Years of experience have shown time and again that it is not in the power of the West to change Russia or Belarus. While one's conduct must be steadfast, the hope to change something through sanctions or threats is doomed to fail, Indrek Kiisler writes.
Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko undoubtedly has admirers in Belarus, Russia and quite a few also in Estonia. A ruling party in Estonia enjoys the support of nearly a fifth of voters because it offers fierce iron fist slogans and steps the former kolkhoz chairman has been practicing in Belarus since 1994.
I know a taxi driver who praises the situation in Belarus as local companies rule the market, food and medicine are cheap, not to mention vodka. The state is constructing apartments and giving them to young families free of charge. People are poor, but state officials do not steal and globalism and the West's peculiar liberal values are criticized. Besides, the people there are apparently used to poverty and a simple life.
Of course, things are very different in real life. No European country has as many young people looking to leave it as Belarus. Both material and spiritual prospects are virtually nonexistent. The country's average salary is lower than the average old-age pension in Estonia.
The majority of Estonians find Lukashenko's authoritarian regime loathsome, especially the generations that have first-hand experience of living in such a system. None of it is new.
However, I am left concerned by the bravado with which Estonia and the West stoke the flames of revolution in Belarus. Even experienced foreign policy observers are writing on social media: "I can smell another Maidan in the air, now is the time when all torchers will.."
No one's bid for freedom should be disparaged and the downtrodden must be helped, but in the end, we need to realize that Belarus is not Ukraine. Belarus is an appendage of Russia the fate of which will be decided in the Kremlin at the end of the day.
For the latter, Belarus is a necessary formation used as a bridgehead near Poland. The Wagner mercenaries that have now been involved in the election struggle were sent on foreign missions through Belarus as it meant they were formally not entering conflict zones from Russia, making it possible to say that the killers didn't come from Russia should things not go according to plan.
Moscow will liquidate the Belarusian regime and state as soon as its main character clashes with Russian interests.
The West's natural interest is to expand its influence or at least have a stable buffer in the vicinity. However, years of experience have shown time and again that it is not in the West's power to change either Russia or Belarus with pressure from the outside.
Conduct needs to be steadfast, but the hope of achieving something through sanctions or threats is doomed to fail. Whereas the reason to abandon the threats is not Lukashenko running back into Russia's embrace. First of all, he never really left, and secondly, there is no hope of making this country more democratic from the outside and by force.
Efforts to help Belarusians need to continue and a breakthrough will likely happen sooner or later. Our hope must be that this breakthrough will be an evolutionary one and happen alongside a breakthrough in Russia because neither we nor our eastern neighbors need chaos, refugees and a wave of violence. I know it sounds selfish, while such egoism should be a normal part of every independent country's foreign policy.
Of course, it is also the interest of most Estonian politicians to show themselves to be fighting for democracy, but it just makes it that much more depressing to see and hear, knowing that these performances are meant solely for domestic consumption.
Editor: Marcus Turovski