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Make Sense of Belarus Interests through Full Support  to Russia for Invasion in Ukraine

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Before the Ukraine-Russia conflict occurred, on November 2021 Belarus had internal problems in which involves the European Union, America and NATO member countries. The problems started since president of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko has served as president for 6 times in a row with a period of 26 years without changing (ICRCENTER, 2020). The European Union and the United States have stopped recognizing Aleksandr Lukashenko as the new president of Belarus. But the refusal was not with Russia even Vladmir Putin agreed to Aleksandr Lukashenko’s constitutional changes. Therefore, Belarus feels that the European Union has threatened its security and interfered with the existence of Belarusian sovereignty.

Thus Belarus responded to the United States and the European Union through emigrants distribution. Belarus political strategy of using emigrants has made the European Union overwhelmed in dealing with the cycle of emigrants at the borders of its member states. This strategy caused the European Union to experience a fairly intensive border crisis and geopolitical threat. Poland and Baltic countries since the re-election of Aleksandr Lukashenko as president have received many refugees from Belarus. In addition, Belarus threatens to cut off gas pipelines to European Union countries that pass through their country.

Belarus political strategy is also through hybrid warfare operations supported by Russia through the emigrant crisis. Belarus and Russia in achieving targets and weakening the enemies of the two countries launched false-flagged military operations to spy on EU countries. Belarus retaliated against European Union political action by providing transportation for Middle Eastern and African emigrants to enter European countries. On July 2021, Belarus relaxed visas and increased state-owned airline flights from the Middle East to allow thousands of potential migrants from Iraq, Syria and other countries to enter Europe via Belarus. Belarusian security forces push emigrants from the Middle East, Africa and others to the borders of Poland, Lithuania and Lithuania and all EU countries. In addition, Belarus provides tools to be able to break through the barrier wire from European Union countries (Bachmann, 2021). The situation is dire with thousands of emigrants caught in the border areas of European Union.

On November 17, 2021, eleven emigrants died in the tents due to extreme weather. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has created a crisis by bringing Middle Eastern emigrants to the Polish-Belarus border with the promise of easy entry into the European Union (Sicca, 2021). The flights of the emigrants were carried out by Belarus by being smuggled through Iraq as a safe flight path to carry the emigrants. A number of these emigrants are in almost all points of entry to the European Union’s borders. Poland, the European Union and NATO have criticized the fact that Belarus is deliberately fueling the crisis by allowing Middle Eastern emigrants to enter Belarus and providing transportation to enter the European Union through its border with Poland (Roth, 2021). The efforts made by Belarus are fully supported by Russia.

Russia and Ukraine Conflict

The increasing Russian attack on Ukraine on Thursday 24 February 2022 is a consequence of Russia concern about the siege of NATO countries. Russia security is increasingly threatened so that Russia will not back down until Ukraine and NATO declare that Ukraine will not join as a member of NATO. According to an analysis based on traditional security theory, the attack is a form of Russia’s show to the world, especially against the United States and other NATO member countries, that Russia will not be controlled if its interests are not listened to by the international community, especially the western bloc countries. On February 26, 2022, Russian president Vladmir Putin delivered in a emphatic “Redrawing Borders, Rewriting History“. The statement underscores the seriousness of the Russian government to invade Ukraine if western countries do not listen to its interests. It is interesting to see further about the political behavior of the Russian military in attacking Ukraine.

According to Mearsheimer (2001) in his book entitled The Tragedy of Great Power Politics mention that countries face an uncertain world so that they can use their power to harm or retaliate against other countries’ attacks. According to Mersheimer, the international system of anarchy makes increasing power rational. The best strategy to ensure the survival of the state is to maximize relative power (Mearsheimer, 2001). Mersheimer confirmed that the efforts made by Russia to counter NATO’s desire to make Ukraine a member state were very appropriate by maximizing strength even with attackers. Russia has long been neglected by western countries, so to maintain its existence and internal security, Russia has carried out an invasion with military attacks as an effort to deal with the reality of international politics that tends to be western.

Another reason the Russian invasion occurred when NATO wanted to make Ukraine a member was that there were fewer and fewer ex-Soviet Union countries that were not members of NATO. In addition, geographically, Ukraine is directly adjacent to Russia, so the security dilemma must have caused Russia to take a stand to maintain its security.

