Toomas Hendrik Ilves: The Future of Liberal Democracy in the Digital Age
Toomas Hendrik Ilves: overthrow of Lukashenka is possible only by internal forces
The Lukashenka regime can only fall as a result of internal events, and the EU must more resolutely resist the Kremlin’s aggression, the former President of Estonia believes.
Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves does not rule out that the blocking of EU sanctions on Lukashenka’s regime by Cyprus may be behind not only the latter’s demand for sanctioning Turkey, but also Russian influence on the island state..
In an interview with the Russian Service Voice of America, the Estonian ex-president also notes that Russia is unlikely to refuse to support Alexander Lukashenko, and only the Belarusian society itself can achieve democratic changes in Belarus.
“The main problem with the EU’s response is the requirement to achieve unanimous agreement on a common foreign and security policy. And now it is being blocked by Cyprus, ostensibly to force the EU to deal with what they call the Turkish invasion of their economic zone. I would say that most EU countries do not see this as equivalent to a serious problem, but Cyprus has not changed its position. Some people suggest that due to the significant role in money laundering and the Russian presence in Cyprus in general, there is another aspect to this (the position of Cyprus), ”says Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
“But we don’t know about this part,” he adds..
The lack of concrete measures on the part of the United States against the Lukashenka regime to date also remains unclear, President Ilves notes: “Why the United States is not doing anything is also a mystery to me. But then again, we have not seen human rights as the focus of US foreign policy for quite a few years now. “.
George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs of the US Department of State, noted last week that the US is in close contact with the EU, UK and Canada on the issue of sanctions and may impose them this week. On Monday, however, it became known that the EU did not reach a unanimous position on sanctions due to the position of Cyprus, which notes that it does not object to sanctions on Minsk, but believes that the EU should also impose sanctions on Ankara, which is exploring the field. gas and oil in the disputed waters of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The issue of sanctions in the EU is new to be considered next week. The United States has yet to expand its 2006 sanctions list, which now includes 16 people, including Alexander Lukshenko..
On Wednesday morning, September 23, the secret inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko, which was not recognized by either the US or the EU, President Ilves calls “ridiculous.” “What better characterizes autocracy than the inauguration of oneself? This is absurd, “he says, stressing that even 700 invited people did not know about the ceremony in advance..
“Most countries no longer recognize him as the legitimate president. In our eyes, he is a petty despot, “adds the former President of Estonia..
Nevertheless, Ilves notes, it will be difficult to achieve democratic changes in the country until the security apparatus abandons its support for the Lukashenka regime. Following orders, the security forces – OMON, police and military – become accomplices of the regime, and fears that, in the end, they could potentially be prosecuted for beating and torturing people, forces them to remain on the side of the authorities. Lukashenka’s regime will fall when the security apparatus in the country refuses to obey his orders, as they refused to obey the orders of the State Emergency Committee – the military in August 1991 in Moscow to shoot civilians, says Ilves..
Today the Baltic states and Poland take the toughest stance against the Lukashenka regime. Three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were the first among the EU countries to impose sanctions against 29 Belarusian officials, including Alexander Lukashenko. The sanctions imposed on August 31 by the Baltic countries provide for a ban on the entry of persons under the sanctions into these countries. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has repeatedly called for a tough EU response to the actions of the Belarusian authorities. Lithuania also received the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was forced to leave Belarus under pressure from the authorities..
“Countries neighboring or close to Belarus are much more painful when they see everything that is happening near our borders,” the former President of Estonia notes. – For 24 years, I have always found Lukashenka’s autocratic regime terrible. Therefore, we see and feel all this more, and, therefore, we need a more principled and tough position than in some countries for which Belarus is a distant problem ”.
Toomas Ilves believes that Alexander Lukashenko should also be included in the potential EU sanctions list. He does not agree with the position that a tougher position in relation to the Lukashenka regime on the part of Western countries may further push the latter towards Russia. Alyaksandr Lukashenka is no longer the head of state and cannot be the object of some kind of privileged treatment, Ilves says. “And there is no such thing as pushing Lukashenka toward Moscow. He is not some kind of independent figure. “.
As for Russia’s support for the Lukashenka regime, the former Estonian president does not believe that Western countries can influence the Kremlin to change its position: “Moscow at the moment, at least given its own self-esteem and excessive sense of importance in the world, will not allow anyone to “press” on her “.
“Therefore, I think that if the situation in Belarus is resolved, it will come from inside Belarus – if those who have a monopoly on violence decide that they no longer want to do this,” concludes the former President of Estonia.
The poisoning of Alexei Navalny
“The Russian authorities are doing everything to keep Alexei Navalny outside Russia,” says President Ilves regarding the decision of the Russian bailiffs to arrest the oppositionist’s Moscow apartment and his accounts over a lawsuit filed by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin..
According to press secretary Alexei Navalny, the arrest was imposed on August 27 at the suit of the Moscow Schoolboy, owned by Prigozhin. As part of the same lawsuit, the accounts of the Anti-Corruption Fund and the head of the Navalny LIVE YouTube channel Lyubov Sobol were previously arrested. The lawsuit is related to the investigation of the fund in 2018 against the company “Moscow Schoolboy”, due to the supply of poor-quality food, an outbreak of dysentery occurred in Moscow schools and kindergartens.
The poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the former President of Estonia notes, is on a par with other attacks on Russian dissidents, including in the EU. Ilves recalls the poisoning by Novichok of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Great Britain and businessman Yemelyan Gebrev in Bulgaria, as well as the murder of Georgian citizen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Chechen in Berlin.
“We are dealing with a broader problem – not only Navalny, but also the readiness to commit murders and extrajudicial executions in the territory of the European Union,” says Toomas Ilves. – And the EU did not show much determination to do something about it. After the poisoning of the Skripals, a group of diplomats were indeed expelled, but they were quickly replaced with no real further consequences. I think that the EU should take a much more serious position in relation to crimes committed at the direction of the Russian state in the EU. “.
Several countries called on Germany to halt the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. This call is supported by the United States as well. However, the former Estonian leader considers it unlikely that Germany will change its position..
Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics