Katja Hoyer Katja Hoyer

Germany’s Belarus blindspot

A world war two veteran holds a photo of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko (Photo by VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Everything about the video seemed wrong. ‘It’s likely his nose is broken because the shape of it has changed and there’s a lot of powder on it. All of the left side of his face has powder,’ said the father of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich. The details of the story are now known: the exiled activist’s plane was diverted while en route between two EU capitals. The Ryanair flight was grounded, the pilot having been fed false reports of a bomb threat while a Soviet-era jet stalked the plane. Protasevich and his girlfriend were then removed by Belarusian forces and the flight was sent on its way. 

This shocking display of state power by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime was enough to ruffle some German feathers — but not many. Angela Merkel declared that she found Minsk’s explanation for the grounding ‘completely implausible’ while Germany joined a list of European countries that have summoned their Belarusian ambassadors. Otherwise, Berlin’s response has been decidedly muted.

A third of all Belarusian imports stem from Germany

Lukashenko is not exactly popular in Germany. The Social Democrats (SPD) have been particularly outspoken. But SPD voices are, for the most part, crying out alone in the wilderness. Merkel has long been deaf to the sounds of outrage coming from Eastern Europe over her government’s close economic ties to Russia. Just as much as she has chosen to ignore the increasing concerns in the West over the security implications such ties bear.

America’s security focus is already increasingly shifting from Germany to Poland. With a total of 35,000 troops, Germany has traditionally hosted the lion’s share of GIs in Europe.

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