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World Can Foreign Powers Help the Belarus Prodemocracy Movement Without Undermining It?

13:07  27 september  2020
13:07  27 september  2020 Source:   theatlantic.com

Poland proposes billion-euro EU fund for Belarus

  Poland proposes billion-euro EU fund for Belarus Poland on Thursday proposed an EU stabilisation fund for Belarus worth at least one billion euros ($1.2 billion), as a top opposition leader prepared to meet EU foreign ministers in Brussels. - 'Stop the violence' - Tikhanovskaya, who has since fled to Lithuania, will travel to Brussels to meet EU foreign ministers on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell's spokesman said.Warsaw's call for financial support comes days after Russian President Vladimir Putin backed embattled Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko and promised a $1.5 billion loan.

The question then becomes: How can foreign powers support the Belarusian prodemocracy movement without undermining it ? Framing dissent as a product of foreign interference is a well-tested tactic in the autocratic playbook. It ’s how Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed protests

Belarusian democracy movement . Language. Watch. Edit. The Belarusian democracy movement is an umbrella term used to describe opposition groups and individuals in Belarus seeking to challenge the Belarusian government under President Alexander Lukashenko.

a group of people wearing costumes: Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya attends a protest on the Place du Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. © Thierry Monasse / Getty Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya attends a protest on the Place du Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

When Alexander Lukashenko began to face the biggest challenge yet to his 26-year rule of Belarus, he attributed it to only one thing: Western meddling.

“We have managed to take steps to anticipate and thwart a major plan to destabilize Belarus,” the longtime president said in the run-up to last month’s disputed elections. “The masks have been ripped off the puppets we have here and the puppet masters, who are sitting beyond Belarus’s borders.”

Belarus president closes western borders, puts army on high alert

  Belarus president closes western borders, puts army on high alert Lukashenko has closed borders with Poland and Lithuania, underlining repeated claims protests are driven by the West.President Alexander Lukashenko's decision on Thursday underlined his repeated claim that the wave of protests is driven by the West. He faces increasing criticism from the United States and the European Union.

It comes as EU leaders expressed their full support for the Belarusian people who want a peaceful transition to democracy after ten days of state repression "The people of Belarus want change and they want it now." said EU commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen in a presser after the meeting.

Maria Kolesnikova could face up to five years in prison as president cracks down on opposition.

Absent from this narrative, of course, are all the other things that could have prompted hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets for seven consecutive weeks: the botched handling of the pandemic, which Lukashenko erroneously claimed would kill no one in Belarus; Lukashenko’s assertion that women are constitutionally unfit for the role of president; the government’s violent crackdowns on peaceful protests and Lukashenko’s threat to bring in Russian troops to quell them further. (He doesn’t appear to mind foreign involvement so long as he has invited it.)

As far as narratives go, though, this can be an effective one. When regimes the likes of Lukashenko’s cry foreign interference in mass protests, every expression of outside sympathy can be repackaged and reframed as akin to intervention, giving autocrats the pretext to quash dissent, even if doing so requires force. The Belarusian opposition, led by Lukashenko’s primary opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, is well aware of this—so much so, in fact, that she has gone to great lengths to stress that these protests are neither pro-Russia nor pro–European Union. “Our revolution is not geopolitical,” Tikhanovskaya said in a recent op-ed in The New York Times. “It is a democratic revolution.”

Belarus opposition to march after police crackdown

  Belarus opposition to march after police crackdown  

The tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding the ouster of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and an end to 26 years of his authoritarian rule can expect little more than rhetorical support from the United States, Trump administration officials say.

European democracies have been coping with foreign interference for longer than the United States, and the Another is to revive Russia’s role as a global power . Ultimately, Putin seeks to ensure his survival For years, Vladimir Putin’s government has engaged in a relentless assault to undermine

The question then becomes: How can foreign powers support the Belarusian prodemocracy movement without undermining it?

[Read: What Belarus learned from the rest of the world]

Framing dissent as a product of foreign interference is a well-tested tactic in the autocratic playbook. It’s how Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed protests against him in the run-up to local elections last year. The same argument was made by Chinese authorities in response to the ongoing prodemocracy movement in Hong Kong, which Beijing portrayed as funded by the West.

Lukashenko trumpeted this argument well before the August 9 election, in which he purports to have secured 80 percent of the vote (a result that has widely been dismissed by observers both within and outside the country as rigged). Though many countries expressed concern about the eruption of state violence in Belarus after the vote, it wasn’t until Lukashenko’s inauguration, which was held this week in a secret ceremony in Minsk, that many countries began to formally declare the longtime leader’s rule illegitimate, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ukraine, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, and Slovakia. Lithuania took its rejection of Lukashenko’s rule one step further by formally recognizing Tikhanovskaya and the opposition’s coordination council as “the only legitimate representatives of the Belarusian people.”

Belarus: Cyprus blocks EU sanctions

 Belarus: Cyprus blocks EU sanctions Actually, the EU has long since agreed to sanctions against the Belarusian regime, but Cyprus sets conditions for its approval. That doesn't go down well in Brussels. © Olivier Hoslet / AP The EU continues to argue about sanctions against the regime in Minsk in view of the human rights violations in Belarus . It is true that the foreign ministers of the member states had already decided in principle punitive measures against those responsible in August.

