Brief: After the Ultimatum in Belarus

The crisis seems unlikely to resolve itself on its own.

Background: Belarus remains unstable. Neither President Alexander Lukashenko nor the political opposition has much of an advantage. An ultimatum set by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the former presidential candidate and opposition leader, will soon expire. If her demands are not met, more protests and associated activities are expected follow, including a general strike on Oct. 26. What Happened: The government in Minsk has no intention of meeting her demands, of course, and instead is busy meeting with Russian officials. For example, Lukashenko spoke with Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, during an unannounced visit to Minsk. They discussed security issues and cooperation and essentially said how important they are to each other. Bottom Line: It seems unlikely that the crisis in Belarus will resolve on its own – that is, without foreign meddling. Meetings such as the one between Lukashenko and Naryshkin suggest that the Kremlin is prepared to do just that; it simply can’t afford to abandon such a strategically important country, especially when things are on fire in other areas of the Russian periphery. Still, Moscow understands its limits and is thus trying to avoid military intervention.

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