Imantas Melianas, a senior Lithuanian specialist on ethnic minorities and national security, says that the most important task for the West now is “not to allow Putin to swallow Belarus.” If the Kremlin leader is able to do so, he continues, “a third world war will become inevitable.”
Consequently, he says, any “betrayal regarding Belarus will become a betrayal of Europe as a whole,” a step that will be equivalent today to what Russia’s swallowing up of Poland at the end of the 18th century and one that will lead to a new round of Russian attacks against Ukraine and other countries in the region.
Melianas, a former Sajudis coordinator for national minorities, advisor to the Lithuanian Culture Ministry and officer of the Department of State Security, says that to his “great regret, it is difficult to be optimistic about the preservation of the independence of Belarus” after the Helsinki summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
[quote]That is because, the Lithuanian expert says, “the Kremlin guy always views the softness and even more the willingness to agree of certain Western leaders as a sign of their weakness and this means as a signal for action.” Belarus is the obvious immediate target, but Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine are all threatened by Putin’s moves against that country.[/quote]
According to Melianas, Moscow is considering the following variants for the execution of the Republic of Belarus:
- Under the first, Russia will occupy Belarus, formally allow it to continue to exist with a new leadership, but reduce it to the status of Transdniestria with key institutions like the military passing entirely under Russian control and a Russian level of popular control established.
- Under the second, the Union State will assume new content but quickly move on the basis of “requests of the toilers, Cossacks, Orthodox activists and other forms of the simple people” into “a unitary” Russian state. What is now Belarus will become like “occupied Crimea.”
- Under the third and fourth – there are only slight variations between these two – everything will be like the first and second “with the exception that out of Belarus will be taken its Catholic northwest, the so-called Veyshnoria, which will become a puppet buffer state, one most likely not recognized by anyone.” That puppet will stand “in permanent conflict with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia and constantly turn for international help” to Moscow.
- And under the fifth, because of growing Belarusian resistance to Russia, “Moscow will leave Belarus [as a whole] for a time in peace, but will take back those portions of Belarus which Moscow transferred from the RSFSR to the Belarus SSR in 1924-1926,” creating a new unrecognized “gray zone” that will be like the puppet “DNR” and “LNR” in the occupied part of the Ukrainian Donbas region.
All these variants of the destruction of Belarusian statehood have this in common, the Lithuanian expert says. They involve the removal of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his team, fake popular uprisings within Belarus, and the supply of “international help” in the form of Russian military units, which the Kremlin will call “peacekeepers.”
But if the West isn’t resisting Moscow as it should, Belarus may do so on its own, Melianas says, because a new generation has grown up there which is attached to independence and doesn’t want to be subordinate to the Russian state. “in the event of a Russian invasion, very many of them will go over to the side of the rising Belarusian people with arms in their hands.”
The West needs to remember this and not “throw Belarus and its people to the winds of fate, by leaving them to face one on one” Putin’s aggressive state. Everyone needs to remember, he says, that right now “in Belarus, the fate of Peace is being decided.”
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