This paper will utilize 5 articles from around the world on the question of the relations between Belarus and the European Union. The purpose here is to unmask the propaganda, the unsubstantiated rumors and western-sponsored attacks on Belarus and specifically, its president, Alexander Lukashenko, wildly popular in Belarus itself. The Moscow Times (May 4, 2009), speaks of the possibility of Lukashenko boycotting the EU’s summit in Prague that same week. There are two reasons given for this.
First, that the visit might “irritate” some EU members, and secondly, that part of the agenda of the meeting is to promote the “economic integration” of eastern Europe within a EU run framework. Both of these reasons are telling. First, the economic success of Belarus outside of the system financed by the International Monetary Fund has threatened the European Union and the United States. The endless accusations of vote rigging and oppression are belied by the fact that Lukashenko is overseeing a huge expansion of the post-Soviet economy of Belarus, and that he holds to a solid popularity rating of 80%, this after over 10 years in office.
The Los Angeles Times (September 25, 2005) has said: “even [Lukashenko’s] fiercest opponents don’t question the accuracy of independent polls that rate him the most popular politician in this country. ” Yet, the major papers and agencies here do not make reference to it at all. From the Financial Times (May 2, 2009), the Belarussian foreign Minister, Sergei Martinov, fears that the Prague Summit would have turned into a competition for Belarussian support. In other words, that the EU was using this summit to lure Belarus away from Russia.
Martinov said that “We are not going to make a choice between the EU and Russia. We are not going to develop relations with one at the expense of relations with the other. ” It seems that the fears of Lukashenko and his government are justified here. The only rational reason why the EU, whose public contempt for Lukashenko is daily made clear, would want Belarus to attend the Prague summit is so that they can take Belarus away from the protection of Russia with the aim of altering her highly successful political system.
What other government would tolerate this? It seems more that the EU seeks the cooperation of Belarus, at least partially because Russian oil pipelines and much refining capacity goes straight thought Belarussian territory. While the EU publically condemns Belarus for vague crimes, the Belarussian foreign trading regime has been heaving tilted towards the EU and away from a dependence on Russia. Belarus is skillfully playing both sides, making herself indispensable for both the Russian and the European sphere of influence.
The fact is that, vague denunciations aside, Belarus still sports a large trade and budget surplus, high economic growth rates and an unemployment rate of around 1%. These numbers are difficult to argue with, and hence, the EU’s approach has now been directed more towards dialogue rather then confrontation. In April 29, 2009, the Euro-Business newspaper from Brussels came out with a scathing article attacking Belarus from a Polish point of view.
It relates the president of the European parliament’s condemnation of Belarussian policies while speaking in Poland, and reminds readers that Lukashenko was under a EU imposed travel ban lifted only in October. But what are the facts here. Again, the president of the rather toothless EU parliament attacks Belarus for a lack of democracy. But Belarus has 14 independent and rather large political parties, some pro-Lukashenko, some opposed. Belarus has dozens of privately owned newspapers of diverse backgrounds, including the large anti-government Charter 97 news agency.
Apparently, the issue is not over “democracy” but Belarus’ strong sense of national independence, including in terms of economic integration with the EU. Pro-Belarussian professor Matthew Johnson had this to say about the situation in Belarus: In Belarus, a country the size of Kansas, there are about 800 newspapers. Of this, about 600 are privately owned. There are about 450 magazines are various kinds. Of these, about 300 are owned by private investors or entrepreneurs. In television, there are 9 state owned stations, and about 40 stations owned by private investors (Johnson, 2006).
On April 30, 2009, the Soros owned Radio Free Liberty newspaper wrote that “Czech President Vaclav Klaus has said he would neither shake Lukashenko’s hand nor invite him to the Prague castle if he comes to the Czech capital. ” No reasons for this immature overreaction are given. It does strongly suggest that the EU and the US are putting quite a bit of pressure on European leaders to freeze out the independent Lukashenko. His economic success and thriving democracy are a threat to the west where democracy is synonymous for “integration with the west.
