People shout slogans as they take part in an opposition rally on the eve of presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, October 10, 2015.
Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

In 2010, Europe’s so-called last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, was fraudulently reelected president of Belarus with almost 80 percent of the vote. Thousands protested in the capital city of Minsk, more than 600 were imprisoned, and the EU and the United States imposed harsh sanctions on Belarus. In the October 2015 elections, however, Lukashenko claimed an even bigger majority of the vote—83.5 percent—and only 100 protesters turned out for a brief demonstration. The EU promptly announced that it would suspend most sanctions for four months.

So what changed? In a word: Ukraine. Russia has alienated its neighbors since the crisis in Ukraine began in 2013. Russia’s aggression has alarmed Lukashenko, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies. Lukashenko doesn’t want to become a second Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who now lives in forced retirement in Moscow, and he doesn’t want to see Russian “little green men” deployed

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  • ANDREW WILSON is a Professor at University College London and the author of Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship (Yale University Press, 2012).
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