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Free Belarus — a guarantee of Europe's security

Pavel Latushka participated in the panel discussion titled "Twilight of European authoritarianisms or a historical pause?" at the Economic Forum in Karpacz, Poland

Pavel Latushka participated in the panel discussion titled "Twilight of European authoritarianisms or a historical pause?" at the Economic Forum in Karpacz, Poland.

Below, you can read highlights of his speech:

"Once upon a time, Milan Kundera's essay 'The Tragedy of Central Europe' played a crucial role in the struggle for freedom and independence of many European peoples. In the past, the European peoples were considered by Western European nations as not entirely European. However, when reading the first lines of the essay in 2022, one is reminded of the banal but repeatedly confirmed theses about the cyclical nature of history.

In November 1956, as artillery fire was about to level his office, the director of the Hungarian News Agency sent a desperate message to the world via telex, announcing the start of the Russian invasion of Budapest. The message ended with the words: 'We will die for Hungary and for Europe.' Back then, did people in Berlin, Paris, or Rome truly understand the gravity of those words in 1956? I dare to suggest that the words of Ukrainians 'We are fighting for Europe here' are today in the capitals of Western European states in a similar manner today.

How many decades did it take for Western Europe to recognize that Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, and other Central European and Baltic nations have the right to their own national democratic states? After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, several nation-states emerged, gaining independence as a result of internal processes within the Soviet empire. However, for some reason, Ukraine, Belarus, and I dare to suggest Moldova and Georgia, remained within the understanding of Western politicians as being within Russia's sphere of interests. Once upon a time, Hungary, Poland, and other Central European countries were also in the sphere of interests of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, hardly anyone could challenge the right to exist of these nations and their nation-states.

But, by default, Ukrainians and Belarusians were considered to be under greater influence from Moscow and the Kremlin than Poles and Czechs. Consequently, the attitude towards the emerging authoritarian system was equally tolerant. However, when there is a dictatorship in the heart of Europe, it becomes difficult to imagine that there will not be a temptation for some politicians in Europe itself to become more authoritarian. Essentially, Belarus is a gateway between Western democratic and Eastern authoritarian civilizations.

It was only the awakening of Belarusian society in 2020 that partially shifted the situation, and instead of collaborating with the regime and turning a blind eye to the dictatorship, we witnessed deep concern from the West about violence and repression. 'Deep concern.' By the way, this statement does not irritate many Belarusians but rather elicits satirical laughter. Today's events are a result of some nations being denied the full exercise of their right to self-determination. Because even today, the capitals of Western Europe still think in imperial or, at the very least, Realpolitik terms.

A free, independent, European, and democratic Belarus is a guarantee that Russia will no longer be able to carry out aggression not only against Ukraine but also against the EU, where Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia already stand as the first outposts. Ukraine can serve as a shield, and Belarus can finally close the gates to Russia's imperial ambitions, but to achieve this, it must be liberated from the dictator and Russian troops. Only then will there be fewer opportunities for authoritarian reconquest in Europe itself, as authoritarianism holds great allure for many politicians.

Unfortunately, at present, I must state that only Russia has a strategy regarding Belarus. Their strategy is to incorporate Belarus and bring it into Russia. Meanwhile, we no longer hear words of deep concern from Western Europe, but rather silence. However, it was yesterday that we needed not only a strategy but a proactive strategy concerning Belarus. Today, we are witnessing the disappearance of a country called Belarus before the eyes of all of Europe, with its tacit consent."



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