In 1994, Lukashenko was elected president of Belarus, repression intensified and he subsequently had the constitution amended so that there is no longer a limit on the number of terms of office of a president. Former US President George W. Bush once described Belarus as “the last dictatorship in Europe”.
Lukashenko usually got on well with Russian President Vladimir Putin with whom he shares his style of government and Soviet woes, but in recent years there has been a hair in the butter, especially when Moscow withdrew cheaper tariffs for oil and gas supplies to Belarus . At home, Lukashenko’s popularity is crumbling due to the economic downturn and his lack of response to the corona crisis. Lukashenko refused to allow lockdowns because, according to him, “panic is much worse than the virus”.
Belarus may not be a large country, but it is strategically very important to Russia, as you can see at the bottom of the map. Belarus is wedged between the EU and NATO member states in the Baltic states and Poland and in Ukraine, which has been on the European line since the 2014 Maidan revolution. If Russian influence were to decrease there, Moscow’s power would shrink even further after the loss of Eastern and Central Europe in 1989, the Baltic in 1991 and Ukraine in 2014. Moreover, the distance to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. Belarus is also a hub of important pipelines for Russian natural gas and oil exports. Belarus is economically very dependent on Russia.