Friday, December 24, 2010

The Vanguard of Democracy No More

Two historians drew similar arguments from recent Belarus' crackdown on post-election protests:

This might be a good time for Americans to ask: do we have a foreign policy that promotes human rights and democracy? For many, any such mission was discredited by Iraq; but we might remember, from the revolutions of 1989 and the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2004, that peaceful regime change is possible when all sides agree to the democratic rules of the game. Lukashenko clearly does not, and the only power that might persuade him is Russia.
Brutality in Belarus by Timothy Snyder

But in truth, the West has few carrots to offer unpopular dictators - even unpopular dictators who share borders with Europe - other than free trade and the long-term possibility of integration and economic growth. European foreign ministers cannot guarantee Lukashenko personal wealth. They cannot offer corrupt oil deals. They can talk about "freedom" - and they did - but they have to compete with others who talk about "the Chinese model," who offer more predictable forms of job security and who aren't bothered by a few arrests. On the Monday morning after the police attack on the opposition, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, declared that the elections were Belarus's "internal affair."

This, then, is what the "decline of the West" looks like in the eastern half of Europe: The United States and Europe, out of money and out of ideas, scarcely fund the Belarusan opposition. Russia, flush with oil money once again, has agreed to back Lukashenko and fund his regime. Let's hope it costs them a lot more than they expect.
In Belarus, a slide toward Eastern aggression by Anne Applebaum

Addendum: Фотографи из Минска