Europe Wants Lukashenko Out, But…

The European Union is in an uproar over the forced landing of a Ryanair jet in Belarus ordered by the country’s dictator Alexander Lukashenko. In response, it banned Belarus’s national airline from flying into Europe and prohibited any European airplanes from flying into or over Belarus.

Imposition of more punishments would come with the downside of an increasing East-West divide. The distancing of Belarus from Western democracies could mean that the country, already heavily dependent on Russia, would fall fully into the hands of Vladimir Putin.  Putin has long hoped to absorb Belarus into some sort of new Slavic union he would head.

Until now, at least, Lukashenko had resisted any such merger.

Czechs proest Lukashenko-Putin axis: “Together Against Dictatorship”

A Belarus forever stuck in Moscow’s embrace is clearly an EU concern. In the middle of this crisis, after pro-democracy activist Raman Pratasevich was pulled from the Ryanair plane, jailed and then probably tortured, the EU offered Belarus aid totaling three billion Euros, with a big condition: The funds would be delivered “once Belarus embarks on a democratic transition,” EU officials announced.

That kind of carrot might have worked before last year when Lukashenko was playing off the Europeans and Russia for his benefit. He got development money from the EU while Russia supplied cheap oil and loans. Lukashenko even hosted talks to resolve the Ukraine crisis as a sign of his supposed value as a neutral arbiter in possible East-West conflicts.

Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

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