Saturday, October 19, 2019

Belarus Even Greater Challenge to Russian Mentality than Ukraine has Been, Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 16 – Many cite Zbigniew Brzezinski’s observation that “Russia without Ukraine isn’t an empire but a regional country,” Liliya Shevtsova says; but “for Russians,” she continues, “Belarus may turn out to be a yet more complicated, dramatic and painful experience” than the loss of Ukraine has been.

            According to the Moscow analyst, “for the Russian mentality and in the Russian publicist tradition, the expert community and politics, there is no understanding about the real sovereignty of Belarus.” Instead, that country is viewed “in a strange way” (

                “We know little about it and we understand little about it,” Shevtsova says; and “we are little concerned about the sovereignty of this state. We have only a little understanding of what that Belarus can mean for us” as an independent state especially now when Russia has irretrievably lost Ukraine

            Russians haven’t figured out how to deal with a situation in which Belarus depends on Russia, insists on its independence, and manipulates the Kremlin to ensure that it will continue to get help while continuing to be independent. Thus, “for us,” the Moscow commentator says, “Belarus is a tabula rasa.” 

            “And I do not exclude the possibility that in the absence of Ukraine, Belarus really will become a challenge when it does not agree” to Putin’s plans for its inclusion into a single union state. “What then will happen with Belarus?”  Lukashenka isn’t going to allow Russian tanks and bases on his country, but what will he allow? 

            If it is clear that the Belarusian leader is ready to make “a complete and final” exit from Russian dominance, then “the exit of Belorussia, excuse me, Belarus, into an independent direction will be a shock for the Russian elite which is not accustomed to such a state of Belarus and isn’t accustomed to think about Belarus” in any case.

            “This will be a real shock” for the following reason: It will “finally deprive Russia of the idea of being a pan-Slavic nation. It will finally force a revision of the idea about Great Russians, Little Russians, Belorussians, and so on – and thus to revise our history … This will be a shock! It will be painful. But we must prepare ourselves for this.” 

            A Russian military campaign against Belarus to prevent this would be “suicidal” for Moscow, Shevtsova says.  “It would contradict the logic of survival. But how the Russian elite, the Russian population, and the Kremlin will view the exit of Belarus, I do not know.” At present, few are thinking about this because they have been occupied with Ukraine.

            “I know only one thing: all this is the great uncertainty which surrounds our future relations, but that this will be a shock and that there will be a need to rethink ourselves and our history is beyond question,” Shevtsova concludes.

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