In a Confrontation Between Putin and the West, Belarus May Get Caught in the Middle

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Igor Zevelev – Aug. 5, 2020) Former Professor at George Marshall European Center for Security Studies; Former Director, MacArthur Foundation, Moscow Office Starting with the coup against Gorbachev in August 1991, the last month of the summer has become a time when the eyes of the world perforce turn to Russia. Financial crises (1998), the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Lukashenko rhetoric shows fallout between Minsk and Moscow”- Financial Times/ Max Seddon, James Shotter

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

“Arrest of 33 Russians comes as Belarusian president’s strategy of playing Russia and the west off each other founders.” “… Belarus authorities arrested the [Russian] men [checking into a sanatorium outside Minsk as would-be tourists] and another Russian, claiming they were mercenaries plotting to ‘destabilise the situation’ ahead of Sunday’s [historically contentious] elections [in Belarus] …. [The arrests and surrounding […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Medvedev: Moscow-Minsk relations bargaining chip in election campaign” – Interfax

File Photo of Dmitry Medvedev with United Russia Logos Behind Him

MOSCOW. Aug 5 (Interfax) – Russian-Belarusian relations have become a “small bargaining chip” during the election campaign in Belarus, Russian Security Council Deputy Head and United Russia Party Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said. “Of course, we cannot fail to see that today, Russian-Belarusian relations, I’ll go even further, the Union State and integration, have become a small bargaining chip during the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “What just happened and what’s next in Belarus?” – Meduza

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

“A rundown of the contentious presidential race, Lukashenko’s surprising struggles, and the likely post-election scenario.” “… August 9, Belarus will conclude its most contentious, openly dirtiest, and toughest presidential campaign …. [O]ne candidate has been imprisoned (as well as two campaign chiefs of staff) … another fled the country …. [P]olitical prisoners in Belarus spiked from one to 24 … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Lukashenko cancels state of the nation speech as health fails” – bne Intellinews

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

“… Lukashenko cancelled his annual state of the nation speech … admitt[ing] … having the [COVID-19] coronavirus. … ‘Today you are meeting a man who managed to survive the coronavirus on his feet. … Asymptomatic. … No-one will die from coronavirus in our country[,] … my firm conviction judging by analysis not only of previous years. … Almost 97% of […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “‘This is a turning point in Belarusian history’ Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on how her presidential campaign is taking on Lukashenko” – Meduza

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

“… Belarus[‘s] … presidential elections [are] on August 9, [with] the 2020 race … already … deemed the dirtiest in the country’s history … [A]uthorities arrested alternative candidate Viktor Babariko and opposition leader Sergey Tikhanovsky … [A]nother would-be candidate, veteran politician Valery Tsepkalo … fled to Russia with his children. … [T]he Belarusian opposition [then] united around Svetlana Tikhanovskaya … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “People are finally fed up with Belarus’s leader. Will they be heard?” – Washington Post Editorial

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

“[Belarus president] Alexander Lukashenko … is a fabled fence-walker, balancing between East and West. … a recidivist election fixer, rigging presidential contests, and a notorious strongman who tolerates little dissent. … [keeping] him in power for a quarter of a century. But as he seeks a sixth term in a[n] [Aug. 9] presidential election … he confronts … discontent. … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “NATO enlargement: evaluating its consequences in Russia” – International Politics/ Kimberly Marten

NATO Meeting file photo

“… There is no question that Russia – its leaders, expert analysts, and public – reacted negatively to NATO enlargement right from the start. … But …. Russia’s unhappiness is overdetermined, and there is no evidence that if NATO enlargement had been avoided, delayed, or altered (while nothing else changed), that Russia could have been reconciled to the idea of […]

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Post-Soviet State Responses to COVID-19: Making or Breaking Authoritarianism?

