Russia will be reluctant to insert itself in the unfolding political crisis in Belarus without certainty over the survivability of President Alexander Lukashenko's regime. But Moscow has critical geostrategic interests in maintaining influence over Minsk, which it will act to fiercely defend should a decidedly pro-Western government begin taking shape amid the chaos. Following an Aug. 16 phone call with Russian President Vladamir Putin, Lukashenko has attempted to flaunt Moscow's alleged support for his regime, citing Putin's affirmed commitment to the two countries' defense treaties as proof. In reality, however, the Kremlin has been extremely measured in its response to the opposition protests that have erupted across Belarus following the country's contested Aug. 9 presidential election. Moscow has limited its public interactions with Lukashenko's government to only essential diplomatic exchanges. Several Russian officials and journalists have even criticized the Belarusian authorities' behavior during the elections and subsequent crackdown on the...
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