The Baltics: should Britain be rushing to their defence?

I'll be there. The first three panelists should be solid, but I wonder what an LSE professor's take on it all will be.

At least we won't (shouldn't) be hearing the Putin version à la National Interest a couple of days ago.
I wasn’t able to participate in the above. Were any exceptionally noteworthy items discussed?
 

Zhopa

War Hero
I wasn’t able to participate in the above. Were any exceptionally noteworthy items discussed?
Sadly not a great deal if you were already familiar with the history. Charles Clarke was interesting and impressive (and apparently had an Estonian mother-in-law, hence more interest in the subject than you might have expected). The most interesting nugget I hadn't previously heard was Kaja Tael explaining how the first indication that the Sovs were about to invade was the rapid departure of many Baltic Germans, tipped off and leaving by arrangement between the Soviet and German MFAs.

Patrick Salmon, chief historian at FCO but speaking privately, was quietly but viciously scathing about British ambivalence and failure to get involved in the region after Baltic independence (the first time round), while recognising that in practical terms the UK was unable to do much to constrain Germany or the USSR by comparison with previous centuries when power projection into the Baltic had been the default state for the Royal Navy.

There was the inevitable audience questioning (in text form only, so can't tell if it came with a Russian accent) about "Nazi collaboration", the Balts being fascists, etc. Which, disappointingly, the panelists engaged with seriously and politely and tried hard to answer the questions as though they were genuine.

Overall, then, it was a little underwhelming - but would certainly have been helpful to the target audience, i.e. folks who didn't know what was going on at the other end of Europe while we were preoccupied with the fall of France.
 
Sadly not a great deal if you were already familiar with the history. Charles Clarke was interesting and impressive (and apparently had an Estonian mother-in-law, hence more interest in the subject than you might have expected). The most interesting nugget I hadn't previously heard was Kaja Tael explaining how the first indication that the Sovs were about to invade was the rapid departure of many Baltic Germans, tipped off and leaving by arrangement between the Soviet and German MFAs.

Patrick Salmon, chief historian at FCO but speaking privately, was quietly but viciously scathing about British ambivalence and failure to get involved in the region after Baltic independence (the first time round), while recognising that in practical terms the UK was unable to do much to constrain Germany or the USSR by comparison with previous centuries when power projection into the Baltic had been the default state for the Royal Navy.

There was the inevitable audience questioning (in text form only, so can't tell if it came with a Russian accent) about "Nazi collaboration", the Balts being fascists, etc. Which, disappointingly, the panelists engaged with seriously and politely and tried hard to answer the questions as though they were genuine.

Overall, then, it was a little underwhelming - but would certainly have been helpful to the target audience, i.e. folks who didn't know what was going on at the other end of Europe while we were preoccupied with the fall of France.
@Zhopa - Thank-you for your time and your consideration in answering in such detail. Much appreciated.

I bolded part of your answer above, because such an item is only the tip of the iceberg when looking at all of the documented collaboration and mutual assistance between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia concerning their partition of east-central Europe in the period between August 1939 and June 1941. Apart from a brief interlude in the nineties, Moscow has assiduously taken every measure to deny such collaboration and refuse access to its historical archives on this issue. They much prefer presenting themselves as innocent victims of Nazi aggression in 1941 rather than collaborators in it (for their own aims and ambitions) in 1939-41.
 
I particularly liked the highly objective and realist appraisal of the Belarusian sense of nationhood given in this paper: Split Identity and a Tug-of-War for Belarus’s Memory - Jamestown

Part of my Polish ancestry comes from what is now Belarus having lived in the Nowogrodek-Nieswiez-Baranowicze area for centuries (the other part from the Warsaw area); I was told that the Belarusian peasants in the surrounding villages tended to refer to themselves as "tutejsi" i.e. "locals" ("tu" or "tutaj", phonetically: "tootay" in Polish and "tyt" in Belorussian means "here" and "tutejsi" means "people from here").

Since the Mongol conquest and destruction of the principalities of the East Slavs (i.e. Russians and Ruthenians) the national history of the part of the Ruthenians that later became Belarussians became inextricably linked with Lithuania and Poland. It is interesting to note that the great romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz (who wrote in Polish) is claimed as a national bard by all three of these nations. He was born right in the middle of the above mentioned Nowogrodek-Nieswiez-Baranowicze area.

However the partitions of the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania led to Tsarist Russian control and a Russification of the Belarussians, especially after the uprisings of 1830 and 1863 against the Muscovites which were brutally suppressed. This process was generally continued by the Soviets, despite a brief flirtation with the promotion of Belarussian (and Ukrainian) national differences in the 1920's. At the same time the small social class of Belarussians which could have built and elaborated a sense of nationhood, was whittled away by the viccissitudes of dealing with occupation by Moscow and more briefly Berlin.
 
Sadly not a great deal if you were already familiar with the history. Charles Clarke was interesting and impressive (and apparently had an Estonian mother-in-law, hence more interest in the subject than you might have expected).
A great pity that he didn't display those qualities when he was Home Secretary...
 
