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EU's response to Lukashenko's blackmail is effective, experts say

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Two experts on Russian and European affairs from Northwestern University are available to speak with media on the recent Belarus-Poland migrant crisis. They argue that the spat illustrates the power of smart sanctions to correct the behavior of belligerent states.

Olga Kamenchuk is a co-principal investigator on the Comparative National Elections Project for Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian electoral studies. Prior to joining Northwestern, she was co-director of the Eurasian Security & Governance Program at the Ohio State University Mershon Center for International Security Studies and associate professor (clinical) in the OSU School of Communication. Before joining OSU, Kamenchuk worked as a director of international research and communications for the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), the largest research and polling organization in the former Soviet Union region.

Quote from Professor Kamenchuk
“Sanctions are often criticized, as they may have costs to both sides, and not all sanctions are effective. Not only does this case demonstrate that sanctions work, it exposes the sensitive targets and the necessary course of action.

“Russian state-owned airline monopolist Aeroflot is a very sensitive target. Potential sanctions against Aeroflot for its role in the mass transportation of Middle Eastern migrants to the E.U.’s eastern borders would create an Iron Curtain 2.0. — something that almost no decision-makers and opinion leaders inside Russia would be ok with. 

“Lukashenko’s threats to cut off oil and gas supplies in the end were a bluff. Doing so would have backfired, not only for Belarus, in lost transit revenue, but also for Lukashenko’s only ally, Russia, which relies on the Yamal-Europe pipeline to move the oil and gas it sells to the E.U. In addition, it would help Ukraine with its gas transit question.

“Joint actions work. Unified actions of Europe against Lukashenko’s blackmail are effective. Thus, one should be mindful about picking sensitive targets for sanctions, split the attempts of the authoritarian unions, put pressure domestically, dismiss bluffs and act together. These are the main lessons of the crisis we should learn.”

Ian Kelly is a retired senior foreign service officer who most recently served as the U.S. ambassador to Georgia from 2015 to 2018. Previously he served as the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) from 2010 to 2013. Prior to these ambassadorships, Kelly held a variety of high-level positions at the U.S. State Department, including serving as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson (2009-2010). He has extensive experience working on issues relating to NATO, Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans.

Quote from Ambassador Kelly
"Belarus' recent decision to stop transporting Middle Eastern migrants from Turkey shows that the threat of sanctions against the regime works. U.S. and E.U. must stand together against Belarusian and Russian actions designed to destabilize Ukraine and NATO members in the region."