The Eurasian customs union formed by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in 2010—the largest in the world by territory—is becoming very real.
With independent polls indicating that Belarusians neither favor the current government’s course nor see any alternative in the opposition, the status quo must change in favor of the citizens.
The West must look ahead to when President Lukashenka is no longer in office and help the people of Belarus develop its civil society.
As Belarus faces increased isolation and potential economic collapse, it is time for the international community to come together and seek a least bad outcome for the short term, while laying the foundation for long-term positive change.
Promoting democracy in the six post-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe that were designated by the European Union as deserving special attention will require the EU to offer incentives for implementing reforms.
While the EU and the United States enacted strong repercussions for the violent crackdowns following Belarus' December presidential elections, long-term stability will require moving beyond the current political stalemate.
If the West responds to the recent violent crackdown in Belarus by isolating the country's people and cutting off all dialogue with the authorities in Minsk, it misses the chance to empower more forward-looking elements in Belarusian society and within the ruling regime.
The presidential elections in Belarus were marred by serious irregularities in the voting process, which led to violence on the streets of Minsk. The key question at this point is why, despite moderate improvements over previous elections, things went wrong.
Alexander Lukashenko may have won a fourth term as president of Belarus, but he now faces both an opposition capable of mass mobilization and international partners in Europe and Russia that are growing tired of paying to maintain his status quo.
The ideal president and national leader for Belarus would be someone who appeals to the country’s national archetypes and can help form a national identity for Belarusians.