In domestic politics, against the background of the November 2019 parliamentary elections and the August 2020 presidential campaign, economic and political reforms were blocked by the leadership and the security apparatus. In foreign policy, by the end of 2019, it became clear that Belarus’s balancing act between the West, China, and Russia had exhausted its potential.

In 2020, the authorities faced the COVID-19 pandemic, a deteriorating socioeconomic situation, and mass protests following the skewed presidential elections. The rigid vertical organization of state power, which has been built up in Belarus over the past 20 years, clearly demonstrated its ineffectiveness during the crises.

As a result of strategic miscalculations related to the almost complete neglect of the COVID-19 pandemic and during the 2020 presidential elections campaign, which included the unprecedented use of state violence against peaceful protests, Belarus was confronted at the beginning of 2021 with the most dramatic political crisis in its history, an economic recession, a failing foreign policy, and a human rights catastrophe. This led to international isolation, repeated sanctions imposed by the West, and the country’s increased vulnerability to Russian interference in domestic affairs.

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