Minsk and the export of a 21st-century dictatorship
14:03, By Anton Taras, The Prague Post — Politics
Regardless of who would be the next president of the United States, that person should pay more attention to Belarus.
It would be wrong to say the United States does nothing to change the former Soviet republic: U.S. Congress passed the Belarus Democracy Act. The Americans and their European allies have imposed sanctions on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, whom former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dubbed "the last dictator in Europe."
But the existing measures are not enough. In recent years, the scale of repression in Lukashenko's system has climbed to unprecedented levels. Enjoying the strong support of the Kremlin, Lukashenko seems to believe in the eternity of his clan's rule.
Why should this concern the administration in Washington?
Lukashenko has managed to smuggle the Soviet socialist (his government calls it "social") model into the 21st century. This could easily lead some third-world rulers to think: "Why not start recreating Soviet-type states?"
Lukashenko has already set a bad example for leaders in his region. Looking at him and seeing how little the West can do to limit his powers, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych leans toward authoritarian governance. And Vladimir Putin's Russia openly borrows from Lukashenko's arsenal of repressive tactics.
Recently, Russia launched the Eurasian Union project; according to Putin, the union could become "one of the poles in the modern world ... serving as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region." The project involves Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. None of the three countries can be categorized as fully democratic.
Alone, the Belarusian and the Kazakh tyrannies would not last too long. But in a union, tyrants could rule indefinitely and at the same time support other nondemocratic regimes, sharing their experiences. Belarus is already helping Venezuela create an air-defense system and maintains close ties with Iran.
Since Lukashenko became president in 1994, Belarusian intellectuals have been trying to convey a message to the United States and its allies: If they do not stop the authoritarian leader, they will have a Hitler-style despot in the European neighborhood. Perhaps this comparison seems exaggerated, but the fact remains that 21st-century Europe is not a place for dictatorships, even in states that are seemingly "minor" players.
Anton Taras, The Prague Post
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