Belarus’s participation in Russia’s aggression, along with the mass violations of human rights within the country, have uprooted the foundations of Belarus’s foreign policy. Whereas the Lukashenka regime was once able to pivot tactically in its international relations to ensure its own survival, in 2020–2022 it completely changed course.
Despite its geographical position, Belarus is losing its status as a transit country, and there is less and less demand for its logistical infrastructure. The EU has decided against financing infrastructure projects
that connect it with Belarus (and Russia).
Meanwhile, China is opening alterative routs for delivering its goods to Europe that bypass Belarus. The transit of Chinese goods to the EU by rail through the country decreased by 25.7%
in the first half of 2022. Transit in the opposite direction (from Europe) decreased by 35%.
An important factor that limits Belarus’s economic opportunities is its loss of access to transit
through the Baltic countries and Ukraine. Enterprises must now rely on Russian ports and rail, which leaves Belarus less room to manoeuvre vis-à-vis Russia and significantly increases transportation costs.
Given this loss of geographic advantages, the official government’s ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy—which it claims to adhere to
even now—is no longer feasible, as Belarus is now on hostile terms with four out of its five neighbors. A country that once claimed to be a ‘donor of regional security’ is now perceived as a threat.
Belarus’s economic model of taking advantage of resources from Russia and the West simultaneously is in shambles. In place of precious Western technologies, loans, and investments, it now has sanctions, which limits its potential to export to third countries.
The most economically active strata of Belarusian society has largely been forced to leave the county, and the longer Belarus remains in its current state, the higher the chances that those who left between 2020 and 2022 will not return. In practice, this translates to a loss of several hundred thousand people
, often highly qualified specialists who are plugged into the international market and invested in a version of Belarus that is open to the world.
The state of external confrontation Belarus is involved in is widely unpopular. Regardless of the reason—be it pragmatism, naiveté, friendliness, indifference, or something else—the fact remains that the majority of Belarusians don’t see themselves as a warlike people who hate some other country. And no single geopolitical choice dominates public opinion in Belarusian society anyway.