S3 Episode 8: What Does Belarus's President Lukashenka Want?

In 2020, Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenka cracked down on protesters challenging the results of an election in which he had claimed resounding victory, and on the opposition in general. The European Union (EU) refused to recognise Lukashenka’s regime and imposed far-reaching sanctions. Relations between Belarus and its Western neighbours have since continued to spiral downward. In the summer of 2021, thousands of people, mainly from the Middle East, began gathering at the country’s border with Poland and the Baltic states, hoping to enter the EU. Incensed governments accused Lukashenka of ‘weaponising’ migrants by facilitating access to the border, and responded with a fifth round of sanctions. Lukashenka has so far refused to back down, turning ever more to Moscow for support, even as Russia’s relations with the West continue their own rapid decline and Russian troops mass near Ukraine. 


This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope are joined by Yauheni Preiherman, the Founder and Director of the Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations. They discuss the realities of the border crisis and Lukashenka’s motives in fomenting it, asking whether his gamble has backfired. They also review Belarus’ foreign policy trajectory, its past overtures toward the West and its complicated relationship with Moscow. They talk about regional implications of the standoff with Europe and assess what Belarus tells us about how small states can and cannot navigate increasingly belligerent great power competition. 


For more of Crisis Group’s analysis make sure to explore our Belarus page and check out our latest ‘Behind the Frictions at the Belarus-Poland Border’. 


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