Why the West modestly responded to protests dispersal in Belarus?

Author : Artem Schreibman

Source : 112 Ukraine

For a new round of isolation, Alexander Lukashenko would have to upset the West in more aggressive and persistent way than ever before
14:03, 29 March 2017

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112 Agency

The West did not hurry with a sharp reaction in the first weeks, when politicians were detained in Belarus. Brussels and several EU states said they were concerned and called on Minsk to return to the path of democratization. A Day of Will was expected to be a litmus paper.

It would seem that Belarus failed this exam. It again got into the reports of the world media as the last dictatorship of Europe, rudely dispersing protesters. But, judging by the reaction of the West, Minsk did not cross the red line.

The OSCE, PACE, and the EU condemned the crackdown and called for the release of the detainees. Berlin, London, and Prague said that the Belarusian authorities had no reason for such rigidity. Warsaw hinted that it would change its approach to Minsk if the persecution continues. Position of Vilnius sounded concrete: if new political prisoners appear, sanctions can return.

Related: Detainees in Minsk do not have such ties as journalists do; they just have no rights

The reserved reaction of the collective West has several reasons. First, the sanctions against Minsk are traditionally tied to the presence or absence of political prisoners in Belarus. That is, people sentenced to criminal terms for political reasons. Administrative arrests, as many as necessary, of course, spoil the atmosphere, but are below the sanctions radar.

Secondly, Brussels has seen a signal that the Belarusian security forces somehow restrained the cruelty of repression, which means that not all is hopeless. Western diplomats do not want to send again to the dump the years of work on rapprochement with Minsk because of something that can still be attributed to a brief outburst of anger.

Related: 70 journalists detained in Belarus during month

Finally, after the Maidan, Crimea and Donbas, the migration crisis, the growth of populism with Brexit and Trump, the European elites have seriously lowered the bar of claims to their small neighbors. Excellent workers are not now those who are rapidly democratizing, but those who do not create a headache.

In such a coordinate system, a well-guarded border from the Belarusian side and the absence of new Russian bases near Warsaw can for the time compensate bad headlines in the Euronews about Lukashenko.

Related: Mass arrests in Belarus: What happened?

Does this mean that the red line for Belarus has shifted? In fact, nobody knows this. Such lines are often drawn at the time of their crossing, and not before it. And there is no guarantee that Minsk would persistently approach this milestone. Obviously, only for the new round of isolation, Alexander Lukashenko would have to upset the West much longer and more persistently than before.

Related: Another Ukrainian detained for Freedom Day protests in Belarus

Related: Belarusian court decided to deport two Ukrainians detained in Minsk, third was arrested for 15 days

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