Belarus forcing down a civilian airliner flying between two EU, and Nato, capitals is a grave threat to the international order. If any flight crossing the airspace of an autocratic regime is vulnerable to such an attack, the world begins to look a very different – and more dangerous – place. The challenge to the free world now is to hit Minsk with such a set of punishments that it doesn’t dare repeat its action and that no other autocratic country tries to pull the same trick.
Dominic Raab has just announced in the Commons that Belavia, the Belarusian national carrier, has had its operating license suspended, meanings its flights can’t land at any UK airport. (UK airlines have also been advised not to fly though Belarusian air space.) This is a reasonable first step; and will have an effect if followed by other Western countries.
It is hard to believe that Lukashenko would have forced this flight down without, at least, a nod and a wink from Moscow. This means any attempt to use the UN to impose sanctions is almost certain to fail because Moscow will simply use its veto. This makes it all the more important that the democratic world acts in concert to impose stringent sanctions on Belarus.