Sunday, October 6, 2019

Belarus Remains ‘at Greatest Risk’ of Russian Annexation, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 5 – Belarus remains “at greatest risk” of Russian annexation because it lacks a defense capability and the West is uncertain as to what if anything it will do should Vladimir Putin move to absorb it, according to Russian commentator Andrey Illarionov who earlier served as a Putin advisor.

            He tells Die Welt’s Christooph B.Schiltz that NATO and the EU seek to “restore the international order in the form in which it existed before Russian aggression in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in  2014,” but they haven’t achieved that goal and remain in a reactive mode ( translated into Russian at

            “It is necessary to do still more,” Illarionov says. Nowhere is that more the case than with regard to Belarus, the country in Europe “under the greatest threat from Moscow.” It isn’t a member of NATO or another military alliance and it lacks its own effective defense. Moreover, the question arises as to what NATO would do or whether it would do anything if Belarus were subject to attack and annexation.”

            Moscow could likely achieve its goal by decapitating the regime in Minsk. “Lukashenka could go into the woods for mushrooms and not return. In the past we have seen that Moscow has many opportunities to eliminate people. And if in Belarus, the chief disappeared, there would then not be anyone else who could give orders.” The system would be open for destruction and occupation.

            Lukashenko has dominated the scene for 25 years, he doesn’t have a successor, and “there is no effective civil society, effective parties or effective parliament. Ninety percent of the population speaks Russian, the majority of the population are Orthodox Christians, and the reputation of Russia is on the whole positive.”

            “Therefore,” Illarionov says, “Putin could deal with the situation there without difficulty … In Ukraine at the start of military operations, an oligarch formed his own battalions in order to resist the Russian aggressor. This was a sign of an existing civic culture. In Belarus, nothing similar exists.

            Elsewhere, he continues, Putin has shown himself capable of outplaying the West. For example, in the Middle East, he “has shown that he is much more clever and tougher than former US President Obama or President Trump or both of them taken together.” The US dominated the region before 2015, but the US withdrawal from Syria, “everyone suddenly understood … the Russians are coming.”

            That represents “a major political victory for Putin,” Illarionov says.

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