Belarus’ opposition, led by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, is plotting to form an alliance with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to try to hamper any hopes that Russia may have of territorial expansion beyond Ukraine and further into Europe.
The concern is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is eyeing Belarus much like how he’s eyeing Ukraine—and hoping to envelope Belarus into Russia itself, Valery Kavaleuski, a foreign affairs representative for the Belarusian opposition leader, told The Daily Beast.
“Russians are looking at us in the same light as they look at Ukraine,” Kavaleuski said. “‘This is a state that is temporarily dependent. This is the nation that does not deserve to be next to Russia, so they all have to be ‘Russified.’’ This is their basic understanding of how the world should work.”
Concerns have been mounting in European countries that Putin is interested in invading countries beyond just Ukraine for months now. Some fears have grown that Putin is interested in attacking the Baltics, Poland, or even the U.K. and the United States.
And an incursion or takeover in Belarus, in theory, could give Putin easier access to Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
“When you look at the map, you see that these are basically the most important countries on the way from Russia to Western Europe,” Kavaleuski told The Daily Beast. Democratic Belarus and Ukraine should be working closely to resolve the “grave threat to our statehood in both countries,” he said.
It’s not clear if Putin has designs over Belarus in the near term. Belarus’ relationship with Russia is complex—the U.S. State Department assessed early this year that it’s not clear where the power of the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, ends, and where Putin’s power begins. Moscow and Minsk have established what they call a “union state,” in which each year the two countries fuse their banking, military, and other sectors closer and closer together.