Recent advances by Ukrainian forces on the Kharkiv front spell one barrowful of trouble for Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin.  . Trouble; but not yet terminal, as he still has cards to play. These could be economic, or nuclear. But there is one remaining conventional military option, sitting right on Ukraine’s border, which could still be deployed. It is Belarus and its lifelong dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
On the face of it, this option must look tempting to Putin and his advisers. Lukashenko owes them his position, and thereby a favour. Both share a common hatred of freedom and democracy. Ukrainian forces, heavily committed towards Kherson and the Eastern fronts would be incredibly vulnerable to a stab in the back. Belarussian forces could sweep across the lightly defended plains to be in Kiev in a week. War over.
But think again from the point of view of Lukashenko’s self-interest. Firstly: if he gave the order, how much of his army would obey? He’s not the most popular of men. Secondly: how many Belarussians would risk their lives for Vladimir Putin? And if Putin triumphs, what then? Lukashenko becomes one more provincial governor, just another subordinate in Putin’s power structure. And we all know what happens to them when they displease the Boss, or some more favoured member of the Court takes a fancy to their little fief. The current fashion is to fall out of a window, or a mysterious poisoning (often extended to wives and children). But as Putin treads ever more faithfully in the footsteps of Josef Stalin, how long before it’s a long slow death in Siberia, or a short, agonising one in the Lubyanka?
A victory for Ukraine would leave Belarus largely untouched, ready to integrate at its own pace into structures such as the EU and NATO, if it chose to do so. It would certainly take a generation or so. Meanwhile a general rising tide of prosperity which that victory would bring, will guarantee rising living standards and political stability to all nations in that region. Lukashenko must be an intelligent man, or he could not have lasted so long. Time for him to consider the old maxim:” “be careful what you wish for.”
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