"The presence in the center of Europe's repressive dictatorship — the former Soviet republic of Belarus, which severely manages megalaman Alexander Lukashenko — many years irritated the government of the West. Now, however, the dictator made a series of missteps exclusively, making it perhaps the most difficult situation for all of his 17 years in power, and gives the United States and its European allies an opportunity that they do not want to miss "- writes in an editorial The Washington Post.
Lukashenko was trouble began last December, when he promised to hold free, fair presidential election in exchange for $ 3.6 billion of Western aid, blatantly rigged the vote. When tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in central Minsk to protest against electoral fraud, he unleashed the police on them. Hundreds the man wasand arrested, including seven of the nine contenders for the presidency.
In recent weeks, a series of show trials against opposition leaders, and in particular, against the five presidential candidates. As long prison sentences were 22 people, including chief rival Lukashenko Andrei Sannikov, who was sentenced last Saturday to five years in prison. Mr. Lukashenka said that he destroyed a "fifth column" of the West, and justifies his actions, referring to a mysterious attack in the Minsk metro, in which 14 people were killed and 200 were wounded, and who, according to some members of the opposition, could be adjusted by regime.
In a strange way, the Lukashenko himself emphasized his vulnerability in a March interview with Washington Post editor Leli Veymet, saying that "in Belarus and Lukashenko had no resources to be a dictator." In fact, the regime promised before the election seriously increase the salaries of civil servants, now faced with the collapse of the economy caused by the failure of Belarus to attract foreign funding. The cost of the Belarusian currency fell last week by 50%, businesses are closed, covered the deficit.
Russia, which used to come to the aid of Belarus, once took a tough stance. She still holds their loans and even condemned political processes. The point, of course, is that Moscow has discovered the idea of human rights — rather, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who does not love a long time, the Lukashenko, is trying to force him to sell the large state-owned companies to Russian investors and strengthen the political dependence of Belarus on the Kremlin .
In the past, the Lukashenko courted the West to oppose Putin. But Western governments should no longer fall for this tactic. The United States and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on more than 170 Belarusian officials for election fraud and violence after them. At the trials against opposition they have to respond even more stringent measures. In particular, the EU foreign ministers at their meeting to be held on Monday, it should impose sanctions against the large state-owned firms — including oil, potash and weapons companies — on which rests the dictatorship. They should also make it clear to Mr Putin that if he swallows Belarus, with its assets, it would compromise Russia's proposals on the strategic partnership with the EU.
For its part, the Obama administration should make Belarus a test for the "reset" relations with Russia. Moscow and Washington should agree on a common position on Belarus and Lukashenko require the city to it — under the threat of bankruptcy and isolation — freed political prisoners and held the real political and economic reforms.