The other day on our site was published translation of the article "What the West is wrong about Belarus?" International Editor Economist Edward Lucas. This text is concerned spawned debate on our site.
We invited experts from around the world to take part in this debate and express their opinions about how an article by Mr. Lucas, as well as about the problem, which he formulates.
David Marples, a Canadian historian and political scientist, professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton
Article by Edward Lucas of Belarus is a well-written and funny polemical text, but its premise and conclusion a bit confusing. First, the author in one place does not write what he meant by the terms "West" and "foreign public opinion." Do I have to think that there is a point of view, combining into a single view of all Western countries, and that these countries have reached a consensus on Belarus? There is insufficient evidence that it happened. Even in the EU, there are conflicting views about whether you want to engage Belarus. The United States and the European Union are rarely debated in public, but also rarely their views on foreign policy are exactly the same.
One factor that is sure to dominate the policies of some Western governments — as was the case in Canada, while the Prime Minister did not Garper Stephen — is the lack of interest of Belarus. Canada has been well established relations with Ukraine through a large Ukrainian diaspora, and she also showed some interest in the Russian account of the interest of both countries getting oil and gas.
Canada did not have any relations with Belarus and paying little attention to what was going on. The concern of Belarus in Europe and has a long history. Perhaps Mr Lucas said about the European Union and the United States, especially if we bear in mind the findings and links to the administration of George W. Bush. Let us accept this assumption for further discussion.
Simply put, that, according to Lucas, the United States and the European Union, shocked repression and the machinations of President Alexander Lukashenko, focused on the opposition and made the mistake of putting an equal sign between the Belarusian national consciousness and the opposition against the "autocratic". Belarus too Sovietized country to pay more attention to the "motley patchwork" of opposition leaders — even though the author finds useful release of Andrei Sannikov from prison — and requires a "discerning eye." There is some truth in these statements, and in the early 1990s, politicians like Zeno Pozniak painfully convinced that Belarusians are not willing to take any form of ethnic nationalism.
Perhaps the most superficial part of the controversy Lucas is his criticism of Western analysts for failing to uncover the perpetrators of the bomb attack in the Minsk metro on April 11. Since when analysts began to investigators? And why should we expect from them, like those in Washington and those in Paris, the mystery, which, as it looks confusing and Belarusian KGB? As always reveal the perpetrators of terrorist acts? And so, they themselves admit. Here, no one has done so. It would be much worse if the analysts have started to make different assumptions without any evidence for this.
Valuable in a polemical article, Lucas is its consideration of the Eastern Partnership as something that is made up of very different subjects. However, we must not forget why this partnership was created and what is its relationship with the Russian-Georgian war. Many countries have been concerned about the possibility of further Russian conquest and partnerships offered a non-violent version of the development of relations. However, in the future Eastern Partnership will likely link.
I find nothing wrong in the conclusions of Lucas on trade with Belarus and punishment uncompromising leaders this country. But in this new? Both measures are just now being used.
In fact, the olive branch, which brought in Belarus the foreign ministers of Poland and Germany (EU loan in exchange for democratic elections), and their anger and then, after the events on Independence Square on December 19-20, which led to the reproduction and expansion of visa sanctions against Belarusian leaders are examples of both one and the other.
The problem is how and why Lukashenko managed to stay in power for nearly 17 years. Much has been written about the fact that the president is a sentiment much of the electorate, that Belarus has found her own way of economic development, and that the state-run economy and national naporystasts in relations with Russia Belarusians allowed to impressive economic growth and quality of life, while avoiding terrorism, civil and foreign wars.
But the reality is that a short-term well-being has been achieved using already dead policy based exclusively on the use of cheap energy from Russia, which is no longer available. The President is being recalled beggar who runs from one capital to another to beg for loans — in Moscow have made even cartoon that shows him in this role. Foreign exchange reserves of the country dangerously reduced, the rate of the Belarusian ruble is extremely high, and prices in 2011 grew faster than in any other European country. The myth of Lukashenko as a kind of economic magician came to an inglorious end.
But it shows us? Belarus — which is not such a mysterious object, which can not be explained ignorant of the West — is facing serious challenges. The Russian leadership, which is often portrayed as unable to beat the wily former chairman of the farm in Minsk, just waiting in the wings. The next loan from the Kremlin and the emergency fund of the Eurasian Economic Community ($ 3 billion) will be allocated on condition that Belarus will introduce reforms, that is, privatize major industries.
A Russian companies are just waiting to capture the most profitable companies in the privatization. Russia already has a 50% "Beltransgaz" and MAZ (as a result of the merger in the latter case).
The sensational Belarusian nuclear power plant near the Lithuanian border will be built for the Russian money and work for the Russian fuel and technology, and it is funded by the Russian loan. Here is the plan of the Belarusian leadership to avoid dependence on Russian oil and gas!
This leads to the mistaken belief that the overthrow Lukashenko means the end of Belarusian independence that only he is able to resist the cruel and rapacious Putin Russian oligarchs. It is true that he is a master how to use gangster slang, and strike a pose. But even without Lukashenko in power his legacy will remain, and it will be not only the legacy of repression and human rights violations. This will be the legacy of what led his country to near bankruptcy and excessive dependence on Moscow. It is too late to fool my head wondering who will be the second president of Belarus.
Or "West" concerned about this? If so, and if the West is first and foremost the European Union, it would be better to open its doors for Belarus and Ukraine, regardless of who controls the these countries, smyahotnyya than impose sanctions and increase the volume of foreign trade. When the EU is ready to offer Lukashenka $ 3.8 billion for the holding of relatively free elections — and there is little doubt that Lukashenko would get the money if the continuation of this election was not a violent — tha
t what logic is to keep Belarus 'neighborhood'?
In short, it is possible that Mr. Lucas raises some important questions, but his answers are very vague. Western analysts in Russia — and I think I know them all — rarely reach a consensus.
Belarus may be unique in that it does not cause much debate, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Now there is much more interest in Belarus in Western Europe and North America than in 1991 or even 2006.
Second, the solutions offered by Lucas, is being tested in practice, but so far they do not seem to have much chance of success. Lukashenko of Belarus brought back into the arms of Russia, it is possible that kicking down the road, but that inexorably and dangerously weakening our country.
Confiscation of Belarus from Russia may be possible, but only with the help of the most radical West. The punishment did not work. Interaction with the opposition failed. The opposition is weakened by internal disputes, lack of unity and open repression. So why not offer Belarus full membership in the European Union, knowing that at stake is the survival of her?
However, it is unlikely that the EU will be enough support for Belarus' membership with no hard and defy the country's requirements. The European Union is struggling with the economic crisis in several countries, and the time for such a decision could hardly be worse. But on the other hand — or the European Union can not afford to wait if he really appreciates your neighborhood?
The author focuses on the failure of Western policy towards Belarus. But the key issue here is the failure of Belarus as a new state and a nation under the presidency of Alexander Lukashenko. Lucas treatment — bandages wrap the patient (or, more precisely, to add more bandages) — is not enough.