Or perhaps a policy is more of a visionary and nuanced course of action mediated by policymakers’ homework on the country in question (its history, internal divisions and polling) and their arrival at a certain compromise between values and interests? It does not seem that this second option is even considered. Consequently, Western politicians appear to be chasing their own tails. Everything possible is being done to convert Belarus into an extension of Russia only to express an outrage over this specific outcome.
A similar situation exists in multi-track diplomacy between the West and Belarus. On the one hand, despite vastly diminished and leaderless embassy staffs, Belarus still maintains diplomatic relations with all Western countries. Only in the US case, the relationship is asymmetric, exclusively because of the American side. Belarusian diplomats stay in Washington, while Americans have abandoned their embassy in Minsk and stay in Vilnius.
On the other hand, the provisional cabinet headed by Tikhanovskaya tries its best to hog the covers. A Radio Liberty article
on her cabinet’s relations with the West maintains, quite seriously, that “Western leaders now resolve Belarusian issues” almost exclusively with Tikhanovskaya’s cabinet, whereas contacts with official Belarusian diplomats are “devoid of depth” and are more “thematical than political,” whatever that means. One analyst even suggested
that Lukashenko “would love to be in Tikhanovskaya’s place” because she has met with so many Western leaders, whereas Lukashenko is shunned by them.
Considering, however, that Tikhanovskaya has no way of affecting anything in Belarus, the latter remark is bizarre. Tikhanovskaya’s meetings with Western leaders are replete in symbolism (“we support democracy”) but offer nothing in terms of practicality. In the meantime, Western journalists keep on soliciting interviews with Lukashenko to make up for the deficiency of contacts that really matter.
But even on formal grounds, the claim that it is Tikhanovskaya’s government that matters, while Lukashenka’s is “devoid of depth” is invalid. As Pavel Matsukevich, a former charge d’affaires of Belarus in Switzerland, now an opposition analyst, showed
, since Lukashenko’s post-election inauguration in October 2020, 54 ambassadors have already presented their credentials to him, representing all continents but Australia. This repudiates the idea of the regime’s isolation, an idea that continues to be promoted, nonetheless.
The Belarusian diplomacy is also setting up new routes
for goods to be shipped to faraway countries, in particular using the International North-South Transport Corridor, involving Iran. This brings Minsk closer to solving the trade issues with the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America that arose after Belarus lost access to the ports of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in the Baltic and Ukraine in the Black Sea. Belarus has just been accepted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, applied for membership in BRICS, and established trading ties with many African countries.
Above all, however, it is Russia that has been absorbing more Belarusian export products. In 2022, Belarusian exports to Russia
exceeded those of previous year by whopping 40%, which compensated for half of the losses incurred due to access to Western markets being cut off. Minsk is making efforts to offset the rest through its trade with other countries.
In late May, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik visited Pakistan. At the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement’s Coordinating Bureau in Baku in early July, Aleinik held meetings
with deputy heads of the foreign ministries of Azerbaijan, Uganda, Qatar, Turkey, Iran, India, Algeria, Kuwait, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. This shows that