Bleak Future For Belarus If Europe Follows US And Ends Backing For Opposition – OpEd

US President Donald Trump has proposed cutting all assistance to the democratic opposition in Belarus, a move that if copied by European countries which currently provide far more aid, could make the future of Belarus ever bleaker, according to a Russian analyst.

Denis Lavnikevich argues on the Rosbalt news agency today that such a cutoff in assistance would lead to the end of many opposition groups without strengthening the authoritarian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka given that the population is prepared to rise against him as it did earlier this year (rosbalt.ru/world/2017/05/25/1617820.html).

He cites the observation of Alyona Anisim, one of two independent deputies in the Belarusian parliament, that the opposition “over the course of many years has taken principled positions by directing all its efforts and rhetoric at criticism of the powers that be.” But with few exceptions, the latter have been unwilling to engage in “sincere” negotiations.

Yury Zyankovich, a Belarusian opposition figure now living in the emigration, notes that “the opposition has lost its authority” over the population, a situation that would only worsen if outside funding and support is cut off. That makes mass protests more likely and the result of them “will be not even an invasion by Russian tanks,” but something “much worse.”

In that event, the emigre activist says, the Belarusian state will simply collapse because “the authorities won’t be able to hold power … and the opposition will not be able to take over” because its organizations will have collapsed.

“In reality,” the Rosbalt commentator adds, “the mass protests of the spring of 2017 in Belarus were largely spontaneous. The local opposition had to play “catch up” and then tried” to exploit the popular anger. But if the opposition disintegrates as it might without outside support, there would be no one to channel popular anger.

Lavnikevich adds: “a sharp reduction of foreign financing [would] force the Bealrusian opposition to begin its own reformation. Today the opposition is studying the problems of people and seeking sensitive social issues for their further politicization.” But soon Belarus may be a place where an angry but unorganized people confronts a frightened and shaky regime.


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Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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