Monday, December 31, 2018

Two Views on Belarusians and a Russian Anschluss Both of Which May Be Correct

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 31 – Most of the discussion about the possibility that Vladimir Putin will seek to annex Belarus to provide him with a position as head of a new union state that will allow him to remain in power for life and reaffirm the existence of his “Russian world” have focused on the high politics of the situation.

            But what may ultimately prove to be the determining factor will be the reaction of the Belarusian people whose relationship with Russia and the Russian nation is complicated. Two Belarusian commentators provide diametrically opposed views on how Belarusians may react – and it is entirely possible that both might prove true.

            One suggests that many Belarusians accept Putin’s notion that Russians and Belarusians are one nation and won’t resist any Russian move, while another argues that there are a large number of Belarusians who are fully prepared to go into the woods and conduct a partisan war against any Russian occupiers.

            Svetlana Kalinkina, a Belarusian opposition journalist and commentator, says that the danger Belarus now faces “is not in the plans of Putin but in the fact that in Belarus itself there are a sufficient number of people who think he is right” (

            That isn’t something new, she continues, but rather the result of “the errors of all 25 years of Lukashenka’s presidency. It is a mistake to say that Belarusians and Russians are one people, that we are brothers, and that we cannot live without one another. But our people are trusting, not into conflict, listen to this and as a result we have a situation when even those opposed to Lukashenka today love Putin.”

            “And today,” Kalinkina continues, it seems to many that Belarusians feel that they need money and therefore need Russia, and they are prepared to believe that we are “one people.” “If the Kremlin knew that Belarus would rise as one against them,” she says, it wouldn’t even be talking about an Anschluss.

            But according to Nikolay Statkevich, a leader of the Belarusian National Congress, that is exactly what the Belarusians would do, thus guaranteeing that Belarus would  not be “a second Crimea” but rather “a second Afghanistan” in which the Russians would suffer serious losses and then be forced to withdraw (

            “I do not think that Belarus will be swallowed up,” he says, because Belarusians overwhelmingly value independence – 90 to 95 percent do – and they recognize that Lukashenka has been selling them off piecemeal. If the Belarusian dictator tries to sell them off wholesale, they will go into the streets in opposition – and not just into the streets.

            According to polls, Statkevich says, one million Belarusians are prepared to defend their country’s independence with arms in their hands.  They can look back on a 500-year-long tradition of partisan wars.  As a result, if Putin and Lukashenka try something, they won’t get “a second Crimea” but rather “a second Afghanistan.”

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