By Paul Goble
The West has not yet decided what it wants to achieve in Belarus, and the sanctions it is now imposing will be insufficient to produce either economic collapse, any improvement in the Lukashenka regime, or the kind of political rising that occurred in that country over the last year, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.
It appears, the Russian economist says, that “the Western countries want an improvement in the Lukashenka regime, something that in fact is impossible.” Sanctions announced so far won’t lead to that because the situation now is very different from the one in 2010 when that approach appeared for a time to work (thinktanks.by/publication/2021/09/21/vyacheslav-inozemtsev-zapad-ne-gotov-vyzvat-ekonomicheskiy-kollaps-v-belarusi.html).
The Europeans and the Americans have the opportunity to destroy the Belarusian economy “if they want to.” Consequently, the question is whether they in fact do. But for that to happen, sanctions would have to be “very radical” and their goal, the destruction of the Belarusian economy, clearly defined and enunciated.
But at present, the West is not prepared to take steps that would lead to the economic collapse of Belarus. What the West has done and is doing may depress the economy but “the experience of Russia shows” that zero or even negative growth for a long period of time “is not a catastrophe for an authoritarian regime.” It is something it can easily weather.
A major reason the West has not take such draconian measures is the widespread belief that they would drive Belarus into the arms of Russia. But that isn’t the case. The Belarusian people don’t want to become part of the Russian Federation, and Putin doesn’t want them to either.
For Belarus to be absorbed, a referendum would be required; and that would be politically explosive. And for Putin, the absorption of nine million restive citizens is not a prospect he really is looking forward to. Pursuing or threatening to pursue that end is one thing, but actually wanting to live with it is quite another.
If the West decided to break the Lukashenka regime by destroying the Belarusian economy, it could do so; and the result would not be that Belarusians would rush to become part of Russia. But for the West to take that step, it would have to decide what it really wants, something it has not yet done, Inozemtsev says.