22 October 2020, Thursday, 12:56
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Die Tageszeitung: Putin Understands Lukashenka Will Not Hold Down Job

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Die Tageszeitung: Putin Understands Lukashenka Will Not Hold Down Job
MARIE MENDRAS

Today, all Belarusians have united against the dictatorship.

Political scientist Marie Mendras has expressed such an opinion in an interview with the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung (translated by inosmi.ru).

- Ms. Mendras, the main figures of the opposition movement in Belarus are either outside the country or in prison. Nevertheless, people continue to take to the streets.

- I want to clarify one thing right away: we are not talking about the opposition. Because the people taking to the streets now won the election. They managed to collect a clear majority of votes for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Aliaksandr Lukashenka is no longer the president of Belarus. He illegally holds power through repression, the army, and the police. Now the opposition is the people who continue to speak for Lukashenka.

- What will happen?

- Lukashenka will not be able to hold down a job for long. It is necessary to prepare for the period that will come after it. Russian President Vladimir Putin has understood this, too. Therefore, he must now think about which cards to play. Putin found himself on a very narrow path, with few options.

- You said that the Kremlin should not deal with the resolution of the crisis in Belarus. Could you please clarify this?

- Look what happened to Ukraine: Putin created problems there, and now he himself is blocking their solution. We have been watching this for several years now, and you cannot fall into the same trap again. The Kremlin is not going to keep Lukashenka in power at any cost, because they cannot. Moscow does not have a serious plan to invade Belarus, there is no Crimea, and there is no Donbass. Today all Belarusians have united against the dictatorship. And Russia's ability to put its own person there is very limited.

- Do you really believe that the Kremlin will stand aside, and will not try to take matters into its hands?

- I hear this question often, but the Kremlin cannot do anything. Of course, Putin does not need a democratic Belarus. But now he cannot just impose his will there. Russia is not a state that is currently in a position to occupy a European country like Belarus.

But Putin is now playing a strategic game with Europe and NATO, claiming that a geopolitical crisis is underway in the center of Europe, and in order to resolve it, one must negotiate with him. But this is not a geopolitical crisis, but a crisis in Belarus. A peaceful uprising against the man who was not re-elected, but nevertheless is not going to retire. In reality, Belarus is close to leaving Moscow's zone of influence, as Ukraine and Georgia have already done.

- Now there are many talks about the joint European reaction. However, there was none before. Why should it be different now?

- I don't understand why the EU is constantly criticized. Europe reacted correctly and quickly. All condemned the violence and falsified results, and also demanded Lukashenka's resignation to pave the way for new elections. At the same time, Brussels is trying to maintain a dialogue with Russia, and rightly so.

- Nevertheless, it was French President Emmanuel Macron who in the past tried his best to improve relations with Russia.

- Fortunately, now it's over. It is a pity that the cancellation of the French-Russian meeting planned by the Elysee Palace in September required first a crisis in Belarus, then repression, as well as the poisoning of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The dialogue with Moscow that Macron wanted to lead was a bad strategy. As a person who knows Russia well, I can say that Putin was never ready to conduct real negotiations or compromise on any issue, and above all on the Donbass. Macron was very naive, suggesting that he would be able to reach a real compromise with Putin.

- Now it looks like new sanctions will be imposed against Belarus, as well as against Russia because of Navalny's poisoning. Do you consider sanctions an effective means?

- Sanctions were relatively effective, as the example of Ukraine shows since 2014. Economic sanctions against individuals are a very powerful tool. And this is the only method that is not a military counterstrike. The sanctions are often criticized, but what other options are possible? In the coming weeks, further sanctions will be adopted against Russia and the former rulers of Belarus, including Aliaksandr Lukashenka.