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Sanctions Imposed Against Belarus

  • 13 Aug 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The UK, the US and Canada have issued fresh trade, financial and aviation sanctions on Belarus, in a bid to increase pressure on the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • Europe's longest-serving ruler, President of Belarus (Lukashenko) took office in 1994 amid the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
    • Often described as Europe's "last dictator", he has tried to preserve elements of Soviet communism.
      • He has been in power for 26 years, keeping much of the economy in state hands, and using censorship and police crackdowns against opponents.
    • In 2020, after Lukashenko was announced as the winner in elections, protests broke out in the capital, Minsk which were met with a violent security crackdown.
      • There has been widespread anger against the government over a stagnant economy and doubts about the fairness of the election.
  • Sanctions’ Targets:
    • The idea is to focus on the regime and Lukashenko’s associates as precisely as possible and discourage Western companies from doing business with Belarus.
    • The latest sanctions restrict exports of surveillance and military technology to Belarus.
    • The sanctions partially ban imports of potash fertilizer, petrol and petrol-based products from Belarus.
    • In the cases of the EU, U.K. and Canada, the embargo also restricts financial trade such as buying state debt and insuring or reinsuring state-related entities.
    • The EU and US have sanctioned Belarus’ tobacco industry, which contributes to the lucrative cigarette smuggling trade.
      • More than 90% of cigarettes smuggled into Lithuania came from Belarus in 2019.
    • Western countries also blacklisted some Belarusian citizens.
  • Impacts:
    • Targeting Belarus’ potash sector was a strategic move insofar as the country is the second largest exporter of the fertilizer behind Canada, covering 21% of the world’s potash exports in 2019.
      • But, sanctions cover only 15% of all potash exports to the EU.
    • Also, Russia represents 49.2% of all Belarusian trade and Belarus can export its sanctioned goods across the Russian border for re-export from there.
    • The impact of restrictions on dual-use goods, monitoring and interception goods and technology, and goods used in cigarette manufacturing would be negligible.
  • Opportunity for Russia:
    • Since, Russian President Putin has tense relations with Lukashenko, and the sanctions are an opportunity for Russia to impose its own conditions on Lukashenko’s survival in control of a crumbling state, which Russia has financially supported for decades.
  • Belarus’ Stand:
    • Accused the U.K., US and Canada of ignoring the will of the Belarusian people and employing the "entire arsenal of 'cold war' methods" in pursuit of regime change.

Way Forward

  • The President of Belarus should ensure the formation of a legitimate government that could address the country’s vital problems.
  • He has to reach out to the Opposition and offer talks to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

Source: IE

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