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When reading different news outlets (e.g. Associated Press, CNN, Reuters) it seems the west is focused on threatening Russia with action should it decide to go forward with the expected (from the west point of view) invasion of Ukraine.

In last days, some governments (United Kingdom, United States) have pushed forward hypothesis on how that invasion would occur, including a potential push from Belarus to Kiev, with Russia taking advantage on their forces stationed there for the maneuvers with Belarussian forces.

My question is: Considering Belarus is an independent country, and given that the supposed push to Kiev would begin with Russian troops pushing through Belarus - Ukraine frontier (which would require Belarussian collaboration or at least inaction), why is the west not threatening the current Belarussian president Aleksandr Lukashenko with sanctions or repercussions too?

For what I've seen in western media, there is a distinct lack of references to Belarussian involvement other than the joint maneuvers with Russia, but no explicit mention at all about it being a required complicit in any invasion of Kiev, despite how obvious it seems.

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    Theoretically Belarus can have plausible deniability. "We don't like the Russians trespassing, but they are too powerful and it would be a suicide to try to stop them" Could the West then sanction Belarus without losing face, basically saying they should have sacrificed themselves to serve as a slight speed bump?
    – vsz
    Feb 21, 2022 at 10:20
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    @vsz "Could the West then sanction Belarus " Why not? One could at least accuse Belarus of being complicit (willing out not). My guess is that they are simply not seen as the decisive factor here. Feb 21, 2022 at 22:03

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Edit: The EU has just announced that Belarus will be treated in the same way as Russia in terms of sanctions.

The Guardian: Belarus should face same sanctions as Russia in event of invasion, says EU

Belarus is being annexed by Russia and its government will face the same "massive" sanctions as Moscow should there be an invasion of Ukraine from its territory, the EU’s foreign affairs chief has said.

Speaking at the end of a tense 10-hour meeting of the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers, Josep Borrell said the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, was allowing his country to become a Russian satellite state.

The lack of transparency from Minsk over Russian troop deployments on Belarusian territory left the EU without any choice but to treat it as being complicit in the aggression against Ukraine, Borrell said.


Original answer

Over the past two days there have been reports on a possible new package of sanctions on Belarus should it be complicit in such an invasion; for instance,

Reuters/Euronews: EU considers new measures against Belarus

The European Union is considering new restrictive measures to close loopholes on existing sanctions against Belarus, EU officials and diplomats said, noting the bloc was also working on sanctions if Minsk participated in an invasion of Ukraine.

[...]

The EU has banned Belarus' exports of potash, a fertilizer made of potassium, and oil products. But diplomats said Belarus is still exporting potassium to the EU via Ukraine, and has also boosted its export to the EU of oil products obtained from coal.

Later on Friday an EU official confirmed in a media briefing that work was under way for possible new economic sanctions against Minsk, including on potash. The official added that the bloc was also considering sanctions against Belarus if it participated in any attack against Ukraine.

See also the proposal: Lankford Pushes for Sanctions on Belarus to Stop Russia’s Aggression Toward Ukraine which is also listed on the Congress webpage.

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  • I see - I missed that one, and as an EU citizen I don't follow internal US politics so I didn't know they were pushing that act at any level. Still, I'm surprised the measures mentioned are basically cutting off loopholes which shouldn't be there in the first place. It sounds like "if you collaborate, we'll fix our initial mess-up" from a layman's point of view
    – HaroldH
    Feb 20, 2022 at 16:14
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    @HaroldH which it is: but that doesn’t stop it having the effect being additional sanctions.
    – Tim
    Feb 24, 2022 at 13:44
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Belarus is an independent country only on paper and in the dreams of the majority of the Belarusian people. As is, it is de facto a colony and a client state of the Putin’s Russia. Lukashenko invited the Russian troops out of a position of weakness, in the middle of popular uprising. It makes a lot more sense to sanction the true sovereign here, which is the military arm of FSB. It is one of the two main groups running things in Russia. All things related to the war with Ukraine should be addressed to that group (FSB), not Belarus or other minions. Note that the sanctions already applied form a list that looks like a wall, but their usefulness is limited due to the above considerations.

REFERENCES:

2020–2021 Belarusian protests: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020%E2%80%932021_Belarusian_protests
International sanctions against the Lukashenko regime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020%E2%80%932021_Belarusian_protests#International_sanctions
Evidence for the usefulness of the above sanctions: 0 (none at the moment of writing, see text)

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    Regardless of it's suposed allegiance to Russia and the amount of political / external relations independence they have, following this logic seems to grant technical immunity to client states from sanctions when they collaborate in internationally undesired actions.
    – HaroldH
    Feb 20, 2022 at 16:17
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    @HaroldH Belarus is tied much, much closer with Russia than with the West, western sanctions hardly can hurt it, so in that sense it already has immunity for all practical purposes.
    – Mołot
    Feb 21, 2022 at 9:07
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    @HaroldH As the answer says, they've got a wall of sanctions already. Also, the point of sanctions is to motivate changes in behavior. Russia could easily not attack Ukraine if the consequences got high enough. I can't imagine any type of threat that would convince Belarus to try and eject Russian soldiers from their soil.
    – prosfilaes
    Feb 21, 2022 at 17:22
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History of sanctions against Belarus start from 2006, when unilateral sanctions have been imposed by the US and EU. So, you do not need Ukraine narratives to conduct a sanctions policy.

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Updated list of sanctions against Belarus can be found here (in German and Russian). It's mostly export ban on military technology but not things like travel restrictions on citizens or ban of luxury goods (where there never been any significant market anyways)

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