Posted on 08-07-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

It appears the uniformed thugs of Europe’s last dictatorship (the authoritarian regime in Moscow deserves a bold asterisk on its classification as a democracy) are capable of medical miracles.  The regime of Alexander Lukashenko is struggling to contain public protests over the collapsing (and already impoverished) economy.  So the security services have started hauling in perceived dissenters.  And therein lies the miracle – one armed men have been convicted of clapping and deaf-mutes have been convicted of shouting.

Lukashenko has survived so far due to the tacit support of Moscow, which likes pliant states in its “near abroad.”  Yet last year Vladimir Putin sent out signals that the Kremlin’s patience for Lukashenko was not unlimited.  Russia’s favorite foreign policy bludgeon – cutting of gas supplies – was used to bring Belarus to heel.  Going forward Russia has denied Lukashenko’s bankrupt regime needed loans, focusing instead on (in competition with China – another regime used to dealing with nasty despots) buying up Belarusian assets at cut rate prices.

It is hard to see a clean solution to this crisis.  Lukashenko is unlikely to go without a fight.  Putin’s Russia is terrified of the “color revolutions” in its neighborhood planting subversive thoughts in the heads of its serfs…I mean citizens.  Russia can be counted on to sabotage any independent minded popular government that emerges from any such revolution (see Ukraine).

Unfortunately for Belarus, its past probably gives some hint of its future.  The frustration of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine has already shown Little Russia how hard it is to escape the suffocating embrace of Great Russia.  Poor White Russia which spent most of the last 800 years shuttling from the imperial domination of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Empire of the Czar of All the Russias is well on its way to repeating history.  Impoverished, with no functioning government structures or tradition of democratic rule and fatally dependent of the Kremlin for gas and oil, Belarus will likely end up in tighter Russian thralldom.  The West will probably lose interest after Lukashenko leaves, and in any case will not pick a fight with Russia over Belarus.

Yet another example of the perils of being a midget in a giant’s backyard.

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