There is no real perception, in the west, of what Belarus is. On how society moves, what makes it tick (to use a more mundane approach).
There are mainly two sources of information about Belarus to someone in EU (I will on purpose ignore the USA because I think they cannot be part of any solution), state news agency and opposition propaganda:
- The official agency does, of course, what every official news agency does: cover the good things of the government and agitate several ghost and fears that may threaten the state. Uses it also for diplomatic purposes. But this happens everywhere in the EU – with different types of contents but the same goals.
- The opposition propaganda has a teleological approach conditioned by the sole desire to overthrow, not really knowing how, Lukashenko. By propaganda I don’t mean fake news, I mean a skewing of perspective and an incapacity of publishing anything beyond the scope of their unique goal.
- A third source could be added, of an international press that pays attention to Belarus only as a accessory topic to Russia.
- This classification would not be complete, nonetheless, without an honorable mention to the project BelarusFeed that tries hard to promote a clear and as unbiased as possible image of the country. But like any other small editorial project it runs against the harsh barrier of financial sustainability.
Without an independent news reporting approach (as independent as it is possible anywhere) the west will not become interested in Belarus. At least not for the good motives. It may be interested only because of the geopolitical interest of further cornering Russia (this is why the USA can never be part of any solution that serves Belarus interests), for which, in fact, it matters very little whether the regime shifts or not. The complains on lack of democracy and violation of human rights don’t seem to pose serious problems in a lot of other places – Ukraine included (especially on the human rights side), but also the good pupil Latvia that keeps 15% of its inside-borders-born population without citizenship rights.
From a geopolitical perspective Belarus is more ready now to be seduced by the west that it ever was. Further postponing on action from the EU will only push the country into Russia – although or different reasons, similar to what happened with Moldova where Russia constitutes more and more the “escape pod”. The recent developments with the prices of oil supply show that the tension is increasing. We cannot, nonetheless, expect for Belarus to, single-handed and in extremis, simply cuts bonds with Russia – winters are pretty cold in Belarus without Russian energy. Nor could ever such cut have a positive long-lasting outcome.
Western public opinion must be brought to knowledge of what really goes on in Belarus. This will mobilize the civil society for the country and, consequently, the political sphere. There needs to be the understanding that no system simply change itself completely in a simple quick succession of steps. The democratic shift intended by a lot of those inside Belarus is not even perceived outside, aside from some very small informed groups. Without a non-biased news outlet about the country, oriented for the western public I foresee no big change in the status quo. At least not in the desired direction.
As it is Belarus will either increase its level of isolation or will slowly start to divide into two blocs, supporting the two different big neighbours (EU and Russia) running a serious risk of ending up on some Ukraine-like situation.