With a frenzy of street protests and clashes with the security forces, Minsk rather than Washington DC became the subject of international intrigue last August, with contested elections that saw much admonition directed towards veteran president Lukashenko by Western powers.
Known for his authoritarian grip in the post-Soviet state, Lukashenko has at least steered the ship well since his ascension in 1994, with an independent foreign policy and reasonably healthy economic vitals that owe a lot to retaining key Soviet institutions, as the rest of the region was economically pillaged in the 1990s. With 80% of the vote going to Lukashenko, and a photogenic although some might say Western-backed runner-up in the form of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya declaring herself the actual winner, the country has become the site of near constant protest.
Since September various governments have recognised a so called ‘Coordination Council’, spearheaded by Tsikhanouskaya as being the state’s legitimate government, with various pro-Western NGOs positioning themselves inside the country, jockeying for regime change.
Among those calling for Lukashenko’s departure from the national stage were the Irish Government, through the medium of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Minister Simon Coveney, currently the resident of Iveagh House.
In a statement regarding the contested results Minister Coveney registered his condemnation:
“This result was not legitimate as evidenced by the intimidation and detentions which took place both before and after the election, and the response of the state authorities to the large-scale and overwhelmingly peaceful protests, which are now taking place across the country. Ireland does not accept the election result as a true reflection of the democratic will of the Belarusian people.”
Rather interestingly, the Department appears to want to match its words with actions, with a commitment to fund anti-Lukashenko groups to the tune of a €50,000 contribution, announced in November for the ‘pro-democracy’ cause.
Following an inquiry with the Department of Foreign Affairs, we can reveal that the funds were directed specifically towards the EU-backed European Endowment for Democracy (EED), destined to be dispersed to so-called pro-democracy media and civil society groups
Known for its work in Syria and Ukraine, the EED as their modus operandi works to promote normally pro-Western media outlets at geopolitical hotspots such as North Africa, the Middle East and in the former-Soviet sphere. In an email statement, the Department confirmed that the funds sent would be earmarked for what it described as being support for “civil society and protecting media freedoms”.
Modeled as the EU response to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), notorious for its CIA connections and functioning as an American prop for regime change, the EED specialises in supporting media and civic society ventures with an emphasis on journalistic ventures. From LGBT rights in Albania to promoting the cause of anti-Assad voices in Syria, it plays a key role in the blocs foreign policy arsenal, seen by many as specifically aimed at Russia.
Founded in 2013 it has since been partially banned in Russia due to accusations of it being a Western proxy. With a budget in the region of €25 million per annum, it is directly subordinate to the European Union, with senior Eurocrats sitting on its executive board.
Part of a wider series of sanctions against the embattled Eastern European autocracy in December, the European Commission signed off on a total of €24 million worth of aid to pro-Western groups aiming to overthrow the current regime.
Further to this, the idea of sanctions has been mulled over, with plans to put strategic bans on Belarussian goods and to end all cooperation between the Belarussian government and the World Bank and IMF.
In short the knives are out for Lukashenko, whatever one thinks of his leadership style and the validity of the recent elections. At its core, the EED is an instrument for regime change and to fly the flag on the EU’s geopolitical interests under the banner of human rights jargon.
Regarding Ireland’s role in the cynical attempts at regime change, similar to any efforts at a common European foreign policy, one wonders if Irish interests are really represented in this move. What does Ireland stand to gain from a colour revolution in Belarus except another liberal democracy under the thumb of Brussels where cheap labour can be exported from?
The implosion of the Soviet bloc only freed up millions of cheap workers to stream into Western Europe, with similar effects being witnessed in the form of Ukrainian economic migrants following the 2014 colour revolution.
On a basic level, what moral right does Ireland have to interfere in a foreign nation and their internal electoral dynamics? While our current regime in the Republic lambasted pro-democracy protests in Washington DC, it actively funds their ilk in Minsk through the medium of third party groups like the EED. Imagine the reactions should Russia or even right-wing American evangelicals decide to cut cheques for right-wing groups in Ireland as a way to advance their own national interests.
While the money sent by Ireland is likely destined for anti-Lukashenko media outlets, there is a history in recent times of civic society groups allocating funds to politically undesirable organisations.
Ultimately, Ireland has no geopolitical dog in the current fight from Western powers trying to topple the Lukashenko regime, however one should be mindful of the trail of destruction, from Belgrade to Damascus, that is left in the wake of these cynical and confected colour revolutions.
The year 2020 was a rather prodigious one for Western-backed people power, with agitation emerging not just in Belarus but in Hong Kong, Venezuela, and more recently Poland, all being manufactured and directed by organisations only with a degree of separation from Western intelligence agencies. As the Biden regime enters power, one can expect such colour revolutions merely to increase in frequency, as a wary American empire attempts to keep the wolf from the door at the geopolitical fringe.
Regardless, it is in Ireland’s interests to keep away from these vortices and to be conscious that these tactics are deployed towards any nation that seeks to break ranks on the liberal order.