16 October 2021, Saturday, 0:46
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East To Press Lukashenka Politically, West - Economically

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East To Press Lukashenka Politically, West - Economically
Piotr Kuzniatsou

The arguments for raising stakes are running out.

From the very morning I wanted to write something about the failed meeting between Makei and the Polish Foreign Minister. However, it turned out to be right to wait for the announced meeting with Lukashenka on the border issue. In the general context, the situation can be observed much better.

Judging by Makei's disappointed statements about the cancellation of the meeting with Zbigniew Rau, as well as by the remarks about “problems on our agenda,” everything that we said earlier about the goals of the man-made crisis on the western border turned out to be absolutely correct.

It really means that Minsk has deliberately created a problem hoping that Europe will be forced to enter into a dialogue to resolve it. The specifics of the moment are as follows: since 1996, not a single political campaign in Belarus was recognized, not a single authority was considered legitimate, but everyone continued to deal with the local “de facto” regime - like, well, who else? The consequences of 2020 turned out to be too difficult: now no one wants to do business with Minsk either de jure or de facto.

To force the European Union to talk with the current government and do it within the framework of the agenda defined by the Belarusian side, that is, to discuss migrants, not human rights, new elections or political prisoners - this was the purpose of the artificial crisis, and Makei's disappointment with the canceled meeting best confirms this assumption.

The resumption of at least some contacts in the Western direction is simply vital for two reasons. First, it is necessary, of course, to somehow try to influence the sanctions processes. Secondly, and, as it seems to me, this is becoming more and more obvious: Russia is pressing hard. Of course, under anti-Western rhetoric and stories about brotherhood (you can't scare your electorate either), but quite clearly and consistently: first, for Moscow it would be much more comfortable to attend to integration issues with another, albeit formally, government; second, in the East, more and more voices are being heard about the upcoming large transit, but here we see one important point - I do not doubt for a second that Putin simply does not see a situation in which he would leave his post, but Lukashenka stayed and continued to “integrate” in his own style.

At today's meeting, much was said about migrants, tents and firewood, but it was emphasized that the “problems” at the border are not solely of humanitarian nature. In Minsk they said that the tension was growing in the sphere of “defense”, again they started talking about the troops. This rhetoric is not new, we have already heard it in 2020 and earlier, but in the context of what is happening now, it looks like a transition to a new level - the threat of a build-up of the military presence at the border. The fact that it sounded after the failure of Makei's expectations is, in principle, logical - Minsk is raising the stakes. The fact that this happens after a weird visit to Sochi with the participation of the main Belarusian border guard is also, in principle, understandable: the border crisis can be supported by both Minsk and Moscow at the same time, but their goals may be different: the Belarusian authorities are trying to become the center of attention, while the Kremlin is well aware that such actions only increase the foreign political isolation of the “partner”.

The big problem of the Belarusian side is that the EU understands very well: the migrants did not “come from someplace thousands of kilometers away,” they were purposefully brought. Therefore, we are not talking about a “crisis”, but about blackmail. In an extremely pragmatic Europe, there is hardly a single politician who would seriously speak out for giving in to a blackmailer. And, since it is necessary to react to what is happening, all this will only lead to increased sanctions pressure, that is, to the results directly opposite to those that the directors and initiators of what is happening would like to see.

And this means that the space, which after August 2020 was already so scarce, is collapsing literally before our eyes. Even before the spring of 2021, the West simply did not want to talk to Minsk. Now the trend is looming more and more clearly: the East will put pressure on Minsk politically, the West - economically. Meanwhile, the arguments for raising stakes are running out.

Piotr Kuzniatsou, Telegram