Theses of Pavel Latushka’s speech at the panel “The Relation Between the Western World and Belarus: What Went Wrong?” at the XXXII Economic Forum in Karpacz
There is a famous expression: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
And nothing is more detrimental to the inaction of good people than the misconception that something is beyond their sphere of influence when it actually falls within the sphere of influence of evil.
However, evil should not have any spheres of influence.
No country in the world should be under the sphere of influence of evil. Independent, freedom-loving nations and countries cannot and should not be considered as part of the sphere of influence of evil under the guise of the “Russian world.” Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened to Belarus, which has been perceived as a Russian sphere of influence by our Western partners for far too long.
This is also the answer to the question, “What went wrong in the relation between the Western world and Belarus?” Today, we are witnessing the dire consequences of this mistake.
Currently, there are not just one, but two wars unleashed by Russia taking place in the heart of Europe: Russia’s war against independent Ukraine and Russia’s war against independent Belarus. In both conflicts, the illegitimate authorities of Belarus are fighting against Ukraine and against their own country, while supporting Russia.
However, there are those who are fighting for Belarus.
These are the Belarusian democratic forces, the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, the National Anti-Crisis Management, and the Belarusian volunteer formations in Ukraine.
Similar to Ukraine, we require decisive and proactive allies with a strategy. Let us be honest; we have not yet had a proactive strategy.
Yes, there are no hostilities taking place on our territory right now, and therefore I am not asking you for HIMARS, Leopards, or F-16 Fighting Falcons.
The takeover of Belarus by Russia is being carried out differently. This is a hybrid occupation for which Russia is spending enormous resources.
Russia spends billions to keep the puppet regime of Lukashenka in power, ensuring mass repressions, implementing integration programs of the so-called Union State –a neo-Soviet project to absorb Belarus. It invests in eradicating the national consciousness and ideologically rewiring Belarusians with the ideas of “ruscism” and the “Russian world,” as well as deploying nuclear weapons and conducting endless military exercises on our territory.
Today, Russia is the only country with a strategy towards Belarus.
This strategy aims to absorb Belarus within the framework of the Union State project and dissolve it into the “Russian world.” The puppet regime of Lukashenka serves as the conductor of this strategy and the instrument for its implementation.
The regime has proven its complicity by becoming an accomplice in the war against Ukraine in 2022 and continues to demonstrate it through participation in Russian war crimes, the deportation of Ukrainian children from occupied territories, the stationing of Russian nuclear weapons and Wagner PMC mercenaries in Belarus, and the destruction of everything Belarusian.
However, we, Belarusians, have not given up.
The “War of the Worlds” in Belarus – the war between the “Russian world” and the democratic world – is not yet over. But by fighting almost alone, with catastrophically limited resources, we, the democratic forces, risk losing it.
Therefore, the strategy I am discussing is focused on building up the potential of the Belarusian democratic forces in our battle for Belarus against the “Russian world.”
This strategy encompasses all of the battle fronts listed below.
1. Informational front:
It is necessary to significantly increase support for independent Belarusian media, both financially and educationally.
We must have a strong and professional counterbalance to the propaganda and media holdings of the Union State, which are currently being created. The propaganda of the “Russian world” in Belarus is directed against democracy, liberal values, Europe, and the West. The “Russian world” is our common enemy, and we must not allow it to capture the minds of Belarusians.
Belarusian independent media should receive significantly larger budgets and opportunities for professional education, advanced training of their employees, and staff expansion. Another important aspect is to promote and significantly expand the coverage of pro-Belarusian content, as well as advertise it.
2. Ideological, cultural, and civil front:
A significant increase in support for the civil sector and culture is required. This support should primarily focus on projects aimed at preserving national identity and promoting a Belarusian-oriented and pro-European consciousness, as opposed to a pro-Russian consciousness.
3. Economic front:
Due to the fact that sanctions against Russia and the Lukashenka regime have not yet been fully harmonized, Belarus has become a gray area for circumventing sanctions. Additionally, the economy and military-industrial complex of Belarus have essentially merged into a single entity with that of Russia within the framework of the Union State. There is no time to waste, and we must not allow the aggressors to strengthen their military machine at the expense of Belarus.
The following actions are necessary:
Fully harmonize sanctions against Russia and the Lukashenka regime in Belarus as soon as possible;
Introduce the strictest control over the implementation of sanctions and begin to enforce strict punishments for their violation;
Make investment in the Lukashenka regime as expensive as possible for Russia.
The most effective measure, of course, would be a trade embargo on the Lukashenka regime. Therefore, we welcome the readiness of Poland and the Baltic States to completely close their borders with Belarus for the movement of goods. It is important that the closure of borders affects not only automobile but also rail traffic. However, it is crucial to ensure that ordinary citizens of Belarus still have the ability to travel.
4. Political front:
The only political counterweight to the Lukashenka regime is the United Transitionald Cabinet of Belarus, headed by President-elect Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
To enhance its potential, the following actions are necessary:
Recognize the Cabinet as the sole legitimate authority representing Belarus, the Transitional Government of Belarus. The illegitimate regime of Lukashenka and his elites must realize that there is a recognized alternative backed by strong international support. This is a crucial condition, perhaps one of the decisive factors in guaranteeing a split within Belarus’ elites.
Issue an arrest warrant for Lukashenka for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. You are aware that the NAM team has already submitted a communication to the ICC regarding the role of the Lukashenka regime in the illegal movement and re-education of Ukrainian children. Additionally, with our support, our Justice Hub partners have prepared a comprehensive report on the regime’s crimes against humanity and developed appropriate mechanisms for holding it accountable. An international arrest warrant for Lukashenka will render him toxic within his own circle and expedite the internal division.
I believe in such a scenario, I believe that the Belarusians will always be able to negotiate with the Belarusians. Therefore, it is crucial to provide comprehensive support to the Cabinet for the liberation of Belarus from the Lukashenka regime and the “Russian world,” ensuring independence and a European perspective for Belarus.
5. Geopolitical front:
In essence, everything I mentioned above boils down to a simple question: What kind of Belarus do you envision for tomorrow – Russian “Belarussia” or European Belarus?
If the answer is “European Belarus,” then all the objectives I previously outlined should form the foundation of our common and proactive strategy.
Currently, we see a Belarus that is aligned not with Europe but with Russian projects: the Union State, CSTO, EAEU, and CIS.
The so-called Union State serves as the basis and primary instrument of Russia’s imperial policy.
Therefore, I want to remind you of the words of former Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Reinsalu, who stated: “The most powerful sanction that the West can impose on Russia is the abolition of the Lukashenka regime in Belarus. Abolishing Lukashenka’s regime means abolishing the Union State, and it means winning both wars: the war for Ukraine and the war for Belarus.”
Belarus belongs with Europe, not with Russia. And this idea is shared by all our partners. However, the time for being mere partners should transform into the time of proactive allies. The time for contemplation and concern should morph into a time of decisive action.
Here is our message to Europe: BELARUS IS NOT THE “RUSSIAN WORLD” AND NOT WITHIN RUSSIA’S SPHERE OF INFLUENCE.
Long live free European Belarus!