Alexander Lukashenko moved swiftly once Vladimir Putin recognized his “election victory”. Overnight, he attacked Poland, Czechia and the United Kingdom for supposedly promoting the protests.
Over the last few months the Belarusian dictator had attempted to thaw relations with the West and the European Union to counter pressure from Moscow. He hoped for economic aid from the EU, but now faced with an existential threat inside his own country, he has embraced Moscow once again.
This is just his first step.
But if in the coming days the events in Belarus spiral out of control and the West imposes sanctions, Lukashenko will have little choice but to offer Putin what the Russian leader wants in order to survive. This means that an informal sort of annexation could be realized by Moscow and be presented as some form of success to the public back home.
Such a scenario might be avoidable if the EU or the US were prepared to offer a concrete vision for the future of Belarus.
Deposing a dictatorship would be expensive in terms of human lives and the economy, but the price for Belarusian society might be worth paying if there was a fast track to Europe and the West which was on the table.