Coronavirus File Photo adapted from image at cdc.gov

(PONARS Eurasia – Marlene Laruelle, Madeline McCann – March 24, 2020) Marlene Laruelle is Research Professor, Director of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES), Director of the Central Asia Program, and Co-director of PONARS Eurasia at George Washington University. Madeline McCann is Program Coordinator for PONARS Eurasia at George Washington University. (PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo) Pandemics are […]

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Belarus: Often Overlooked, It Will Reward Historians and Social Scientists

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Goryunov – Nov. 7, 2019) Maxim Goryunov is a philosopher and a commentator on the European Radio for Belarus, an independent radio station. Belarus is a visible presence in Eastern European politics and on all kinds of maps, yet very little is written about it. An independent country for thirty years, it is the […]

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Kremlin Sees Role For U.S. In Helping Resolve Conflict With Ukraine

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Oct. 8, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/kremlin-sees-role-for-u-s-in-helping-resolve-conflict-with-ukraine/30205596.html) The Kremlin says the United States could play a role in helping resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict given Washington’s influence in Kyiv. “The U.S. can undeniably use the influence it has over Kyiv to make Ukraine fulfill its Minsk […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Kremlin Rejects Idea of U.S. Role in Ukraine Conflict Talks” – Reuters

Dmitry Peskov file photo adapted from image at kremlin.ru/wikimedia commons

“Russia … rejected the idea of involving the United States in talks to help resolve the conflict between the Kiev government and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s east. Kremlin spokesman … Peskov said there was no support for the idea of Washington joining the Normandy Format talks … involv[ing] Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France. … Peskov did say … that the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Moscow Has Limited Options in Belarus” – Chatham House/ John Lough

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

Leaked details of the latest negotiations between Moscow and Minsk on fleshing out their 20-year old Union State project suggest that Russia wants to place Belarus in a closer embrace without incorporating it into the Russian Federation “… [There has been speculation in Moscow that] the Union State … [would provide] a platform for … Putin to stay in office […]

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All Quiet in Russian-Belarusian Relations

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

(PONARS Eurasia – Arkady Moshes – August 20, 2019) Arkady Moshes is Program Director of the EU Eastern Neighborhood and Russia research program at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. (PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo) For approximately a year, from summer 2018 onwards, observers were paying close attention to tensions in relations between Russia and Belarus. A particular concern was caused […]

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Flexible Stagnation: How Lukashenka Has Held On To Power For 25 Years In Belarus

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Robert Coalson – July 20, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/amp/flexible-stagnation-how-lukashenka-has-held-on-to-power-for-25-years-in-belarus/30066472.html) In 1994, the last Russian troops left Germany and the Baltic states, bringing a symbolic end to the Cold War. The same year saw the Rwandan genocide, and American entrepreneur Jeff Bezos launched an online […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s nuclear power exports are booming” – bne Intellinews/ Ben Aris

Russian Nuclear Power Plant file photo

“… state-owned … Rosatom … operates 35 nuclear power stations in Russia … produc[ing] 28GW of power, and … is actively exporting … nuclear technology …. [to help] cement[] ties with … emerging markets with no nuclear power tradition and the BRICS countries …. [including i]n recent years … construction of six nuclear power reactors in India, Iran and China […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin Suddenly Sacks Russian Envoy to Belarus Amid Oil Row” – Reuters

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

“… Putin … sacked Moscow’s ambassador to Belarus, Mikhail Babich … amid a row over contaminated oil and a wider political discord between the ex-Soviet countries. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has generally been more closely aligned with Moscow than any other ex-Soviet leader, while the lack of tolerance for dissent at home has made him largely a pariah in the […]

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Sarah Lindemann-Komarova: “Russiagate, There are No Winners”

File Photo of American Soldier Meeting Soviet Soldiers in Berlin in 1945, adapted from image at army.mil

Subject: Russiagate, There are No Winners Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2019 From: Sarah Lindemann-Komarova <echosiberia@gmail.com> Russiagate, There are No Winners Sarah Lindemann-Komarova [Sarah Lindemann-Komarova has been a community development activist in Siberia since 1992. Currently she is focusing on research and writing about civil society in Russia.] medium.com/@ECHOSiberia/russiagate-there-are-no-winners-4de2dd97acbc Baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, we are now into the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “The Rocky Road to Replacing Vladimir Putin” – Chatham House (UK)/ Andrew Wood

