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One big Question hangs in the air, as #Belarus crisis deepens, #Lukashenko loses his 26-year-old grip on power. How will Russia respond? I’ve followed Russia’s relations with its post-Soviet neighbours for 25 years. A THREAD on how Russia has no good options. 1/7
Putin--contrary to conventional wisdom--hesitates to intervene in "Near Abroad" crises. @MarkGaleotti calls him "cautious and risk-averse. He is only happy to play the maverick when he thinks he can predict the outcome.”… 2/7
In 2010 the Kremlin stood by and saw Kyrgyzstan’s Bakiev ousted (he took refuge in Minsk). The same in 2018 with Armenia's Serzh Sargsyan. Belarus protests much more resemble Yerevan in 2018 than Maidan. No EU slogans, only the national flag.… 3/7
Now keep in mind Kremlin values Belarus but not Luka as such. In 2010 they tried to remove him. He's always played his own game, eg befriending Russia’s bête noire, Saakashvili, after refusing to recognize Abkhazia and S Ossetia as independent.… 4/7
So if Moscow could see a figure in Belarus opposition they could work with they would probably let Luka go. Opposition campaigned on economy not geopolitics. They basically promised same anti-elite policies Lukashenko came to power with in 1994.… 5/7
Belarus may be different and harder for Moscow to ignore. But Putin's preferred option is surely to control a political transition. And yet Russians are bad at this... In 2003 in Georgia Moscow envoy Igor Ivanov tried to engineer just such an outcome of Rose Revolution. 6/7
Ivanov's plan was that Shevardnadze would resign but stay on long enough for Moscow to influence new election and get new leader it liked. But Shevardnadze chose to go immediately. Ivanov failed. ENDS 7/7…
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