Polish Envoy Calls for Russia, West to Cooperate on Belarus

Poland’s top diplomat in Washington is calling for Russia to avoid any unilateral action to end a wave of protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, saying the crisis can best be dealt with by a united effort of the international community.Polish Ambassador Piotr Wilczek testifies before the Senate Appropriations State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 7, 2017.”We can be sure that Russia is considering various scenarios in Belarus,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting with security and law enforcement leaders in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 21, 2020.However, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, candidate for the presidential elections, center, surrounded by her supporters walks after voting at a polling station in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 9, 2020.He also pointed to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled the country after her electoral challenge to Lukashenko fell short, as a potential alternative leader.Brzezinski said he believes there are fewer risks for Putin in letting Belarus “go its way” than in an aggressive intervention that could not only anger and alienate the Belarusian public but also prompt new domestic challenges to his own leadership in Russia.Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and special representative on Ukraine negotiations, agrees with Friedman that neither the Kremlin nor the West is in a mood for war. He said he thinks Putin will avoid deploying troops if he can, but that doesn’t mean he will not intervene through other means, “including directing Belarusian security services.””Unless Lukashenko holds on, or Putin can somehow stage-manage a transition to another authoritarian regime, I imagine he will get very nervous about the course of events in Belarus,” said Hal Brands, a global affairs professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).Wilczek, the Polish ambassador, conceded that those opposing Lukashenko “still do not have any clear-cut or politically experienced leaders who could formulate a clear plan of action.””But,” he said, “what is abundantly apparent after seeing those peaceful protests is that the Belarusian people wish to determine the course of their own country, that they long for a sovereign and independent Belarus.”In an interview with Fox News this week, Tsikhanouskaya summed up the changing tide in her home country. “We’re not the opposition anymore, we are the majority,” she said.

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