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Security Brief: Weapons/Tactics Week of May 24, 2021

Updated: Jun 5

Week of Monday, May 24, 2021 | Issue 1

Alejandro Esparza, Weapons/Tactics (W/T) Team


Alexander Lukashenko President of Belarus[1]


Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Location: Belarus

Parties involved: Belarus, Russia, US, European Union (EU)

The event: According to reports identified on Wednesday, May 26, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko justified an incident in which an international airliner was intercepted and grounded in Minsk airport followed by Belarusian authorities arresting opposition journalist and activist Roman Protasevich, who was traveling on board. Lukashenko's remarks also accused Protasevich of plotting a rebellion and the West waging a hybrid war against Belarus.[2] Additional sources indicate that the US and EU are demanding the immediate release of Protasevich whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Western outrage over the event and appears in strong support of Belarus.[3]

The implications:

  • Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, is frequently criticized for his undemocratic practices via unfair elections, complete control over state-owned factories, and fierce crackdown on political protests.[4] Lukashenko’s repressive tactics and unwillingness to turn over power has led to severe civil unrest and therefore prompting activists such as Roman Protasevich, to become more outspoken and critical of Belarusian political practices. Protasevich was specifically targeted by Lukashenko because of his influential opposition activism found on Nexta, a channel on Telegram. Nexta amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers that were able to successfully carry out mass protests within Belarus in 2020.[5] Though Protasevich is in custody and facing various charges and possibly the death penalty, his supporters can potentially rally behind him and initiate protests that oppose Lukashenko’s regime. The international outcry that has been triggered by the arrest of Protasevich can also motivate or inspire other activists. These small to large scale protests would likely turn violent and result in strict security measures and inhumane treatment of protestors. Based on previous Belarusian security personnel procedures, activists would likely be subjected to beatings, torture, or even death.[6]

  • Belarus geographically finds itself between two influential forces: to the north and west lie, EU and NATO member states, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, whereas to the east it has a powerful ally, Russia. This implies that Belarusian territory is frequently contested over influence between the West and Russia. However, Russia has been able to maintain and foster close political, cultural, and economic ties with Belarus. This close-knit relationship between the two ex-Soviet nations has primarily been cultivated by Putin through attractive economic partnerships.[7] However, in the hypothetical event of an unprecedented protest that leads to Lukashenko’s downfall, Russia is likely to exploit this opportunity and establish security forces on Belarusian territory. Thus, safeguarding influence and power within the region.

  • Lukashenko's staunch accusations demonstrate the unsatisfactory perception the nation has towards the West. In contrast, Lukashenko’s amicable meeting with Putin on Friday, May 28, in Sochi, Russia substantiates the high level of confidence it has towards Russia.[8] Therefore suggesting that the allies will continue to push their global agendas alongside each other and likely attempt to thwart Western objectives, such as defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine which has posed a strategic challenge. The annexation of Crimea and Russian encroachment found on eastern Ukrainian borders demonstrates the boldness as well as disregard to international law Russia engages in. Ukraine is Belarus’ southern neighbor, suggesting that Russia can potentially seek to utilize Belarus as a foothold in an attempt to further pressure and intimidate Ukraine. Then subsequently, acquiring the territory within the Russian sphere of influence.

  • Both the EU and the US have imposed a new set of sanctions on Belarus which will force the nation to become more reliant on Russia for both their political and economic survival. In turn, this will advance Belarusian-Russian relations and likely create an interdependent relationship. However, the consequences of this relationship would leave Belarus even more isolated from the world and will likely lead to the total collapse of relationships with the EU. Additionally, Russia’s dismissive comments towards the arrest of Protasevich add to the already deteriorating relationship the West has with Russia and its allies. Lastly, the lack of human rights concerns from both Russia and Belarus suggest that both governments will likely continue this practice and further negate the international community’s commitment to human rights.

[1]Alexander Lukashenko President of Belarus” by Prachatai, licensed under BY CC 2.0

[2] Belarus leader says detained journalist was plotting ‘bloody rebellion’, Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/defiant-belarus-leader-accuses-west-waging-hybrid-war-2021-05-26/

[3] Belarus plane diversion: Putin plays down crisis at talks with Lukashenko, BBC, May 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57286259

[4] Why Belarus is called Europe’s last dictatorship, The Economist, May 2021, https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/05/25/why-belarus-is-called-europes-last-dictatorship

[5] Who Is Roman Protasevich, the Captive Journalist in Belarus?, The New York Times, May 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/23/world/europe/roman-protasevich.html

[6] Belarus: Systematic Beatings, Torture of Protesters, Human Rights Watch, September 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/15/belarus-systematic-beatings-torture-protesters

[7] Will Putin and the ghost of the USSR save Lukashenko’s Belarus?, Al Jazeera, September 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/14/will-putin-and-the-ghost-of-the-ussr-save-lukashenkos-belarus

[8] Belarus leader seeks Russian support amid showdown with EU, Associated Press, May 2021, https://apnews.com/article/russia-europe-belarus-business-government-and-politics-1c768682de61003bfb2d0bb25f7a658c?mc_cid=781f1e84df&mc_eid=67e5a5658b

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