With the weekend’s developments in the Czech Republic and Belarus, the new border between Russia and the West is calcifying, eliminating not only movement from one side to the other, but also the freedom not to choose a side.
There are tough times ahead for U.S.-Belarusian relations. Reimposing sanctions will lead to a new stage of the diplomatic crisis and a further toughening of rhetoric.
Moscow faces the question of how to respond to procrastination over reform in Belarus. On the one hand, it might seem that the crisis there has passed, leaving no leverage over Lukashenko. On the other hand, he is going to need more money.
Lukashenko’s post-August turn away from the West and toward Russia is no guarantee that Belarus will not return to a multi-vector foreign policy sometime soon.
For the Baltic states, a good Russia policy is one that creates distance between them and their neighbor to the east while maintaining some ties with it. Yet the few areas of cooperation that remain could easily become casualties of political battles.
Frustrated maximalism may present a window for rapprochement. The Baltic states will be more likely to look at Russia as it is, not as they want it to be. One day Russia might also look at the Baltic states as just neighbors: not as an amputated part of the Soviet Union, or Washington’s hostile lapdog.
Russia and its Baltic Sea neighbors could start repairing their badly broken relationship on a common basis of neighborliness. This would fall far short of partnership, but it would end unchecked hostility.
For all the talk of Beijing’s growing presence in the former Soviet Union, the fruits of Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova’s efforts to deepen cooperation with China have been underwhelming
Danish Ambassador Per Carlsen was recently commissioned by Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, to provide his view on the developments in the Baltic Sea region in a blog format. Tragically, Per Carlsen passed away a day after he finalized this blog post.
Russia’s association with Lukashenko’s crackdown may persuade Belarusians that it is impossible to be a pro-Russian democrat: that one can only be one or the other. Support for authoritarianism is going out of fashion in Belarus; pro-Russianness may, too.