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

The transition to Putin’s constitutionally scheduled replacement as president of Russia may be rougher than currently expected. “… an ordered and stable succession … when … Putin leaves the presidency in May 2024 … is … questionable. Those close to the Kremlin are aging, like Putin. None … has a glimmer of independent authority within the ruling cabal, not even […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Will Russia try to occupy Belarus? Here are the 4 things you need to know about the two nations’ falling out.” – Washington Post/ Ryhor Astapenia

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

“Will Russia try to occupy Belarus? …. Over the past four months, the Kremlin has been proposing closer ties within the Union State of Russia and Belarus …. That treaty was signed in 1997 … [with] few tangible results. … Russian elites are rumoring that … a fully functioning union might enable … Putin to stay in power after … […]

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Not an Enemy: Belarus Seeks Warmer Relations With NATO [Excerpt]

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

(Jamestown Foundation – jamestown.org – Arseny Sivitsky – Eurasia Daily Monitor: Volume 16, Issue: 40 – March 21, 2019) [Full text: jamestown.org/program/not-an-enemy-belarus-seeks-warmer-relations-with-nato/] Belarus wants to expand constructive dialogue with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the basis of trust, equality, transparency and mutual respect. Further development of cooperation with the Alliance is limited by institutional and ideological constraints, which […]

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Lukashenka Says Belarus Must Balance Policies Between East, West

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – March 5, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/lukashenka-says-belarus-must-balance-policies-between-east-west/29804500.html) Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka has said that his country “must overcome the cold” of a “standoff” between Russia and the European Union by “equally ” balancing its foreign policy between East and West. Speaking in Minsk on March […]

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Under Moscow Pressure, Could Belarus’s Balancing Act Come Crashing Down?

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

(Article ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Robert Coalson – Jan. 20, 2019 – article also appeared at https://www.rferl.org/a/analysis-under-moscow-pressure-could-belarus-s-balancing-act-come-crashing-down-/29720188.html) Speculation that the merger of Russia and Belarus is just over the horizon has become so strident in recent weeks that top officials in both countries have made efforts to refute it. “I call these suggestions very […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “New Russian order: After presidency, yet another role for Putin?” – Christian Science Monitor/ Fred Weir

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Seated at Desk

“Russia faces a looming question: What follows Putin’s current, likely final presidential term? An answer is beginning to take shape – and may involve a new position for Putin and a reshaped political landscape” “For many years, the main slogan of anti-Kremlin opposition activists – often shouted as they were being dragged into police vans at street protests – has […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Almost 80% of Belarusians don’t have negative attitude towards EU – poll” – Interfax

Belarus Map

MINSK. July 30 (Interfax) – Belarusian citizens have a positive or neutral attitude in general towards the European Union, according to a poll conducted by the project EU Neighbors East. Thus, 34% of polled Belarusian citizens described their attitude toward the EU as “positive”, 43% “neutral” and 18% “negative.” Respondents’ positive associations with the EU are human rights (67%), freedom […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How Russia’s Economic Recession Benefits Moscow Politically in its ‘Near Abroad’ [Excerpt]” – PONARS Eurasia/Mariya Omelicheva

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

Mariya Y. Omelicheva is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas. “Over the short run, Russia’s acrimonious relations with the West are serving the Kremlin’s broader effort of heightening its influence in its ‘near abroad.’ In 2014, Russia was hit by a triple whammy of low oil prices, Western sanctions, and Moscow’s counter-sanctions. During the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “A Bernie Sanders campaign veteran advises a surging opposition movement in Russia” – Washington Post/ Andrew Roth

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

“Vitali Shkliarov, a 41-year-old political operative born in Belarus, speaks the gospel of Bernie Sanders in the style of a Silicon Valley executive. Technology, he says, is a key to access …. The idea got a test drive in Moscow’s recent municipal elections … the veteran of the Sanders and … Obama campaigns sees it as part of a worldwide movement. * […]