Russia and Belarus are also Union states. Russia has obligations towards Belarus . It does mean that when he stands up on his hind legs, his roar is pretty discernible even to the less sophisticated First it was President Rouhani to slap back Trump, now President Putin. Next we need President Xi

It wasn’t difficult to predict how all this would end up politically. Plenty of oddballs had run for president, from Jello Biafra to Roseanne Barr, and gotten nowhere. The guardrails of American democracy were set up to prevent just such outsiders from making it anywhere near the Oval Office.

That most countries haven’t gone as far as Lithuania has is, in some ways, to the Belarusian opposition’s advantage: Though Tikhanovskaya has become the symbol of the prodemocracy movement in the country, she has long stressed that her desire is not to lead Belarus, but rather to ensure that it gets free and fair elections. By recognizing Tikhanovskaya as the legitimate president, Lithuania has inadvertently created a conundrum similar to that faced by the U.S. and other countries when they opted to formally recognize Juan Guaidó as the rightful Venezuelan president, despite Nicolás Maduro’s firm entrenchment in power: The symbolism is strong, but it does little to actually effect change, let alone counter the narrative that the West is meddling in affairs that are not its own.

[Read: In Washington, the Venezuelan opposition has already won]

Tikhanovskaya, for her part, isn’t asking the world to recognize her leadership. She is asking for something more substantial: sanctions. In a meeting with EU leaders in Brussels this week, she urged the bloc to focus its sanctions on individuals involved in the election’s falsification and the subsequent violent crackdown on protesters. The primary goal, she said, is to pressure Lukashenko to enter into a dialogue with the coordination council, the majority of whose members have been detained or forced to flee Belarus. (Lukashenko has so far ruled out meeting with the council, which he has accused of attempting a “coup” against him.)

UK prepares sanctions for human rights violations in Belarus

  UK prepares sanctions for human rights violations in Belarus The UK is preparing sanctions for human rights violations in Belarus, the foreign secretary has said. © Reuters Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in this week as leader despite national protests. Speaking in the House of Commons, Dominic Raab said Alexander Lukashenko, who was sworn in this week as president in a secret ceremony, has "a wholesale lack of legitimacy".Mr Raab said Britain does not accept the results of the rigged election and condemned the "thuggery" imposed on protesters in Belarus.

Alexander Lukashenko looking at the camera: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko holds up his fist during a rally. (Valery Sharifulin / TASS / Getty) © Provided by The Atlantic Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko holds up his fist during a rally. (Valery Sharifulin / TASS / Getty)

Some of these sanctions have already started to materialize. Lithuania was the first to impose travel bans on Lukashenko and dozens of other Belarusian officials. Britain announced this week that, in coordination with the U.S. and Canada, it too would be preparing sanctions against “those responsible for serious human rights violations.” The EU is also considering its own sanctions, though it has so far failed to secure the necessary unanimity among its members to implement them—a challenge the bloc’s foreign-policy chief, Josep Borrell, said puts “our credibility … at stake.”

[Read: The women at the center of the Belarus protests]

Sanctions undoubtedly apply more pressure on Lukashenko than statements alone. And rooting them in Belarusian authorities’ human-rights violations, as the U.K. has, makes them harder to unpick for Lukashenko, whose violent response to the peaceful demonstrations has been widely documented.

Perhaps the easiest way for foreign governments to support Belarus’s prodemocracy movement without undermining it is by focusing on the one thing Lukashenko has pinned his legitimacy on: the will of the Belarusian people. So far, Lukashenko’s narrative has rested on the notion that he alone claims the support of the majority of Belarusians, irrespective of what the independent media or the demonstrations might suggest. By coming out in favor of Belarusians’ right to decide the fate of their country in free and fair elections, foreign governments can support them without feeding into Lukashenko’s narrative of meddling.

Will Belarus raise the "Iron Curtain"?

 Will Belarus raise the The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Belarus describes the situation in the country as "catastrophic". Meanwhile, the Minsk Human Rights Center Wiasna reports on the arrest of an activist. © Peter de Voecht / Belga / imago images Border between Lithuania and Belarus (archive) "We must not allow another 'iron curtain' to be lowered on the European continent", emphasized the UN Special Rapporteur Anais Marin .

“Nobody else but the People of Belarus have the ultimate right to decide the destiny of their country,” the presidents of Romania, Poland, and Lithuania said in a joint statement. Though Lukashenko might dislike the messengers, he would be hard pressed to condemn the message.

Still, when I asked Maryia Martysevich, a Belarusian writer and board member of the Belarusian PEN Centre, how foreign governments could go about helping Belarus without appearing to interfere, she told me their approach may not even matter. “He would invent [the interference] even if nothing happens.”


Video: Lukashenko abruptly sworn in, Belarus opposition calls for more protests (Reuters)

Russia Intel Chief Blames U.S., CIA for Belarus Unrest .
Russia has supported beleaguered Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko who faces mass protests against his nearly three-decade rule.Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief Sergei Naryshkin said Tuesday—without providing any evidence to support the assertion—that the U.S. is training fighters in neighboring nations and sending them into Belarus to support protests against Lukashenko.

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This is interesting!