Matthew Franklin Cooper writes:
Let us be perfectly clear.
Belarus is not a ‘Soviet-legacy’ state. Whatever legacy the Soviet regime left to them, they have deliberately sloughed off under Lukashenko. They are one of only four countries worldwide (the others being Ukraine, Kazakhstan and post-apartheid South Africa) to have completely, unilaterally disarmed themselves of nuclear weapons. For this courageous action they deserve high commendation. It is indeed much more courageous to hand over control of all of one’s nuclear weapons than to, say, fly light aircraft illegally under the radar into another country to drop (however well-intentioned) teddy bears on them. And now the EU is slapping further sanctions upon the beleaguered country. Whatever did they do to piss off the EU so much, besides divesting themselves of their nukes?
Well, we might begin by looking at their economic indicators, like the less than two percent unemployment rate. Or their incredibly low levels of wealth inequality (with a Gini coefficent ranging between 0.217 and 0.272). Or the 99.7% literacy rate (behind only Estonia and Latvia in Eastern Europe, fourth-best in the world). Or the generously state-funded social security programme. Lukashenko may win elections time after time, but there is little to indicate that he does so with any other method than by retaining a high degree of popularity for his economic policies. And all of this has been accomplished largely in defiance of the neoliberal privatisation regimes which popped up everywhere else in Eastern Europe. No wonder the EU cannot stand them!
Or perhaps it is because of their foreign policy. Belarus leans fairly heavily toward Russia geopolitically (for rather obvious cultural reasons), and has good working relationships with many countries the United States government does not like, including Iran (to whose invasion by our country they stand in steadfast and principled opposition). In addition, Belarus also maintains good relations with the Vatican. As David Lindsay put it,
Belarus is so critical of her Soviet past that she has given up her nuclear weapons, while at the same time so critical of the decadence of the Postmodern West and its bloodthirsty globalisation that she is explicitly recognised as an ally by the Pope.
Here is a nation which has dedicated itself in the international sphere to an active international peace - giving up its own nuclear weapons, ensuring the economic dignity of its own citizens, extending a hand to nations which have been alienated by the rest of the world, standing up against unjust wars. And yet, they are consistently described in the Western press, following the Dubya administration’s ignorant usage, as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’. Ever-tighter sanctions against them are imposed, and ever-shriller rhetoric is employed against their government and people by neocon shills like Nick Cohen and craven privatisation cultists like Guido Westerwelle and Carl Bildt. If such people really cared about democracy and human rights, they would pay more attention to the institutional destruction their own political programmes have wreaked on the democratic structures at home, and the human rights catastrophes their beloved foreign wars have caused in places like Iraq and Libya... and they would keep their bloody hands off Belarus in the meanwhile.