Crisis as Opportunity

MINSK/BERLIN (Own report) – At Berlin’s insistence, the EU foreign ministers decided, Monday, to temporarily suspend EU sanctions on Belarus, at least for the next four months. Because of the Ukrainian conflict, Minsk is confronting grave economic and foreign policy difficulties. Because of Russia’s economic crisis, Belarusian imports have been drastically reduced and Minsk is forced to seek alternate markets. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is also worried that Russia’s overwhelming power could threaten Belarus’ independence and therefore, is actively intensifying his own foreign policy initiatives. To acquire alternate markets and maintain its independence, Minsk cannot avoid reinforcing its relations to the West. Berlin’s political establishment is closely monitoring these developments. There is an opportunity for “successfully implementing structural changes” in Belarus, as experts declared just before Sunday’s presidential elections. In the hope of weakening Minsk’s ties to Moscow and strengthening its bonds to the western hegemonic sphere, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a plea for suspending the sanctions. Berlin’s political PR is ill at ease with this year’s Nobel Literature Prize laureate, Svetlana Alexievich’s warning to maintain sanctions – in conformity with EU policy until now.

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