December ISIEPS survey recorded a record low share of EU integration supporters. Majority of respondents approve of the freeze on sanctions towards Belarusian officials. Regarding Russian airbase in Belarus, the opinions were divided with a slight advantage on the side of its supporters.

Over the quarter from September to December 2015 the share of “Euro-Belarusians” (i.e. the supporters of joining the EU) in Belarus has significantly dropped. In comparison with September the share of “Euro-Belarusians” dropped by 8 percentage points, holding a new record over many years (Table 1).

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “If there was a referendum on Belarus joining the EU, how would you vote?”, %

Variant of answer 09’08 03’09 03’10 03’11 12’12 12’13 09’14 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15
For 26.7 34.9 36.2 48.6 38.9 35.9 25.0 24.6 25.1 27.5 19.8
Against 51.9 36.3 37.2 30.5 37.6 34.6 50.3 45.0 51.0 51.9 56.1

However, the decrease of pro-European moods did not lead to a strengthening of pro-Russian moods: in the answers to the question on integration with Russia the share of its supporters has also dropped in comparison with September, although the decrease is not as noticeable as it is for the supporters of Eurointegration (Table 2).

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “If a referendum on the integration of Belarus and Russia was held today, what would be your choice?”, %

Variant of answer 12’08 03’09 03’10 12’11 12’12 12’13 12’14 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15
For 35.7 33.1 32.1 29.0 28.7 23.9 23.9 26.3 28.3 32.6 29.7
Against 38.8 43.2 44.5 42.9 47.5 51.4 58.4 48.9 50.9 49.1 51.5

In fine, the ratio of supporters of European and Eurasian choice almost hasn’t changed in the answers to the “either-or” question (Table 3).

Table 3. Dynamics of answering the question: “If you had to choose between integration with Russia and joining the European Union, what choice would you make?”, %

Variant of answer 12’08 12’09 12’10 12’11 12’12 12’13 03’14 12’14 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15
Integration with the RF 46.0 42.3 38.1 41.4 37.7 36.6 51.5 44.9 46.5 51.4 52.7 53.5
Joining the EU 30.1 42.1 38.0 39.1 43.4 44.6 32.9 34.2 30.8 31.4 26.4 25.1
DA/NA 23.9 15.6 23.9 19.5 18.9 18.8 15.6 20.9 22.7 17.2 20.9 21.4

It seems reasonable to suppose that the decrease of pro-European moods of Belarusians was caused by acute problems in the EU: migration crisis and the series of terroristic attacks in Paris.

Although the problem of migrants is not a problem for Belarus, absolute majority of respondents are against accepting them in Europe (Table 4). As long as the EU takes a different position in this regard, this stipulates for a drop of the share of “Euro-Belarusians”.

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “During the last months there is a crisis in the EU countries caused by a stream of migrants from African and Asian countries. What opinion do you share on this crisis?”

Variant of answer %
Refugees should be sent back and not allowed in, because they don’t belong to Europe 52.2
These people should be accepted, because they flee wars and poverty and need help 32.6
DA/NA 15.2

An imposing majority of respondents also declared themselves against Belarus participating in the struggle against international terrorism. Europe is not just the land of happiness and prosperity, but also a target for terroristic attacks of Islamists. Belarusians don’t want to become their target too by expressing real practical solidarity with Europe under attack (Table 5).

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “On November 13 there was a series of terroristic attacks in Paris. Some people think that Belarus should support international struggle against terrorism, others disagree with this. What is your opinion?”

Variant of answer %
Belarus should support international struggle against terrorists, because their actions are a threat to the whole civilized world, including Belarusians 34.2
Belarus should not participate in the international struggle with terrorists, otherwise terroristic acts will start happening in Belarus 57.4
DA/NA 8.4

However, there is no mass “Westphobia” in Belarus. An impressive majority of respondents approved of relaxation of European sanctions towards the official Minsk (Table 6).

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “The EU temporary (for 4 months) lifted the visa ban for several hundreds of Belarusian officials, including President A. Lukashenko. What do you think about this decision?”

Variant of answer %
It’s a wrong decision: Belarusian regime has not changed, so the sanctions shouldn’t have been lifted 19.1
It’s a right decision: political prisoners in Belarus were set free, so the EU made a step forwards too 37.5
It’s not sufficient: sanctions should be lifted completely and without any conditions 28.5
DA/NA 14.9

Geopolitical priorities of respondents didn’t really change the hierarchy of answers to the question of table 6, although there was a certain influence. Among the supporters of integration with Russia, 14.2% were in favor of toughening the sanctions, 36.2% approved of their freeze, and 37.4% were in favor of cancelling them altogether. Among “Euro-Belarusians” 32.9% called out EU’s decision as opportunistic, however 43.2% approved of it and 12.2% support full cancellation of sanctions.

On the other hand, Russian policy doesn’t enjoy total approval among Belarusians too. Even when it enjoys quite a wide support, this doesn’t lead to thinking that Belarus should follow Russia.

However, it should be noted that in December 2015 Belarusians were the most approving and the least denouncing of the annexation of Crimea (Table 7).

Table 7. Dynamics of answering the question: “How do you evaluate the annexation of Crimea by Russia?”, %

Variant of answer 06’14 09’14 12’14 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15
It’s an imperialistic usurpation and occupation 26.9 27.2 31.6 22.0 21.5 26.5 20.2
It’s a restitution of Russian lands and reestablishment of historical justice 62.2 59.9 56.8 58.5 62.3 57.4 65.7
DA/NA 10.9 12.9 11.6 19.5 16.2 16.1 14.1

An imposing majority of Belarusians is also inclined to rather approve of Russian military campaign in Syria, or at least they seem to believe that the reasons for the intrusion were legitimate (Table 8).

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “In the end of September 2005 Russia started a military operation in Syria. What opinion on this campaign do you share?” (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer %
Once again Russia pokes her nose into other people’s business demonstrating imperial ambitions 20.2
This campaign is a confrontation to the world domination of the West 29.9
It’s a struggle against terrorism that threatens the world 48.7
DA 8.1

Almost every second respondent believes that Russia struggles with the international terrorism in Syria. However, as it follows from Table 5, only one third of Belarusians think that Belarus should join this struggle too.

At the same time only each tenth respondent believes that interests of Belarus and Russia coincide completely (Table 9).

Table 9. Distribution of answers: “Do interests of Belarus and Russia coincide?”

Variant of answer %
Coincide completely 11.7
Coincide for the most part 52.4
Don’t coincide for the most part 22.7
They are opposite 4.7
DA/NA 8.5

Opinions on the Russian military airbase in Belarus are divided, however there is a slight preponderance of negative evaluations (Table 10).

Table 10. Distribution of answers to the question: “Russia suggests that there should be a Russian military airbase in Belarus. What’s your opinion on this?”

Variant of answer %
Positive 27.0
Indifferent 31.2
Negative 33.9
DA/NA 7.9

In fine it should be established that there is quite an impressive potential of pro-Russian moods in Belarus. However, there is a certain distance from Russia, and approval of Russian policy doesn’t cause certainty that Belarus should follow it, taking the same risks.