Bringing Belarus back into line?

As Andrey Sushentsov, Program Director at the Valdai Club and head of the Moscow-based Foreign Policy Advisory Group, said on March 25th: “The Belarus government’s clash with protesters with a nationalist agenda is being compared in Moscow with the Maidan events of 2014 in Ukraine.” Russia blames Belarus’s recent efforts to decrease dependency on Russia and repair its relations with the West. Andrey Skriba, a research fellow at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, explains that for many conservative Russians “all the problems in Russia and neighbouring countries can be reduced to the activities of Western funds, financing non-profit organisations in the post-Soviet space”.

Increasingly dissatisfied by its neighbour’s policies, Russia wanted to see signs of instability stamped out and its ally fall into line. The protests only exacerbated its reluctance to persist with the economic model. Russia’s broader wish list is not too difficult to guess. Lukashenka’s latest flirtation with the West is deemed to have gone too far, Belarus is expected to recognise the annexation of Crimea, accept the “economisation” of oil and gas prices, and ultimately agree to Russia’s planned air base.