Geopolitics

The Eastern European country Putin already conquered this year

By Jason Fields The Week

One question keeping NATO leaders up at night is whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has designs on other territories beyond Ukraine.

The answer is to be seen in Belarus, now largely a Russian vassal state. How it happened and what life is like in the country of 9.4 million people since Russia stepped in gives a glimpse of the society Putin wants to build for a whole Eurasian empire. This is the world that Putin is fighting for — the world he wants Ukraine to join.

The modern Belarusian state is a creature of 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved into constituent parts. It borders Poland, the Baltic nations, Russia, and, most importantly for our story, Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who had run a Soviet farm before turning to politics, snagged the presidency when it was established in 1994. With the help of an extensive security apparatus — still called the KGB despite the original’s renaming and attempted rehabilitation in Russia — he decided to stick around.

Lukashenko had long played East and West off of each other, first leaning one way, then the other, signing trade deals with both. But his authoritarian sensibilities ensured that it wouldn’t last. In his 28 years in power, Lukashenko has clung to two, seemingly contradictory sentiments: nostalgia for the Soviet ideal and a determination to hold on to a sham democracy. Thus, noted authoritarian Lukashenko is a “duly” elected leader, despite evidence of fraud that would make Donald Trump jealous.

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Categories: Geopolitics

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