Does Lukashenka Have Enough Forces To Suppress Opposition Not Only In Minsk But Across Country? – OpEd


Alyaksandr Lukashenka has shown he is more than ready to use his security forces against the population, but following the falsification of election results, he faces a bigger challenge than in the past: Belarusians across the country in large cities and villages are protesting, Dmitry Akhtyrsky says.

And the US-based Russian analyst says that as a result, he and observers must ask themselves whether the dictator has sufficient forces to suppress them all and whether, if he tries, the security services will split, with some refusing to follow orders or even turning against the regime (

“It is obvious,” Akhtyrsky says, “that the regime has enough force resources only for Minsk and in part for oblast centers,” but it clearly doesn’t have enough to suppress everyone everywhere unless it suppresses some Belarusians so brutally that it intimidates others into submission.  And doing that may place additional strain on the Belarusian siloviki.

According to the commentator, “the majority of citizens of the country understand that power has been usurped and does not have any legitimacy” and that “the entire country and not just the capital is ready for civil resistance.”

Lukashenka may hope that shutting down the Internet will prevent the various locations from coordinating with each other and being inspired, but, long before the Internet, “tyrannical regimes ceased their existence” when they managed to outrage their entire societies into taking the risky action of public protest. 

Also clearly, this outcome shows that “Lukashenka does not have any ‘deep people’ to which he could appeal.” Given that and given Lukashenka’s lack of enough force structures to suppress the entire country, one must ask what would be Moscow’s response if he fails to try to stop the protests or tries and fails, given that either outcome would spill over into Russia.

Belarusians have united into a civic nation, and Lukashenka is not their leader anymore. He may claim victory in the election, but he lost any basis for remaining in power – and it is entirely possible that he now lacks the resources needed to hold on by violence alone.  That is how many dictatorships have ended in the past; it may very well be his turn now.

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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