Strategic Choices for Belarus in the Region

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Strategic Choices for Belarus in the Region

Dr. Muhammad Akram Zaheer

Belarus has been very close to Russia and have strong ties in trade and military cooperation. But recent events, like the conflict in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, have made things more risky for Belarus.To deal with this risk, Belarus could try to make friends with other countries, like the European Union or China, to rely less on Russia. It could also work on building up its own industries to protect itself from problems outside the country.Inside Belarus, the government led by President Alexander Lukashenko faces challenges.

Some people are unhappy and want political changes. Lukashenko has to figure out how to keep things stable while also listening to these demands. Therefore, Belarus has to balance its old friendships with Russia, explore new partnerships, and handle its own problems at home. Recently, Belarus updated its military plans to deal with these challenges, which Russia supported because it brings Belarus closer to Moscow.Belarus and Russia have a long history together, dating back to their time in empires like the Soviet Union. They share a lot culturally and linguistically, and their presidents, Lukashenko and Putin, have a strong relationship.

In 1999, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty to get even closer, aiming for more political, economic, and military teamwork. While this “Union State” hasn’t become as powerful as the European Union, it shows they want to work together more.Russia has helped Belarus a lot during tough times, like after the 2020 election when there were protests. They trade a lot, especially in things like energy, machinery, and food. Belarus relies on cheap oil and gas from Russia, and Russia has given them loans and helped with their debts, which is really important for Belarus’s economy.

Belarus and Russia often do military exercises together, like the Zapad exercises. This shows how they work together in the military and can work together well. Both countries are part of a group called the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which helps them with security. Belarus lets Russia use some of its military places, like radars and places for communication. Russia has promised to help Belarus with its military if there’s danger from outside, which makes their military bond stronger. Because both countries have been punished by the West, they’ve become closer in how they work together economically and politically to deal with these punishments. Belarus has supported Russia’s actions in the Ukraine conflict, even letting Russian forces use its land for moving things around and doing operations.

 This support has made Belarus more separate from the West but also more reliant on Russia. People in Belarus and Russia still do a lot together, like share media, education, and have family connections that cross borders. The relationship between Belarus and Russia is strong in many ways, like politics, money, military, and culture. Even though Belarus needs Russia more, both countries have built this partnership over many years.Belarus is very close to Russia in politics, the military, and the economy.

They have agreements like the Union State and military deals that tie them strongly to Russia. This close relationship with Russia often causes problems for Belarus with the EU, especially in Eastern Europe. Belarus is also part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership plan, which tries to create a common area with shared values and economic connections between the EU and six Eastern European countries. But Belarus doesn’t participate much in this because of its internal politics and its closeness to Russia.The presidential election in 2020 in Belarus caused a lot of disagreement and protests. This made the relationship between the EU and Belarus worse. The EU increased sanctions and supported groups in Belarus who oppose the government.

In 2021, Belarus was accused of causing a crisis with migrants at its borders with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia as a way to get back at the EU for the sanctions. This made tensions even higher and led to more security measures and sanctions against Belarus from the EU.If Belarus makes big changes in its politics or leadership, it could improve its relationship with the EU. But Russia’s influence over Belarus is a big factor. If Russia changes its foreign policies or internal situation, it could affect Belarus’ relationship with the EU.The way the EU deals with Eastern Europe, especially how it balances democratic values and security concerns, will also affect how it deals with Belarus in the future.

Belarus is part of some regional groups. The CIS is one of them. It was made after the Soviet Union broke up and aims to help cooperation in politics, the economy, the environment, and other areas among the former Soviet countries. Belarus benefits from trade deals in the CIS, which help its economy. The CIS also helps Belarus with security and military cooperation. The EAEU is another group Belarus is in. It’s an economic union of countries in northern Eurasia. Being in this union helps Belarus trade more easily with other member countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. It also lets people move for work easily, which is good for Belarusian workers. The CSTO is a military group of some post-Soviet countries. It helps them work together for defense and security. Being in this group helps Belarus with its defense and makes the region safer.

The Union State between Russia and Belarus is another important partnership. It helps Belarus with energy and money from Russia, which is really important for its economy. This partnership also means Belarus follows Russia’s lead in politics, both inside and outside the country.The Eastern Partnership is the EU’s plan for its relationship with some post-Soviet countries including Belarus. Even though things are complicated with the EU, this partnership gives Belarus a way to talk and maybe work together with the EU on trade and human rights issues. Belarus can get help for its development projects through this partnership.

Belarus mainly looks to Russia and other post-Soviet groups for its partnerships, because it gets benefits like money and security from them. But it also tries to balance this with its relationship with the EU, looking for more ways to grow its economy and society.