Belarus-US relations, end of political thaw, EU policy towards Minsk - digest of Belarusian analytics


Andrej Kazakievič: the protests will inevitably fade due to the lack of organisation. Arciom Šrajbman makes optimistic forecast after the recent dispersal of protests. Chatham House: Belarus will still sooner or later be faced with a decisive choice between East and West.

Minsk Dialogue analyses the meaning of the new US Administration for international relations and security in Eastern Europe – check out scenarios. Reuters: Belarus crackdown throws U.S. sanctions relief in doubt.

Jaŭhien Prejhierman explains why the EU should engage with Belarus. Grigory Ioffe: sensible Belarus policy must steer clear of clichés. Igor Merheim-Eyre: now it’s not the time to isolate Belarus.

This and more in the new edition of the digest of Belarusian analytics.

Spring 2017 protests

Andrej Kazakievič: the Protests Will Inevitably Fade Due to the Lack of OrganisationAndrej Kazakievič, Political Sphere, discusses on the peculiarities of the current wave of the Belarusian street actions. Kazakievič thinks that the protests will die down, at least until the autumn. And for the protests to continue, organisational structures are needed as well as logistics, planning and information support.

Bringing Belarus Back into Line? – Paul Hansbury, New Eastern Europe, believes that Russia has viewed recent development in Belarus, especially improvements in its relations with the West, through the prism of Ukraine. The protests that spread across Belarus from mid-February reaffirmed the Kremlin’s anxieties. Behind the scenes efforts were being made by Russia to bring its wayward ally back into line.

The End of the Belarusian Thaw? Early to Give UpArciom Šrajbman,, makes an optimistic forecast for Belarus after the recent dispersal of protests. He is sure that every new thaw raises the country higher. It's useful to gain historical patience and notice how the progress is accumulated at each new round of the cycle. This is the development of the country, even if today it is more like a zigzag.

Monitoring of reforms in the Republic of Belarus​. This issue of monitoring covers 16 key spheres of politics, economy and society.

Illusions and Lack of Reason Revealed by New Protests in Belarus – Jaŭhien Prejhierman, Jamestown Foundation, considers that the events of 25 March demonstrated that the long-term stability and sovereignty of Belarus remains hostage to numerous vulnerabilities and weaknesses among both the authorities and the opposition. Namely, Belarus becomes an easy target for external manipulation.

What to Know about the Protests in Belarus – Keir Giles, Chatham House, takes a closer look at a series of recent protest rallies in Belarus. A heavy-handed response to March's demonstrations may have bought more time by heading off Russian accusations of dangerous instability, but at the likely cost of a backlash from the EU setting back Belarus's outreach efforts.

Belarus-US relations

Meaning of the New US Administration for International Relations and Security in Eastern Europe – Belarus has a value for the US as a buffer between Russia and NATO, so the actual neutrality of Minsk is important for US. This is stated in the report based on the results of the scenario-planning workshop held under the Minsk Dialogue initiative.

Time For a New Approach to Belarus – Daniel Speckhard, former U.S. ambassador to Belarus, notes that the U.S. should recognise that a fundamentally new approach is needed after more than 20 years of economically punishing ‘Europe's last Dictator’ with little effect. A starting point for this new approach is remaining true to our values on human rights and democratic principles across our foreign policy.

Belarus Crackdown Throws U.S. Sanctions Relief in Doubt – Yeganeh Torbati, Reuters, reminds that the Trump administration must decide by the end of this month whether to grant Belarus continued relief from U.S. economic sanctions despite a stiff government crackdown on street demonstrations. This is an early test for the Trump administration on the importance it puts on human rights versus efforts to coax countries in Russia's orbit to turn to the West.

Western policy towards Belarus

Why the EU Should Engage with BelarusJaŭhien Prejhierman, Carnegie Europe, believes that instead of looking for ways to punish Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the EU should focus on how to improve long-term relations. There is a choice between two options: sanctions and continued engagement. Neither looks ideal. But engagement is more rational and conducive to strategic goals.

Even under Pressure, Belarus Defies Clichés – Grigory Ioffe, Jamestown Foundation, recites two main clichés use by analysts when describing Belarus: a) the country necessarily needs to choose between East and West; and b) the country is on the frontline of the struggle between democracy and autocracy. Based on the analysis of recent events the author concludes that Belarus defies these clichés and argues that any sensible policy towards Belarus should avoid them as well.

Belarus-EU Dialogue. Civil Society and Other Nonexecutive FigureheadsVadzim Mažejka, Belarusian Journal, believes that despite the March escalation, Belarus and the EU are willing for a dialogue instead of sanctions. The expert describes the position of the Belarusian National Platform, which stands for dialogue but wants to understand whether there is a place for civil society in the process, or it is needed as nonexecutive figureheads.

The social base of the transformation programmes in Belarus. The research aims to give a meaningful quantitative description of the Belarusian society's attitudes to innovation.

Thaw on Pause. How Minsk Combines the Dispersal of Protests and Rapprochement with the West – Arciom Šrajbman, for Carnegie Moscow Centre, notes that the reaction of the West to the dispersal of protests in Belarus remains moderate. Obviously, for a new round of isolation, Lukashenka should upset the West much longer and more persistently than before.

Now is Not the Time to Isolate Belarus – The EU can encourage change in Belarus by offering support and closer ties. Punitive moves to sever ties with Minsk will undo much of the progress that has already been made, writes Igor Merheim-Eyre, Euractiv. The crackdown on protesters and the brutality shown by the police in the recent days must not be a reason to isolate Belarus.

Belarus Polilcy

Monitoring of reforms in the Republic of Belarus​. This issue of monitoring covers 16 key spheres of politics, economy and society. The spheres were chosen according to their importance for the successful socio-economic development of Belarus, and also their criticality to reform. In subsequent monitoring releases we will include these areas, as well as a number of other areas recommended by experts.

The social base of the transformation programmes in Belarus. The research aims to give a meaningful quantitative description of the Belarusian society's attitudes to innovation and the scale of its self-determination.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.


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