Backing Belarus, Russia protesters is morally justified — and strategically smart


The European Parliament has expressed concern over the “new wave of repression” in Belarus, which includes raids on raids on civil society organizations and “preventive” arrests of opposition members before the protests.

The assembly warned that sanctions could be re-imposed given that the latest development “underlines the obvious need for a broader process of democratization in the country.”

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators sent a letter to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka expressing “great concern” over a crackdown on citizens protesting against a controversial tax on the unemployed and urged the “immediate” release of those detained, RFE/RL reports:

Democrats Richard Durbin and Jeanne Shaheen signed along with Republicans Marco Rubio and John McCain. In the letter, the senators said, “We remain troubled by the spate of politically motivated detentions and well as harassment of peaceful protesters, opposition party members, journalists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists.”

Backing the peaceful protesters in Belarus and Russia isn’t just morally justified — it’s also strategically smart to strike a blow against authoritarian adversaries, argues Brian Klaas, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics. Civil society activists in both countries hope to not only build democracy but also push their countries into closer alignment with Western governments, he writes for The Washington Post.

The recent protests across Belarus took a lot of people by surprise, notes Peter Pomerantsev:

[M]any thought the Belarusian capacity for protest had been crushed – and, unlike in 2010, weren’t initiated by intellectuals but by the angry working class, responding to a new law which fines people for being unemployed. The protesters say there are no jobs. Lukashenka has responded with mass arrests. The other day I received an email from the Belarus Free Theatre saying three of their company were behind bars.

The Kremlin is known to support authoritarian crackdowns in post-Soviet neighbors in exchange for their continued loyalty to Russia, say analysts Veranika Laputska and Aliaksandr Papko. That may be good for Lukashenko but reconciliation with Putin is very unlikely to help Belarusian citizens, they write.

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