After protracted domestic unrest in 2020 in the form of massive protests attempting to oust Belarus’ president Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the country’s government is teetering on the verge of collapse. Moscow has rushed in to fill the vacuum. Lukashenka has suddenly fallen in line with Moscow’s agenda, despite years of resistance to encroaching Russian economic influence. Now it is probable that Russia is facilitating a soft takeover of the former Soviet republic. Moscow’s twenty-first-century ambitions to expand its sphere of influence were first tested in 2008 with the invasion of Georgia and then again with the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Since then, Russia has moved into the Donbas region of East Ukraine, where skirmishes between Russian-backed separatist militias and Ukrainian forces have been ongoing. The international community has come to expect an exercise of hard power from Russia. This time, Russia’s strategy is much subtler than in previous iterations of expansionist acts. I have written more on this topic here.
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