As people in Belarus continue massive protests against an autocratic ruler and a rigged election, risks are rising that Russia’s military could take a direct role, less visible than an overt invasion, projecting power westward toward NATO and threatening Ukraine from the north. The dramatic images of this prodemocracy movement resemble those from neighboring Ukraine, yet one difference is critical. The Belarus uprising seeks no sharp break from Russia or turn toward the European Union or NATO. So effective policies to advance Belarusians’ democratic hopes should work for the long term.
After an “obviously crooked election” in Belarus sparked massive protests, USIP’s Don Jensen says Russia is quietly using the situation to assert influence. If Moscow’s military presence in Belarus increases, “I think you’re going to see a much more forward projection of Russian power against NATO,” he said.
Recent weeks have seen a massive outpouring of peaceful public protest in Belarus after an election widely believed to be fraudulent. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets to demand that longtime authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka step down and another democratic election be held.