Food crisis, the hypothesis of a “grain corridor” in Belarus. But the opposition: “It’s blackmail”

from Irene Soave

Transporting Ukrainian wheat through Belarus? The Lukashenko regime would grant it only on the condition that sanctions are backtracked. Franak Viacorka, adviser to Svetlana Tikhanovskaja: “The EU does not yield, as it did with migrants”

A “grain corridor” through Belarus, to export stocks blocked by the war. It was discussed at the World Economic Forum; some neighboring governments – for example the Lithuanian one – have already spoken out in favor; the prospect, however, is controversial because it comes with a counterpart. The dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko, an ally of Putin, would ask Europe to lift the sanction on potassium – Belarus is the third largest producer in the world – among the heaviest on the Minsk economy. “A blackmail” for the opposition in exile, whose representatives invite them not to give in. «Europe was strong when Belarus created a migratory crisis with art in November. That crisis ended because Europe showed itself to be strong and united. Don’t be fooled now. ‘ Thus Franak Viacorka, professor at the College d’Europe and member of the Atlantic Council, but above all adviser and right-hand man of the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaja. “We are in favor of humanitarian corridors, and of course the solution of the food crisis. But this blackmail resembles that of Moscow, which has proposed to reopen the port of Odessa in exchange for a review of the sanctions ”.

The food crisis is biting stronger and stronger.
«But the supposed Belarusian wheat corridor would unlock supplies for 10-15% of the requirement, at most. And the cost would be very high. The western front would seem weak and without principles ».

When you propose not to accept a “blackmail” that would help your economy, do the Belarusian citizens impoverished by the sanctions understand you?
“I think they understand very well how much the dictatorship ruins their lives, more than the impact of the sanctions.”

In February, Belarus agreed to host Russian nuclear weapons. Before that, permission for the Russian army to transit the territory. Now, after the meeting in Sochi on May 22, Lukashenko has promised Putin the mobilization of a “people’s militia” and the creation of a new military ground unit near Chernobyl. Does Belarus gain prominence in the war?
“But the dictator and the people are not the same thing. The Belarusians are alongside the Ukrainians. This is demonstrated by the sabotage on the railway network where Russian trains pass since spring. The regime has arrested forty innocent railway employees. There have been 2,100 arrests since February, many of people who disagreed with the war ”.

And Lukashenko?
«He is the servant of two masters: Putin and our people, our soldiers who do not support the war. To Russia he says: Vladimir, I defend you. To us he says: I defend our independence. The “people’s militia” announced it, but it didn’t create it. The change of the constitution decided in February has never been put into practice. In reality, Putin humiliated him ».

“It confronted him with the fait accompli of the invasion. She made him feel like nothing. But then Lukashenko is on a leash. Without Putin the regime collapses ».

Press sources reported plans for a referendum on the “annexation” of Belarus to Russia. Is it plausible?
«Russian TVs talk about it a lot. I think it is a ballon d’essai: see how we react on the one hand, and on the other hand start preparing for a possibility. Then they can play the party game: Putin pretends to want to invade us and Lukashenko to resist. We do have independent observer polls, however, which say that only 4-5% of Belarusians would agree. ”

How credible do you think Moscow’s nuclear threat is?
“A lot, and we’re extremely worried. Everything goes towards this scenario, and Belarus already grants Moscow launch bases for Iskander-type tactical missiles. A preemptive strike on the border between Belarus and Ukraine is far from impossible. The West must repeat its no to nuclear power every day and reject escalation. It is the only way ».