Monday, January 17, 2011

How to handle Belarus

Lukashenko is a dictator and I didn't expected him to give up power at the last elections. However, the amount of violence against the opposition was more than expected. At least a part of it will have been because Lukashenko expected color revolution-style protests and thought it best to suppress them while that was still possible. But there may have been other motives and Lukashenko may be trying to increase his grip on the country.

The question is how to react to this. There is an interesting article about this on EU Observer by Andrew Rettman Poland: West should use Cold War tactics to free Belarus. Noting that the protests against the election fraud came mainly from the intellectual elite he argues to make it easier for the common Belarussians to visit the EU so that the common people can see for themselves how democracy is supposed to work. He notes that Poland and Lithuania unilaterally dropped visa fees for Belarusians in December. At the same time he argues for increased travel bans for those in Belarus who contributed to the suppression.

I would like one point to this: make these travel restrictions temporary. Common cops might get a two year travel ban, their bosses 4 years and the Belarussian elite 6 years. That way we stress the punishment character of the sanctions, we make it possible also to punish the lower levels and we evade endless discussions about revoking sanctions.

There is another view to sanctions about which I am less ethousiastic. It says that Belarusian wishes of EU-sponsored infrastructure projects - such as a new Vilnius-Minsk train, a Klaipeda-Minsk-Moscow highway and a liquified gas terminal - should be denied. This would isolate Belarus and make it more difficult for its citizens to visit the EU.

My suspicion is that the US is behind the latter kind of proposals. The US has been sceptical for a long time about any rapproachment between the EU and Russia. Isolating Belarus and Ukrain is one way to block that as it geographically isolates Russia from the EU. The recent blind support of EU commissioner Fuele to Ukrain's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who is accused of fraud fits in this picture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so typical of arrogant Americans -- forcing travel restrictions on whole country would just make ordinary people hate the West more. As seen with that wrong approach to Serbia, population basically sides with their leaders, as they feel the pain.

Americans think that people will quickly connect the dots and ask for removal of Western-demonized regime. In reality, opposite happens: For several years, support for regime will actually increase.

Collective punishment never works on whole nations. It just makes them anti-Western.

Serbia is out of sanctions for a while, but it would be hard to find a Serb who likes Westerners and Americans -- we, at best, tolerate them. Whole generation of Serbs grew up hating Americans, and that is lasting damage.