Security Interests of Belarus to support Russia Invasion in Ukraine

Belarus supports Russia which is experiencing a security dilemma due to threats from its political opponents. We know that NATO has been Russia’s opponent since it was the Soviet Union. Thus, it is very rational for Belarus to support Russia because previously Russia supported Belarus in the face of criticism from NATO countries including the United States and the European Union. On February 28, 2022 Belarus held a referendum on a new constitution. One of the constitutional amendments is to eliminate the non-nuclear status in Belarus. This is considered to be aimed at making it easier for the country to receive nuclear weapons from Russia (Muhaimin, 2022). Belarusian President Lukashenko stated that he asked Russia to return nuclear weapons in Belarus if the west (NATO) transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania. The President of Belarus asked President Vladmir Putin to return nuclear weapons and Belarus would help without any conditions (AlJazeera, 2022). Belarus through the Belarusian president’s statement of full support is seen from the great commitment to amending the domestic law amendments to make way for strong military cooperation.

According to Hans.J. Morgenthau in his book “Politics Among Nations The Struggle For Power And Peace” (1978) that realism views the national interest as the context of struggle for power. To achieve the national interest of a country, realism at least offers a way related to the country’s strategy to achieve power, namely the quality of diplomacy. Efforts to amend the constitution by Belarus are aimed at defending the security interests and interests of President Lukashenko to maintain his position as president for the 6th time. The new amendments to Belarus are a form of qaulity of diplomacy towards Russia. Morgenthau claim that: first, diplomacy determines the goals of the state by looking at the forces that occur in the international system and can potentially achieve the goals or national interests of the state. Second, diplomacy assess the goals and strengths of other countries/nations so that they can develop strategies that have the potential to pursue national goals or interests. Third, diplomacy determines the extent to which national goals or interests are compatible. The diplomacy component above will reflect the national interest of a country towards other countries how to behave in dealing with complicated international situations.

Belarus has a vested interest in Russia because it is afraid of NATO countries and the European Union. The only country that supports Belarus in eastern Europe is Russia. Belarus has a security dependence on Russia so it is important for Belarus to fully support Russia in order to maintain its existence. In terms of security and weapons systems Belarus is still supported by Russia. If the prediction of a third world war occurs, Belarus will decide to ask for nuclear weapons from Russia and be willing to become a guard state because Belarus is basically a security fragile state without Russia. Thus the Russian attack on Ukraine was fully supported by Belarus. At the meeting of the United Nations on March 2, 2022 regarding the termination of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Belarus was one of the countries that refused to withdraw Russian troops. It can be concluded that Belarus is afraid of the threat of the European Union countries, the United States and NATO countries and cannot survive without the support by Russia. Belarus is facing threats from Poland and Lithuania because previously it has threatened the security of both countries with threats through the distribution of emigrants.

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Eastern Europe

A Weapon of War: Rapes in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

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Warfare has always involved violent activity. It is the state-sanctioned, societally accepted form of murder determining which nation-state or non-state actor has power over an enemy. Like any area of society, however, warfare is governed by a series of laws and regulations (commonly known as the Law of Land Warfare) being codified in international law in 1899, 1907, and 1929 and by individual nation-states afterward. While these rules are often followed by at least one entity in a military conflict, there usually is a violation of the Law of Land Warfare in any military action.

While every violation is incredibly serious and important, one that often stands out in military conflicts is sexual assault or rape.

While it is one of (if not the) most abhorrent criminal actions known to man, rape has and always will be a commonality in warfare and violent conflicts. It is practically as old as warfare itself. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “… [wartime] rape was long considered an unfortunate but inevitable accompaniment of war—the result of the prolonged sexual deprivation of troops and insufficient military discipline” with the Second World War being a prime example of wartime rape on both sides of the conflict. Until the prevalence of international law in the late 20th century, wartime rape was “mischaracterized and dismissed by military and political leaders—in other words, those in a position to stop it—as a private crime, a sexual act, the ignoble conduct of one occasional soldier, or, worse still, it has been accepted precisely because it is so commonplace”, according to academics writing in Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS Review of International Affairs.

