From balancing to bridging geopolitical dividing lines in Europe?
Belarus has long been neglected in east-west relations. It had limited value to some EU member states as a trading partner and a transit state for energy links with Russia. Its dependence on Russia made it almost look like a part of the Russian Federation, under a president who was called “the last dictator in Europe”. Limited interests enabled the EU and the US to easily adopt sanctions, in order to punish Belarus for human rights violations and for continuing a “Soviet-light” system with authoritarian repression and a mostly unreformed economy. Fundamental reforms were demanded before any more constructive relationship could be considered.
However, the Ukraine crisis has triggered a rethink about relations with Belarus. It may be that Minsk has some (limited) margins for manoeuvring between Russia and the west, as indicated by its attempts to mediate, offering Minsk as a place for negotiations on the Ukraine crisis. In that context, more constructive relations with Minsk might assist in influencing those in Moscow who are interested in decreasing tensions and solving the present geopolitical crisis.
In this report an analysis is presented on how the "Belarus factor" could be interesting again in a wider regional perspective, as a result of the Ukraine crisis, which causes major geopolitical, geo-economic and security consequences for the whole of Europe.
These developments lead to new dividing lines between two "Competing Union" (EU and Eurasian Economic Union) and tensions between EU, NATO and Russia, creating a potentially dangerous situation in Europe for the first time since the Cold War ended.
Author Tony van der Togt sheds his light on EU-Belarus relations and the relationship with NATO. He also presents preliminary conclusions on the possible role of Belarus as mediator and how EU and NATO members could support such a role.