Russia is very much present in Belarus. Talking if only about law enforcement, army, police and security organs, most of their leaders have studied at Russian military or police schools. There is also the formal Union State of Russia and Belarus, MEP Urmas Paet writes.
The situation in Belarus has not developed as quickly as many people thought it would a week or two ago. Aleksandr Lukashenko is still in power and people who would like to see a free Belarus, a free society are still in the streets.
But all of it needs to be put in context. And part of that context is that looking at six EU Eastern Partnership countries, five of them have either frozen or live conflicts facilitated by Russia.
The only one of the six that does not have such a conflict is Belarus. However, such developments cannot be ruled out should certain events escalate. As is evident in all five countries that have such conflicts, the most recent of which is Ukraine, it is a great nuisance and disturbance. In terms of countries approaching Europe, social change etc.
The economy of Belarus is also closely tied to Russia, meaning that quick reorganization is not realistic here either. Such attempts would also be met with strong resistance.
That said, many European politicians who have said that Russia is maintaining a neutral stance on events in Belarus need to be reminded that is not really the case.
Russia is very much present in Belarus. Talking if only about law enforcement, the army, police and security organs, most of their leaders have studied at Russian military or police schools. We can add to that daily cooperation with corresponding Russian structures that has always been and remains very much alive.
There is also the formal Union State of Russia and Belarus. This format has also seen very close cooperation between the two countries. These are important parts of the context in Belarus.
It is all the clearer that real change, movement toward a free society and even new presidential elections cannot come about without the Belarusians remaining strong and persistent enough in their demands and maintaining the momentum built over the past weeks.
The regime is making it increasingly difficult by arresting opposition leaders, firing people who have participated in protests etc. With all of this in mind, the key to what comes next lies with the people of Belarus and the country's civil society.
The question now is what Europe or the European Union can do in this situation.
The first thing is not to be naive in terms of Russia's role. Secondly, not to allow Lukashenko to manipulate Europe as he has done for the past 20 years and instead remain steadfast and principled in terms of demands. Finally, we need to answer the question of the practical meaning of the position that Lukashenko is no longer the legitimate head of Belarus.
How will communication with the Belarus government and state structures happen in a situation where the country is under Lukashenko's de facto control? This question also remains unanswered.
There are many details in which Europe and Estonia can support Belarus' civil society. However, the key to the situation is in the hands of Belarusians, their persistence and tactics of how to take the country toward a free society from here.
Editor: Marcus Turovski