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NEWSWATCH: “What would a Russia-NATO war look like? Russia’s wargaming it right now” – Washington Post/ David Filipov, Michael Birnbaum, Andrew Roth

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

“A revitalized Russian military on Monday sent tanks, paratroopers, artillery, antiaircraft weapons, jets and helicopters into frigid rains to engage the forces of a mock enemy called the ‘Western Coalition.’ The barrage of firepower , part of war games that began last week, was an explosive show of force that Baltic leaders said was a simulation of an attack against […]

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Russian Language on the Decline Thanks to English, Says Official

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 29, 2017) The number of Russian speakers has decreased by about 50 million since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the chairman of the State Duma Committee for Education and Science was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency on Monday. Vyacheslav Nikonov called for an expansion of the Eurasian Union […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Contact averts conflict. Why Russia is foolish not to invite NATO observers to its war games. Instead, the biggest exercises in Europe since the cold war will be conducted amid secrecy and mistrust.” – The Economist editorial

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

“… Russia will hold … the biggest military exercise in Europe since the end of the cold war. According to NATO estimates … involv[ing] at least 100,000 troops …. Revived from Soviet times by … Putin … the Zapad (West) drills … take place every four years. … the Kremlin insists that the scenarios … are purely defensive [but] that is not always how they have looked […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Front Line Drawn Across Russia’s Backyard” – Stratfor

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

“Globalization has changed how we think about time, space and distance, but geography is still the same where it counts: national security. … former Soviet states lining Russia’s border know this better than most … their proximity to the eastern giant renders them more vulnerable to Moscow’s hybrid warfare …. Nations like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova sit on the front line of […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Is Russia Testing Trump?” – New York Times/ MICHAEL J. MORELL, EVELYN FARKAS

File Photo of White House with South Lawn and Fountain

“This week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is making his first diplomatic visit to Russia, where he’s likely to press Moscow on its handling of Syria, which he has called ‘incompetent.’ … Tillerson should recognize that Russia’s involvement in Syria is only one example of the increasingly active, and disruptive, role that … Putin has been playing on the world stage … […]

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NEWSWATCH: “AS TRUMP FUMBLES, #PUTIN QUIETLY PREPARES TO INVADE HIS NEIGHBORS” – Newsweek/ Atlantic Council/ STEPHEN BLANK

File Photo of Russian Tanks in Military Parade

Recent #Russian actions suggest a new stage of the Russian threat to #Ukraine – and potentially to the #Caucasus, #Belarus or the #Baltic states as well-that could presage a new large-scale #military operation. … in 2016, Russia created 25 division formations and 15 brigades, while raising manpower by only 10,000 men. … Russia may aim to wage protracted large-scale war using the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Why Belarus Can’t Afford to Be the New Ukraine; Is it too late for Lukashenko to defy Russia?” – The National Interest/Nikolay Pakhomov

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

“On February 3 Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko launched the fiercest of his rhetorical attacks against Russia  …. moderate estimates show that Belarus has received approximately $100 billion of various Russian investments, preferences and support. … Politically, the Union State of Russia and Belarus that was formed in December 1999 never fully materialized. Furthermore, despite the geopolitical showdown between Russia and […]

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Border regime with Belarus was not introduced, at issue are border zones to regulate trips by citizens of third countries – Kremlin

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

MOSCOW. Feb 3 (Interfax) – #Moscow has pointed it out to #Minsk that no decisions on the introduction of a border regime on the #Russian-#Belarusian border have been made and the Federal Security Service director’s order on the creation of border zones is aimed at regulating trips by citizens of third countries. “Belarusian President Alexander #Lukashenko [on Friday] made critical […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Belarus reportedly mulls leaving Eurasian Economic Union as relations with Russia worsen” – bne Intellinews

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

“#Belarus wants to leave the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and possibly the union state of #Russia and Belarus, the Russian online news service Regnum controversially reported on February 2, citing an anonymous source in Moscow. The information has not been confirmed by either Minsk or Moscow, but over the last few months tensions have risen […]

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Eastern Europe Arming Itself because ‘No One Wants to Be the Next Ukraine’

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, September 28, 2016) In what many are calling “the Putin effect,” countries across Eastern Europe, including even #Belarus, nominally Russia’s closest ally, are now arming themselves even when they have to cut social welfare spending because, in the words of one commentator, “no one wants to be the next Ukraine.” This sacrifice […]

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Whose side is Belarus on anyway? Belarusians generally feel closer to Russia than Ukraine, but refuse to get involved in the conflict between them. It is, they insist, “not our war”.

