Laurinkus. The decisions on Belarus are important and support for Navalny is a risky exam for Lithuania

Aleksei Navalny
Aleksei Navalny AP / Scanpix

Good news for Lithuanian foreign policy – President G. Nausėda seeks for a Belarus strategy to be created. We have not had one before, it’s not clear we will ever get one, but the intentions are good. It is futile to analyse why Lithuania has been living in the today regarding its policy toward its neighbouring state, lrytas.lt.

Back in the Sąjūdis era, with the Belarusian Popular Front holding sittings on top of Tauras Hill in Vilnius, it was already clear that even with the fall of the empire, certain strategic locations of importance to Russia will not be released.

B. Yeltsin’s advisors, those who hadn’t lost their grip on what is most important, rushed to their leader with a compelling warning – Belarus cannot be let go. And so, they didn’t.

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The so-called walk-out of republics had only a formal influence on Belarus. What Gazeta Wyborcza correspondent in Belarus A. Poczobut would go on to excellently showcase in his 2013 book System Bialorus emerged or was constructed.  Not socialism, not capitalist, just a system.

By the way, the makers of the aforementioned strategy could invite A. Poczobut as a consultant. The study contains numerous aspects that are simply essential to know.

Without delving into quotes, I will highlight just one insight: there are more women in Belarus than men (1,152 women per 1,000 men). We also see this in the protests in Minsk now. It is hard to guess what the final result of such a strategy might be, but the move is praiseworthy.

By the way, over 30 years of independence, Lithuania has not had a single political discussion on our country’s relations with Belarus.

Now let’s look from the opposite perspective – does Belarus have a Lithuania strategy? As a former head of the VSD, I would answer that yes, 20 years ago, Belarus had such a strategy. How things are now, I do not know. It is interesting that Belarus’ strategic thinking about future relations with Lithuania started with culture or, more precisely, history and only then covered the economy.

National Belarusian identity is a gradually emerging topic. The cunning A. Lukashenko immediately adopted it. The regime’s investment into historical heritage, as I witnessed a number of times, is vast, even disproportionate to the country’s welfare levels.

Just think of the GDL-era fortress restored or imitated in Lida. What of the imposing monument to Gediminas? You need only visit a regular book store and you will see what school publications there are about Gediminas, Vytautas, Švitrigaila, Jogaila. This is not even to mention academic Belarussian history about the birth of national identity and its difficult development. What do they need all this for? Obviously, it’s for the future.

The economic part of the strategy was very simple, openly stating that Lithuania will be a member of the EU and so, a transit corridor is needed through it into the West, something that went on to be done. Belarus’ partner Russia did not resist this. Moscow was exclusively opposed to NATO expansion.

Everything else seemed even useful to it.

A. Lukashenko’s fateful mistake was to once again appoint himself the head of state despite, to my knowledge, this being something that his closest political (and perhaps other) circle advising him against doing. This collapsed the previously more or less successfully functioning strategy.

Lithuania took the ball and is now thinking what to do with it. To push it forward and chase after it like a football on the schoolyard would be childish. We need a game strategy (A. Lukashenko is now a problem of the past). Whether President G. Nausėda can become a coach accompanied by success, we will see.

Of course, G. Nausėda must toil not only on the Belarusian front. Recently, the president decried A. Navalny’s (who is officially a blogger) arrest upon returning to Russia after his recovery. Meanwhile, G. Landsbergis pledged to seek further sanctions on the authoritarian state due to this occurrence. The aims are noble, the consequences familiar, but I am interested in the object (subject) over which so many international passions are flaring.

In 2008, with the Russian military’s tanks arriving within firing range of Tbilisi, as the ambassador to Georgia, I carefully followed the reaction of the Russian public, including the opposition, to the events.

Back then, A. Navalny supported the Russian military, praised it and had unpleasant things to say about Georgia, its leaders and even Georgians in Russia. He proposed a complete blockade of Georgia, halting all connections and even an attack on the Georgian military general HQ.

I delved into A. Navalny’s personality and views. A broad spectrum. He combines his own imagined democracy and far-right ideas, which are close to A. Dugin, E. Limonov and writer Z. Prilepin, who recently warred on the side of the separatists in Donbas and with whom they wrote joint texts.

The latter has called himself a national-bolshevik, while A. Navalny introduces himself as a representative of civil nationalism, national democrat and so on.

At one time, A. Navalny was a member of the liberal party Jabloko, later being expelled. Under the flag of combatting corruption, he has participated in numerous political events and elections. In terms of his rhetoric, he is in many ways similar to Lithuania’s Labour Party. His own economic activities are a deep forest that one is best off not treading into. I carefully followed the poisoning story – I have my own opinion, but I will keep it to myself.

One thing I can say though – I do not and will not participate in information wars. I do not intend to direct Lithuanian leaders as to what they should do, what they should be outraged by and what political actions they should initiate. I can only advise them to more carefully inspect the personalities they choose to support and defend. Are they predictable?

At one point, in the information space, we glorified Ukrainian military pilot N. Savchenko, but now, you would probably struggle to find someone willing to comment on her statements or actions. I might be mistaken, but I think that A. Navalny could begin talking the opposite of what he says now. We shouldn’t risk being left looking like fools.

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