The situation in Belarus is tense and uncertain. The regime could lose its grip on power, as has already occurred in other democratic breakthroughs in Serbia 2000, Georgia 2003 and Ukraine 2004. Most recently, falsified presidential elections in Malawi in mid-2019 triggered massive popular uprisings, the results were annulled, and a rerun of election in 2020 brought to power the opposition challenger. A similar story could play out in Belarus.

Or Lukashenka could instead institute draconian martial law, arrest even more people beyond the estimated 6,700 already detained, and provoke more bloodshed. He seems to be making plans for this scenario already.

Or Russian President Vladimir Putin might get involved. Should demonstrations grow and pressure for Lukashenko’s departure increase, Putin might be tempted to offer military assistance, as he did to prop up Bashar Assad in Syria in 2015, or even worse, invade Belarus, as he did in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014. Putin and Lukashenko have managed a tense, volatile relationship for decades, and Putin might seek to exploit Lukashenko’s vulnerable position now. A successful democratic movement in a country with so much shared culture and history is a threat to Putin’s authoritarian system.