Partly due to an increase in unconventional conflicts involving non-state actors, “the international community began to recognize rape as a weapon and strategy of war, and efforts were made to prosecute such acts under existing international law” including Article 27 of the Geneva Convention and multiple declarations by the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights, the Fourth World Conference on Women, the International Criminal Court, and the UN Security Council. These declarations and codifications further allowed for the protection of men, women, and children in combat zones from rape in addition to making crimes of sexual assault eligible to be considered as crimes against humanity or war crimes.

While international law is clear and the penalties for such actions heavy, nation-states and non-state actors can choose to disregard such laws. This is best exemplified in the current era with the Ukraine-Russia Conflict.

While most persons first heard of the rape of Ukrainians by Russian troops in mid to late April of 2022, roughly two months into the invasion, reports and developments on wartime rape by Russian troops was circulating heavily. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), looking at information received and vetted between the 22nd of February and 26th of March, reported there were “heightened risks of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV)” in addition to “a high number of women and girls [who are feeling Ukraine] face high risk of human trafficking and sexual exploitation”. While these reports were based on secondary sources or “made by alleged witnesses”, it is worth noting that Ukrainian law enforcement and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine all began investigating multiple reports of sexual assault of Ukrainians by Russian troops and that, generally, victims of rape may not report for a variety of reasons.

Other international entities, including Human Rights Watch, the New York Times, and BBC News, all reported further allegations of rape by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, yet these were relatively overshadowed by the news of active combat.

One of the first major outlets to report on this was The Guardian on 4 April 2022 which documented reports from victims and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on rape in Ukraine. Interviewing Kateryna Cherepakha, the president of sexual assault charity La Strada Ukraine, “We have had several calls to our emergency hotline from women and girls seeking assistance, but in most cases it’s been impossible to help them physically. We haven’t been able to reach them because of the fighting … Rape is an underreported crime and stigmatised issue even in peaceful times. I am worried that what we learn about is just going to be the tip of the iceberg”.

Throughout April and into May, rapes in Ukraine were reported on more heavily as victims, Ukrainian officials, and every day Ukrainians were speaking up. This drew the attention of many international entities including the International Criminal Court which launched “a war crimes investigation”, citing the rapes as being a key piece of evidence, and the European Parliament which condemned the use of rape as a weapon. The UN’s special representative on sexual violence in war also received “reports, not yet verified” concerning the sexual assault of men and boys throughout Ukraine stating “It’s hard for women and girls to report [rape] because of stigma amongst other reasons, but it’s often even harder for men and boys to report … we have to create that safe space for all victims to report cases of sexual violence”. The UN as a whole has demanded the allegations “be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability”.

Throughout this military endeavor, Russia has denied allowing the rape of civilians (or any such war crimes) to occur, these denials being bolstered by various American and Western podcasters and questionable news sites. While Russia and other Putin apologists can try to deny such war crimes or illegal violations of the law of land warfare is taking place, others experienced in the field of sexual assault and human rights have contested this. Hugh Williamson with Human Rights Watch (HRW), speaking to CBC Radio, said HRW was “being very cautious … It’s taken us some time to piece it together, to make sure we are absolutely sure it is true and verifiable. We’re not saying this is very widespread, but we worry that it could be”.

While it is still quite difficult to ascertain what exactly is occurring in Ukraine, given the fact that a full on war is being exercised, it is likely to believe that some manner of war crimes, including sexual assault, is occurring. The fact that Russia has historically engaged in misinformation campaigns, knowingly spread false information in regards to the Ukraine crisis, and in the past engaged in war crimes throughout Eastern Europe in the post-Cold War era all indicate strongly that Russia can and will do whatever possible to try and conceal any negative news or obscure any real actions occurring.

Looking at this from a legal perspective, the case for Russian culpability in regards to war crimes and particularly sexual assaults in Ukraine is already being made. With the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in war accurately asserting “Today’s documentation is tomorrow’s prosecution”, proving such crimes will be difficult. Speaking to Dara Kay Cohen, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, NPR reported, “It is very rare to ever have smoking gun evidence that rape was ordered from the top down … There is some degree of accountability, but it is rare. But I think that that does not imply, however, that we shouldn’t be doing our best to collect all of the documentation that we possibly can in order to potentially hold perpetrators accountable”.

