By Paul Goble
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.