing regime, Belarus is indeed a threat to Europe in terms of the supply of deadly goods. The longer the agony of the dictator lasts, the darker the prospects for Belarus' western neighbors are.

In 2012, the official Minsk admitted that the number of drug trafficking channels from East to West through Belarus has almost tripled over the previous five years. There were 45 identified channels alone, and, of course, there were many times more undetected channels. Mainly, it was about the supply of heroin, methadone, amphetamine, methamphetamine.

In 2016, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Ihar Shunevich, confessed that the country had turned from a drug trafficker into a major drug user. In 2019, Colonel Henadz Kazakevich, head of the Main Directorate for Drug Control and Combating Human Trafficking of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus, said that the situation had become even more dangerous - Belarus was becoming not only a transit country and a consumer, but also a drug producer.

Two years ago, Deutsche Welle published a journalistic investigation, from which it followed that the Belarusian authorities did not interfere with drug smuggling, and the formally existing law on combating money laundering of the drug mafia in the country did not work.

All sources name two reasons for this situation. The first is an open border with Russia, and then an open Russian-Kazakh border. The second is that the drug mafia has high-ranking patrons in the special services of Russia and Belarus.

Now let's see what is happening in recent months because it is known that the biggest dirty money is made during periods of political instability. All the power structures of Belarus are thrown into the suppression of protests; they no longer engage in their direct duties. Honest officers, real specialists are being dismissed en masse because of disagreement with the regime. Even if they do not quit themselves, the criminalized system tries to get rid of them.

The siloviki in Belarus have become an uncontrollable force; Lukashenka puts his generals to rule entire regions instead of the previous civil administration. Naturally, this leads to a redistribution of spheres of influence in the shadow economy and smuggling. Of course, the security officials understand that Lukashenka can leave at any moment, and they want to have time to get the maximum income from the criminal business and, especially, from the drug trade - the most profitable source of dirty money. And drug lords will not miss the chance to recruit more militants from the AMAP and the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime - that is, the very structures that now perform punitive functions, because today's ordinary punishers have no prospects in post-Lukashenka Belarus.

The main danger now is that after Lukashenka's departure, the most organized political structure may turn out to be an alliance of security officials and organized crime, as is already the case in Russia. And drug smuggling will be the economic backbone of such an alliance. It is difficult to overestimate the problems this creates for the EU countries. Therefore, Europe should not be complacently expecting that Lukashenka "will leave sooner or later" and waste time on secondary issues, such as the World Ice Hockey Championship. Every day of delay in the embargo will cost too much in the future. Makei, in essence, confirmed this, unwittingly.

Grigory Melamedov, specially for Charter97.org