Proving or disproving sexual assault in wartime is a difficult task, even more so given the fact that the armed conflict is still occurring. It is without question that there is animosity between the Western world and Russia, which makes there a certain degree of speculation about how prevalent these assaults are. However, at this point, one must look at the facts on the ground.

It is very well documented that multiple Ukrainians are reporting assaults from a wide variety of locations and their stories all follow a similar tone common in military conflicts. The forensic information already collected by independent Ukrainian doctors, prosecutors, and the UN who examine the bodies of those deceased indicates multiple assaults by Russian troops. Intercepted telephone calls from the family of Russian soldiers to the soldiers currently taking part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also indicate a condoning of such illegal and brutal activities.

At this point, it is undeniable that these reports are impossible to ignore with the forensic, eyewitness, technical, and historical evidence all painting a sinister picture of rape in Ukraine.

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Eastern Europe

The Media Fog of War: Propaganda in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

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The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine has once again opened up the old wounds of east vs. west, continuing the long-established tradition of distrust and sometimes even open hatred from these two centers of power. This can be seen across the spectrum of media outlets in the west along with their counterparts in the east, as both sides push forth propaganda and favorable coverage so as to always show their side in a favorable light. With western media outlets, their coverage of the war has been very positive for the Ukrainians while showing the exact opposite when considering Russians. Western media quickly picks up Ukrainian propaganda pieces and repeats them for their audiences at home, who then take to social media to gloat over Russian losses and embarrassments. 

Stories like the “Ghost of Kyiv,” the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island, and others which have later proven to be inaccurate or not based in truth spread like wildfire across media outlets (Thompson, New York Times, Washington Post, etc). Certainly, a story about a Ukrainian fighter pilot shooting down several Russian jets is noteworthy and a country facing assaults from a greater power needs to boost morale every chance it gets. However, the willingness to circulate the Ghost of Kyiv tale across western media outlets displayed a clear bias for the Ukrainian side of the war in the west and, even though many have poked holes in the myth of this mysterious fighter pilot, people still disregard its “fake newsiness.” Thompson pointed out that some users on social media shared a willingness to believe in the propaganda, even knowing that it was made up: “if the Russians believe it, it brings fear. If the Ukrainians believe it, it gives them hope,” remarked one user on Twitter. This set a dangerous precedent as truth became a casualty in the war in favor of people wanting to simply find stories that would support their favored narrative and consequently ignore more accurate reporting.   

Propaganda can be a useful tool for any country fighting to protect itself, but it can also lead to the spreading of falsehoods abroad and even lead some westerners to become inspired to take up arms in a conflict they probably should not get embedded within. Over 20,000 foreign fighters have signed up to fight for Ukraine in an International Brigade after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a call for help. Many of these people have little to no combat experience but were persuaded to fight for Ukraine so that they could be on “the right side of history” or combat injustice in a conflict that has been lauded as a brave underdog battle between the aggressor state Russia – longtime enemy of the west – and the small “noble” nation of Ukraine (Llana, Christian Science Monitor). Propaganda tales amplified by the media are largely responsible for bringing these foreign soldiers into a complex situation that they are not prepared for, ultimately risking an exacerbation of the war rather than a resolution of the conflict.

Stories like these have fortified in the minds of western audiences a strong dislike for Russia, its citizens, and its military. On social media channels, people were quick to put up symbols associated with Ukraine, most commonly, the Ukrainian flag, to show their support for its struggle as many, especially those in America, seemed to instinctively root for any underdog in a war. Support for Ukraine, though, naturally leads to discrimination toward Russians. Disregard for the suffering of Russian soldiers, a willingness to ignore the reasons for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the ostracizing of Russian citizens from the rest of the world – whether physically via travel or economically via sanctions – will have negative repercussions for the international community for years to come. Many celebrate every victory that Ukraine scores against Russia, heedless of the human cost of the war in general. This may very well deepen the divide between east and west before the war ends and force many average Russian citizens into a retributive hatred for those in Europe and North America who treated their country so harshly when they themselves were powerless to stop or prevent the Ukraine-Russia war.  