(opendemocracy.net – Yury Drakakhrust – May 12, 2016) Yury Drakakhrust is a Belarusian journalist. He is the author of a number of Russian-language publications on Belarusian and Russian politics, most notably (co-written with Dmitry Furman) Russia and Belarus: States and Societies. The validity of opinion polls in countries with authoritarian regimes is often questioned: how strong is the fear factor […]

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Russians believe Belarus, China, Kazakhstan are the friendliest to them

Eurasia Map

(Interfax – April 9, 2016) As many as 68% of Russian respondents interviewed by the Public Opinion Foundation and asked to name three countries they believe are the closest and the friendliest ones to Russia mentioned Belarus, 56% China and 50% Kazakhstan. These very three countries have remained on top of the list since April 2014. The April poll of […]

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TRANSCRIPT: DNI – Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community [excerpt re: Russia] – Statement for the Record

U.S. Capitol in Bright Sunlight

(Senate Armed Services Committee – James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence – February 9, 2016) Leading Threat Actors Russia. Russia is assuming a more assertive cyber posture based on its willingness to target critical infrastructure systems and conduct espionage operations even when detected and under increased public scrutiny. Russian cyber operations are likely to target US interests to support […]

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Putin Needs a Victory and Annexing Belarus on the Cheap Could Give Him One, Oreshkin Says

Belarus Map

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 10, 2015) Having suffered increasingly obvious “fiascos” in Ukraine and Syria, Vladimir Putin now needs “a victory,” Dmitry Oreskhin says. “And it turns out that Belarus and Lukashenka are the most suitable variant whom he could defeat with minimal costs” because “Belarus could not hold out for two weeks” if Moscow […]

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EU said close to lifting sanctions on Belarus as Lukashenko’s landslide win satisfies

Belarus Map

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – bne IntelliNews – October 13, 2015) The EU is close to lifting sanctions on Belarus after its authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, won a fifth term in polls on October 11 with 83% of the vote, making some concessions to the political opposition in the process. While there hasn’t yet been any formal announcement of […]

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Lukashenko Victory Set to Stoke EU Rapprochement, Moscow Unease

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Howard Amos – October 12, 2015) Autocratic Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko looked set to win a fifth term as president Sunday in a largely uncontested and protest-free election that is likely to pave the way for a thaw in relations with European countries and a possible confrontation with neighboring Russia, traditionally a staunch ally. Exit […]

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U.S. Envoy Tells Russia’s Neighbors: Having Putin As Your Only Friend Not A Good Idea

Europe Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Pete Baumgartner – PRAGUE, September 15, 2015) The U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says there is a very important lesson for former Soviet republics to have learned from the devastating conflict in eastern Ukraine: Don’t be too reliant on Russia. “Having [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin as your only friend […]

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Interfax: “Russian world” not political, wider than Russia, includes Ukraine – church head

Patriarch Kirill file photo

(Interfax – Moscow, July 20, 2015) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has expressed concern over attempts to politicize the notion of the Russian world. “Unfortunately, our opponents use the words ‘Russian world’ as a kind of bogey, as a scarecrow, as they allege that it is a kind of doctrine which serves exclusively the interests of the Russian […]

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EU’s Belarus dilemma

EU Map

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – MINSK BLOG: Sergei Kuznetsov in Minsk – June 16, 2015) Minsk’s recent efforts to shepherd peace talks between the EU, Russia and Ukraine have borne fruit – Brussels has shown that it is ready to renew its dialogue with Belarus, a country that has been a pariah in recent years. However, this process will […]

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