By deploying a combination of foreign policy analysis tools at the system, state and, to a certain extent, individual level this article is undertaking to trace the trajectory and some critical junctions of Belarus’ foreign policy strategy in the 21st century. Special focus is given to the implications of president Alexander Lukashenko’s recent crackdown on domestic opposition for the mechanism of geopolitical balancing between Russia and the West that has been in place for more than a decade.
The world financial and economic crisis has sharpened contradictions between Belarus and Russia and forced Minsk to seek ways for cooperation with Western partners. After the beginning of the normalization of relations with the European Union the Belarusian authorities have intensified its policy of balancing between the East and the West. For Minsk the EU’s role in this arrangement has grown beyond its previous rhetorical importance. Belarus has actively tried to equalize its Eastern and Western policy poles and also to complement them with a new “Southern arc” by boosting relationships with Asian, Latin American, and the Arab states.
Under the conditions of globalization Minsk started to use networking geopolitical technologies to promote cooperation with China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Libya, Syria and other states, which are geographically distant, but whose political and economic interests are in various degrees compatible with those of Belarus. In this way Minsk has attempted to become a political and economic player outside its traditional geopolitical zone and to compensate for the costs of problematic dealings with its neighbors Russia and the EU.
Meanwhile, because of a reluctant and forced adaptation to the external environment Belarus’ foreign policy remains extremely contradictory and despite some correctives it retains many inadequate tenets.
A brutal dispersal by the Belarusian authorities of a peaceful action of pro-democratic forces on the day of presidential elections (December 19, 2010) and the following massive political repressions became a watershed that marked the failure of the regime’s preceding domestic and foreign policies, exposed its obsession with power and destroyed the balancing mechanism for its geopolitical ‘avatars’ designed individually for the East, West and South’.