Russian businesses have also been subject to discrimination in the west. Companies like Starbucks, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Electric and McDonald’s all announced that they were temporarily suspending their operations in Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine (Williams, Fox10 Phoenix). Sanctions laid down on Russia in an effort to stagnate its economy also extend to banks, legislators, and even oligarchs but will leave a much more powerful and profound effect on the general populace. This punishment will trickle down to Russian citizenry who have played no part in the conflict at all but will suffer the most from these economic sanctions, simply because they live in the aggressor country.  

This negativity against Russia and its people already existed prior to the Ukrainian-Russian war, but was reignited by the conflict. Many people in the west find it easy to fall into the camp of attacking the long-standing “enemy” due to the history left behind by the Cold War, by the psychologically-imprinted suspicion of those across the sea who threatened us with nuclear weapons for so long. In places like the U.S., there almost seems to exist a willingness to not hear the other side’s point of view, a refusal to acknowledge the sufferings of very human foes who are not so different from their adversaries. The question of why many Americans would even feel the need to take a position in a conflict that has little bearing on their everyday lives could have more than one answer. The need to cheer on an underdog in a pitched struggle, the old hatred left over by the Cold War, or possibly a need to satisfy the age-old good guy vs. bad guy complex which has been hardwired into many people’s minds through television, movies, literature, and other parts of our pop culture. For many, there exists a need to satisfy one’s own moral superiority, a need to establish good from evil. The recent conflict between Ukraine and Russia has given many the outlet they seek for this vindication.  

The question of whether this treatment of Russia is justified or not lies primarily with an individual’s perception of the country as a belligerent at the international level or a nation trying to clearly define where its sphere of influence begins and ends. Russia invading Ukraine and starting a war rife with human tragedy on both sides was not done simply because Russia as a state is a villain or it gets its kicks by starting wars randomly. A deeper examination of the “whys” surrounding Russia’s invasion is desperately needed, where the proffered reasons are given legitimate analytical consideration. So far, this type of analysis has not been done. Ultimately, why it matters is because reaching into that understanding may help prevent a country like Russia in the future from feeling the need to invade at all.  

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Eastern Europe

When Will the War in Ukraine End?

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Predicting the beginning and the end of a war is always a difficult task.

Many people would think of the usage of models and data, which would most likely refer to data on combat power, staff computing operations etc. A more advanced approach for some would include the super-complex model such as war games. Overall, the use of these methods depends on the target audience. The approach and delivery are different for the media or academia, in which the use of data would be necessary for the audience to understand and verify the forecasted results.

If the target audience is neither the media nor the academia, the use of different approaches would be necessary. The results would be tested on the battlefield rather than relying on statistics in the decision-making circles. A practical example given here is making predictions through information analysis.

The focus of such analysis, is naturally, information. The first important piece of information about when the war in Ukraine will end is to refer to the news from Moscow that it plans to end the war in September 2022. The second piece of important news is that Russia has about 1,200 to 1,300 missiles in its inventory.

Combining these two pieces of information allows us to do a simple analysis. If we calculate the average number of missiles that Russia uses on the Ukrainian battlefield every day, we find that at least 300 missiles are launched in a month by the Russian army. Now we are in the month of May, and after 5 months, Russia’s missile inventory will be exhausted. This means that, by October 2022, the Russian military will have almost no effective weapons to attack Ukraine. By then, of course, or maybe at a sooner date, Russia will have to attempt to end the war.

A question that naturally follows this is, can’t the Russian army use other methods to continue the war?

The answer is no. Because the Russian Air Force has gradually lost its advantage in the Ukrainian sky, if the air force is used to penetrate the battlefield, the losses will be heavy. Hence, the offensive force that Russia can rely on now is only to project missiles from combat aircraft outside the line of sight. Another approach is to use the small but large number of World War II period artillery to bombard indiscriminately, yet the areas assaulted will be ranging from zoos to children’s playgrounds. Therefore, the Russian army seems to have fewer battlefield options than what most people imagine.

Based on some key information, together with an analysis on the information of Russia’s missile inventory, the conclusion is clear. All indications point toward the end of the war in Ukraine from around September to October 2022.

The accuracy of the forecast will be verified as the event unfolds, and this is positivist style of thinking.

For some people, models and data are the only way to forecast the future, rather than simpler methods like information analysis. In this situation, the outcome may be determined with the use of all available data after the war is over. However, we now have a clear and convincing conclusion used to judge the prospects of war.

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