The Atlantic

Supporting Protesters Without Undermining Them

For autocratic leaders like Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko, outside sympathy is akin to intervention.
Source: Thierry Monasse / Getty

When Alexander Lukashenko began to face the biggest challenge yet to his 26-year rule of Belarus, he attributed it to only one thing: Western meddling.

“We have managed to take steps to anticipate and thwart a major plan to destabilize Belarus,” the longtime president said in the run-up to last month’s disputed elections. “The masks have been ripped off the puppets we have here and the puppet masters, who are sitting beyond Belarus’s borders.”

Absent from this narrative, of course, are all the other things that could have prompted hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets for seven weeks: the botched handling would kill no one in Belarus; Lukashenko’s assertion that women are for the role of president; the government’s violent crackdowns on peaceful protests and Lukashenko’s to bring in Russian troops to quell them further. (He doesn’t appear to mind foreign involvement so long as he has invited it.)

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