Any actions that are rash, uncoordinated and not thought through, are more likely to make the situation worse. If Moscow thinks there is a possibility of Minsk distancing itself, it will act. And this action is likely to be stronger than that undertaken in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
 
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Helping the official (and unofficial) opposition in Belarus is not a great idea. The mess following clumsy intervention in Ukraine has made it impossible for that country to be an economic entity and improve itself, so why repeat those mistakes?
Better to leave the people under a dictatorship and file the problem under 'too difficult'?
 
Better to leave the people under a dictatorship and file the problem under 'too difficult'?
The cuddly dictator will die soon and the people seem to be heading in the direction of improvement themselves. Having a country gradually becoming democratic is surely better than a wrecked, failed state after Russia run their own insurrection. However, if one follows the russian-style zero-sum mindset and decide that a 'lose' for the russian sphere of influence equals a win for 'us', then of course we should intervene as much as possible -- but from the point of view of the Byelorussians that will probably have a worse outcome.
 
Any actions that are rash, uncoordinated and not thought through, are more likely to make the situation worse. If Moscow thinks there is a possibility of Minsk distancing itself, it will act. And this action is likely to be stronger than that undertaken in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
The Belarus economy is heavily dependent upon Russia. In particular, one of the pillars of their economy is taking oil from Russia at below market cost, refining it or turning it into chemicals, and re-exporting it. Without close and friendly relations with Russia, those massive Russian subsidies will end.

Their economy in general is also one of the least reformed since Soviet days and is not capable of taking up the slack should the oil processing sector collapse.

Russia being Belarus's economic lifeline is one of the biggest factors which has kept them tied to Russia over the past few decades.

Sticking our sticky fingers into Belarus would mean opening our chequebooks and subsidising them for decades to come. I'm not sure the UK really have the spare change to do that at the moment, and the EU don't seem all that interested in taking on another burden at the same time as losing their revenue from the UK. The Americans would no doubt be delighted to see Belarus taken over by the West, but their plan would involve the bill being handed to "Europe" rather than themselves.
 
The cuddly dictator will die soon and the people seem to be heading in the direction of improvement themselves.
I'd be happy to support them moving in that direction, which is the main thrust of the DW article.
 
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's desire to stay in power at all costs after the 9 August presidential election threatens to plunge Belarus into political and economic chaos and potentially escalate opposition protests, a Latvian paper has said. It argued that public dissatisfaction with Lukashenka has reached a critical level, while the president has virtually found himself in international isolation. In Moscow, there is also a prevalent view that Russia may no longer need an ally that seems to be constantly trying to avoid further integration, the editorial concluded. The following is the text of Andis Sedlenieks's article, entitled "Lukashenka will not voluntarily give up power" and published by the centrist Diena daily on 26 June
 
So, it is now likely that in the corridors of power in the Kremlin alternative intervention scenarios are being debated. In the Muscovite Mindset and the "zero-sum" game that it plays, there is the growing likelihood of a potential for Minsk to demonstrate a wilingness to adopt an orientation further away from it's current deteriorating orbit around Moscow's black hole. Therefore drastic measures are possibly in the offing.

The question is, what is the West going to do that will be effective in either trying to dissuade this line of action or to counter it when it happens. The answer is probably "Bugger All." And that for a variety of reasons. There appears to be very limited scope for effective action.
 
So, it is now likely that in the corridors of power in the Kremlin alternative intervention scenarios are being debated. In the Muscovite Mindset and the "zero-sum" game that it plays, there is the growing likelihood of a potential for Minsk to demonstrate a wilingness to adopt an orientation further away from it's current deteriorating orbit around Moscow's black hole. Therefore drastic measures are possibly in the offing.

The question is, what is the West going to do that will be effective in either trying to dissuade this line of action or to counter it when it happens. The answer is probably "Bugger All." And that for a variety of reasons. There appears to be very limited scope for effective action.
It's almost like they have given it some thought: Five Things to Know About the Zapad-2017 Military Exercise
 
So, it is now likely that in the corridors of power in the Kremlin alternative intervention scenarios are being debated. In the Muscovite Mindset and the "zero-sum" game that it plays, there is the growing likelihood of a potential for Minsk to demonstrate a wilingness to adopt an orientation further away from it's current deteriorating orbit around Moscow's black hole. Therefore drastic measures are possibly in the offing.

The question is, what is the West going to do that will be effective in either trying to dissuade this line of action or to counter it when it happens. The answer is probably "Bugger All." And that for a variety of reasons. There appears to be very limited scope for effective action.
Unlike Ukraine, I'm not aware of a large Belarussian diaspora who can lobby Western governments to get involved. I suspect that the majority of Western citizens would struggle to tell you where Belarus even was.
 
From Estonia: Belarus, Summer 2020

President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for 26 years and wants to stay in power. He has been called the last dictator in Europe and is not ready to pass this title to Vladimir Putin—although, after introducing the latest amendments to the Russian Constitution, all the “requirements” have been met for the Russian leader too.
 

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