Laurinkus. Relations with a weird Belarus: what plan to prepare?

Alexander Lukashenko
Lukashenko AP/Scanpix

With a thaw happening, geopolitics ever more courageously is making its way into the discussion arena. The global balance of power and its influence over Lithuania seemed a waste of time to discuss for almost thirty years. On one side we had the West, lined up in formation and ready for a final push, on the other side – a contracted to a dying empire Russia and a few of its kind balancing on the very edge (no push even needed) Mečys Laurinkus wrote in

But the situation unexpectedly began changing. The “side-lined” countries began to gradually regenerate and chess pieces returned to the game board. By the way, a significant part of contemporary geopolitical studies is called exactly that – countries on a geopolitical chessboard.

China, Russia, Turkey, Iran once again, India and new elements in the Middle East. Different in power, redistribution of zones of influence, amended or simply rejected classic geopolitical schemes, the understandable explanation of which no longer suffices with the use of prefixes like “neo-“ or “post-“.

There are a number of geopolitics theoreticians in Lithuania, who can convincingly explain current trends, but up to now, there was no favourable environment for them because, for most people, the global struggles that depend little on their will were of no interest.

NO more interest, with some exceptions, could be found among politicians. These exceptions were typically associated with the Conservatives, who so far are the only trying to explain decisions, particularly in foreign policy, in a broader context of international relations.

Putin’s path of a new czar?

But even the Conservatives’ musings are limited to the more than clear object of Russia and the most frequently mentioned individual other than the Russian president is A. Dugin, who wrote the oft-cited Foundations of Geopolitics with V. Putin has just ascended to the “path of a new czar”.

One can hope that soon geopolitical studies will emerge that are not limited to a single country or a single author. Until this happens, we must celebrate enthusiast radio and television show hosts organising discussions.

In one of V. Savukynas’ shows, there was recently a discussion of relations with Belarus. This is a record of political relations with a weird neighbour that will continue to play for a long time in the future.

I have been reading the recently published academic Belarussian History of Statehood. It claims that the Belarusian ethnos differently than the Balts and Russians (not under the current name) began to form in the IX-XII centuries. The roots of Belarusian statehood lie in the Grand Duchy of Lithuanians. I have personally witnessed just how much attention Minsk dedicates to this heritage.

You can dispute this through scientific arguments, you can respond with irony, but step by step, a perception is being spread in the Belarusian society of “our GDL”, which cannot fail to have an influence, regardless of political belief, on various layers of society and the new generations.

What role would this part of historical perception play if Lithuanian – Belarussian relations were without any political stumbling blocks? One like with Poland? We are currently supporting the opposition against A. Lukashenko and with the fall of the authoritarian regime would we support the claims of a part of the opposition about a historically Belarusian Vilnius?

The power of history

They say that when democracy takes hold in Belarus, then we will decide how to react to currently seemingly secondary matters. After all, we are now ceremoniously reburying the remains of Z. Sierakauskas and K. Kalinauskas. With Belarus once more becoming a country close to us in views and actions, the views of history will also fall in line. When could this happen?

For a number of years, we have been watching local energy wars between Moscow and Minsk, after which the heads of state of the two “fighting” countries play a friendly ice hockey match. Is the “conflict” a spectacle for those, who enjoy geopolitical theories? It would appear so. But there are episodes in the two similar in their perceptions countries, which might not be a part of a spectacle.

Belarus and Russia, back in the time of B. Yeltsin signed an agreement on the creation of a union state. There were meetings on this matter for years, but even up to now, despite vast spending for “common work”, no tangible results have been reached. On various occasions, A. Lukashenko speaks about relations with Russia in a style that this country can hardly digest. For example, how Belarus fought “in wars that were not it’s own”.

Musings on the Second World War are a clear red line for Russia. Those, who overstep it, are blacklisted. A. Lukashenko knows this, but he takes risks.

East of West?

A. Lukashenko’s statements in recent days about the unacceptable Moscow proposal on establishing an airbase in Belarusian territory leaves one willingly or unwillingly wondering, why this is done. After all, you can make agreements on an unacceptable project without making it all public. Most likely, this was done many a time before, particularly in the intelligence domain.

According to a number of Lithuanian politicians and political scientists, these declarations by A. Lukashenko should be exploited by opening the gates to the West. There are those, who just believe that the current seemingly pro-Western rhetoric of A. Lukashenko is just a cunning manipulation, which seeks to divert attention from Astravyets NPP and prevent Lithuania from rallying EU member states from opposing the construction of a second block in the nuclear power plant. What to do?

I believe that Lithuania should first of all fight for its interests. However, we also cannot dismiss a different relationship with Minsk than was up to now. In this regard, member of Seimas Ž. Pavilionis‘ remark was correct that it would be foolish, without knowing what is what, to jump into the embrace of bilateral relations without content. Just for a photo op.

According to Ž. Pavilionis, there is a need for a strategy and tactics in such relations, a plan, some awareness of what the goal is. This is where real geopolitics begins – from a rational basis and even calculation of future benefits and what the consequences of rushed actions could be. Just that a question arises: who is it that should prepare such a plan?
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