Amid economic challenges and crisis in Ukraine, the Belarusians keep showing consistent isolationist sentiment. Since 2010, BISS has been asking Belarusian citizens about their foreign policy preferences, offering them four options: EU membership, a union with Russia, simultaneous integration with the EU and Russia, and completely independent Belarus outside of any blocs. Whereas previous trends concerning Russia, independent Belarus and simultaneous membership in the two blocs have remained, the support for integration with the European Union has markedly decreased — from 17.1% in 2013 to 9.7% in 2015), which must be associated with the information campaign in the Russian media and lack of progress in the Belarus–EU relationship. Interestingly, most of those who have been disappointed with the European choice have refrained from supporting the remaining alternatives, but joined the “no answer/undecided” group. This suggests that as soon as the pace of the information campaign slackens and the relationship with Brussels normalizes, the number of “pro-Europeans” will rebound to 15%–17%. Diagram 1. In which union do the Belarusians wish to live?
In our 2013 survey we drew the conclusion that complete independence is mostly the choice of “paternalists” (who primarily rely on the state and call for additional state regulation)—41% of them choose this option, whereas in the group of “independent autonomists” only 28% vote for “isolationism.” This pattern is confirmed by the findings of this year’s survey, but based upon the attitude to reforms in the country. The share of “isolationists” who unequivocally support reforms is 10% smaller than the proportion of reform-oriented “pro-Europeans.” “Isolationists” are also less willing to put up with the negative consequences of transformations—they appear to share this attitude with the group that supports a union with Russia.