Presidential elections in Belarus were rigged as usual with an unusual follow-up and the fall-out is still unknown. A brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators triggered an unprecedented call for change throughout the whole country. The scale of the mobilization and perseverance of the protesters exceeded even the wildest of expectations.
«elarus has changed fundamentally, even if nothing changes when it comes to political composition, which seems highly unlikely now. Lukashenka's regime is doomed. The myth of the autocrat as stability provider, read status quo defender, has now gone. Belarusian society unintentionally brought their country back on the international scene from a political fridge. Now, it is time for all the other actors to adapt to these new circumstances.
Russian policy, for now, is to keep their options open with the ultimate goal of becoming the manager of the incoming transition, with or without Lukashenka. It seems that conclusions have been drawn from the aggression against Ukraine. There is no open drive for intervention, but there is no clear idea of what to do either, which is understandable when you are unable to perceive society as a political actor.
The EU is divided as usual, this time between those rightly focusing on Belarus itself, where the long-declared policy objectives of the Eastern Partnership are being achieved without EU backup, and self-declared realists seeking a great deal to prevent alleged war.
If the worst-case scenario of bloodshed unfolds, provoked by Lukashenka or Russian intervention, the EU should be ready to immediately impose harsh restrictive measures. It is now more important to focus on empowering the Belarusian people as being solely responsible for their future. The EU should also be ready and willing to provide economic aid in the course of the upcoming transformation. It would be advisable for the EU to forget about 'bridges', 'buffers' or any other geopolitical gibberish invented to legitimize the great powers' appetites. Policies based upon these clichés will push Belarus and other actors into a corner with no way out.
A decent long-term outcome for both the EU and Russia would be simply to have a modern, prosperous neighbor with a representative political system, free to choose its path of development. Is Russia ready to accept Belarus moving forward by applying its own inner logic rather than as a consequence of the pressure it is under from outside? I hope so, but I doubt it.