You can never be concerned enough to stop the war against Ukraine. To stop mass repressions in Belarus. To stop a dictator.
We have such an expression in Belarus: “there is no bottom”. Belarusians use it when something happens in our country that was unthinkable yesterday. When the next actions of Lukashenko break through the next bottom and once again prove that there is simply no limit to the cruelty, insanity and cynicism of his regime.
Now hear me:there is no bottom in Belarus. There is nothing that Lukashenko would not be ready and capable to do to remain in power. And no matter how deep your concern is, it will never find and reach this bottom.
If it takes killing, torturing, raping and crippling Belarusians in order to remain in power, he will continue to do so. If it seems necessary to bring more than 60,000 people through arrests and prisons — he will not stop there.
If, in order to maintain himself in power with the support of the Kremlin, Lukashenko had to let Russian troops into Belarus, in fact, transfer control of territory and infrastructure to them so that they invade Ukraine on February 24 — he did it.
If for this Belarus has to be a launch pad for Russian missiles, a runway for Russian fire jets and kamikaze drones for more than 8 months already — he will not mind.
If it is necessary to introduce a joint Russian-Belarusian group of troops, to allow Russian occupation or even annexation of Belarus — he will do it. In fact, he is doing it right now.
And if it is necessary to place Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus — he will only be happy about that. In fact, he has been dreaming about it since the very first day of his reign.
Today, the dual-purpose “Iskander-M” missile systems are already located on the territory of Belarus, and the modernization of SU-25M jets capable of carrying nuclear charges is underway.
And this means that Lukashenko is becoming a threat not only for Ukraine, but for the whole region. In fact, he already poses a military threat, but that threat could become nuclear.
So does it sound concerning to you today? Tomorrow it will be just a new reality. Because there’s no bottom in Belarus, remember?
The question is — what are you going to do about it?
I know, there is a belief that the problem with Lukashenko will be solved by itself after the problem with Putin is resolved. And that Putin looks like a much bigger problem to be concerned about.
Ok, but still the question remains — what are you going to do about it?
It is impossible not to see the obvious. The failure to resolve the problem with Lukashenko in 2020 led to the fact that in 2022 Putin was able to use him to occupy Belarus and invade Ukraine. Without Lukashenko there might be no war at all.
So is Lukashenko really a minor issue that can be put aside for now? Or is he a part of the global problem, which arose precisely because this part caused more expressions of concern than actual actions?
Am I being too critical? Let’s see. Sanctions were adopted in stages, with delays, with exceptions, with loopholes. Diplomatic relations with Lukashenko were not completely broken. No criminal cases were initiated against him and his accomplices, although the mechanism of universal jurisdiction allowed this. Should I continue?
The moment when it was necessary to act quickly and decisively, when the protests had not yet been crushed, when powerful external pressure on the regime could help pressure on it from within — this moment was missed.
So after a year of the deepest concerns about mass repressions in Belarus, Lukashenko felt confident enough to hijack a civilian plane. And right after that — to arrange a large-scale migration crisis on the border with the European Union. After two years — he became a military aggressor along with Putin.
And now history is repeating itself. The problem with Lukashenko is not solved again and fades into the background.
Yes, the sanctions against him have finally become tougher. Sanctions, in principle, became really tough only with the start of the war. But the Lukashenko regime in them is more like “a second carriage”. And they are still not identical to the sanctions against Russia. As for the issue of creating an international tribunal for the Lukashenko regime’s crimes against humanity — it is in limbo for now.
At the same moment the terror in Belarus continues (and it never stopped), Russian military echelons arrive, threatening Ukraine with a new invasion from Belarusian bridgehead, and the threat of deploying nuclear weapons in our country is also not an illusory one.
And I want to ask: maybe — just maybe — this time the right moment should not be missed? Maybe it’s time to impose the same sanctions against the Lukashenko regime as against Russia — or even harsher? Maybe the moment has come to put the dictator before a personal ultimatum, instead of deep concern?
Maybe now is the very moment when part of the global problem — the Lukashenko regime — can become its solution? Maybe it’s time to increase the pressure on Lukashenko — Russia’s main ally — so that he could not withstand it and was forced to quit the game?
Maybe by depriving Putin of his ally and Belarusian foothold, we can help Ukraine win much faster?
But in order to do this, a real political will is needed, not an expression of concern.
I also know there is a belief that the problem with Lukashenko should be solved by Belarusians themselves, and not by anyone else. And that Belarusians can and will rebel, if Lukashenko gives his army the order to enter the war against Ukraine.
But what are the chances of such an uprising among the civilian population to succeed, if external assistance won’t be provided in time again? Not because the Belarusians have no will. Not because the Belarusians suddenly changed and the majority now began to support Lukashenko and are in favor of a war against Ukraine. No, they are not.
But because we run the risk of repeating the situation of 2020, when the protesting Belarusians had to be helped not with words of deep concern, but with powerful external pressure on Lukashenko — and when this moment was missed. But since then, two years of repressions have passed — unprecedented in their scale and cruelty, when thousands of political prisoners ended up in prisons, all civil organizations and independent media were destroyed. And this cannot be ignored.
Also, we should not have illusions about the Belarusian army. Most likely, it will follow Lukashenko’s order and cross the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. Yes, most likely there will be sabotage attempts. And most likely, having crossed the border, some of the Belarusian soldiers will try to surrender and not fight. But betting only on this is a big mistake.
Because we are dealing with a totalitarian system. And the regime in Belarus has undoubtedly turned from an authoritarian into a totalitarian one. This is a totalitarian dictatorship in the service of the Russian Federation, which has existed for twenty-eight years.
Perhaps we, Belarusians, did not fully understand this 2 years ago — but even then it was quite unlikely to win this battle with peaceful protests and all alone. And now, two years later, I would say that external pressure on the regime is crucial for this battle to have a chance.
And no, I do not want to shift the responsibility from the Belarusian people to external forces. I do not want to remove responsibility from myself, from the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus. But I want to remind you that the problem with Lukashenko has long outgrown the borders of Belarus. And now it is our common responsibility to solve this problem.
We need sanctions that can completely paralyze Lukashenko’s system. We need sanctions against all of his bureaucratic and power apparatus — sanctions based on the principle of belonging to the state apparatus and law enforcement structures. We need publicly opened criminal cases against Lukashenko personally, against his accomplices, against his security forces.
An external force is needed. And it exists. And it has all these tools of pressure. But it seems that our Western partners do not yet have enough political will to use their power against the Lukashenko regime for real. As there was no strategy before, there is no strategy now either. Perhaps my expectations seem too high. But at the same time, the desire of our partners to use their capabilities to the maximum seems too low.
Before the eyes of the whole world, one European country is about to turn into a new North Korea. And the other is experiencing a real genocide and war, which Europe has not seen since the World War II. And if it doesn’t motivate the civilized world to gather its will into a fist, then what is capable of motivating the world at all? If the whole civilized world is not able to find the will and force in itself to put in place just one presumptuous dictator, then how is this world going to cope with the aggressive empire standing behind him?
Lukashenka is precisely that weak point of the global problem, by removing which we can accelerate the collapse of Russia’s imperial ambitions. And this is exactly the example when, instead of prevention, a surgical intervention is needed.
So I repeat: the world has all the necessary tools. It remains only to use them. To help Belarus. To help Ukraine. So that the world no longer has to express “concerns”, “deep concerns” or “extremely deep concerns” about Lukashenko.