” Lukashenko’s independent course and economic success far and above either Poland and Czech Republic in terms of incomes and unemployment (cf. World Bank Report, 2009). The Russian News and Information Agency wrote on February 18, 2009, that “The EU plans to include Belarus in its new program, Eastern Partnership, on the condition that Minsk complies with EU demands on the country’s democratization. ” In other words, Belarus can be a part of Europe so long as she ceases to be an independent country and permits Brussels to restructure her domestic policy.
And would Great Britain like it if Belarus refused to ship any oil to Europe unless she pull out of Northern Ireland? This is about power, and the foreign policy independence of Belarus. Refusing to follow any western line, Belarus has strong economic and military ties with Iran, China and Vietnam, hence standing in the way of western foreign policy. This seems to have more to do with the EU’s contempt for Minsk than anything else. But often, the newspapers dealt with here refuse to deal with the major issues.
First, none of the above papers ever dealt with the economic success of Belarus, even when such success is seconded by the World Bank statistics themselves. Second, they refuse to deal with Lukashenko’s popularity and, lastly, refuse to deal with the long history of the CIA in attempting to destabilize that country, hence prompting Lukashenko’s paranoia about foreign manipulation. Paul Labarique writes in the Non-Aligned Press Network: The Bush administration’s many attempts to overthrow Alexander Lukashenko and destabilize Belarus to bring it to the North Atlantic orbit (NATO) have failed.
Not precisely because the extremely authoritarian president has had the support of Russia, but because it has relied on his voters. Appreciating the country’s good economic performance and the maintenance of their independence, the Belarusian distrusted an opposition too openly submitted to Washington’s interests (February 18, 2005) While this is a dated reference, it does show that many are suspicious about the so-called anti-Lukashenko opposition and the CIA’s long running interference in Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Georgian and Belarussian elections.
But none of this is spoken of in the major media outlets in America or the EU. The more recent articles dealt with in this paper refuse to deal with any of the major issues involved with the west’s irrational attacks on Lukashenko. But what are the newspapers leaving out? Apparently they are under a great amount of stress to paint Lukashenko in the most dire colors possible. But this is a problem: if the major newspapers worldwide are refusing the report the truth, than what does this say?
It says that, especially in more obscure parts of the world, CIA involvement can lead to distorted reporting for reasons of “national security. ” Or it may be merely that the reporters involved do not want to be thrown out of the country club, or that, even more, the Radio Free Europe report is motivated by the fact that the Soros NGO’s were thrown out of Belarus some years ago as agents of the CIA. Either way, the fact remains that newspaper reporting is highly suspect, and yet, the issues here are tremendous: Russia is a nuclear armed country, and pushing Belarus too hard is, to some extent, pushing Russia.
To re-create the Cold War is likely not the best idea in the world, and the fact that Belarus is reaching out to China and Venezuela suggests that an alternative trading and military bloc is being formed. The picture the newspapers paint of Lukashenko is an unrestrained tyrant. Yet that is not backed up by facts in any forum. Hence, in reading papers about the relations between Lukashenko and the EU, one must be wary of the bias of the authors. The issues that the authors are not bringing up either because they are too ignorant of the subtleties, or they are under pressure, are that first, Belarus is an economic and political success.
Lukashenko enjoys wide popularity and has controlled the effects of both the breakup of the USSR and the current economic crisis. But Lukashenko’s policies have been driven by state independence and the desire for a multi-polar world. This has led to threats from the west that has led further to the realignment of Belarussian politics towards anti-western centers throughout the world, including the crucial area of nuclear power (Kommersant, 2006). The west’s policies in this respect have been failures.
But it is also clear that the media is also a major power behind the attacks on Lukashenko, often without the facts and research necessary to make sense out of the complex political situation of small states in a hostile environment. Obviously the media is misreporting the situation in Belarus. It seems to this writer that the real reason Belarus is a threat is that they are an economic successful nation outside of the integrative structures of the west and its banks.
Luskahenko has refused to permit his country to come under the control of the west, and has pursued a strategy of international equality, seeing all states as equal and as contributing to global justice. As a result he is vilified in the press, as some of the newspaper reports mentioned here show. History is in the making indeed, and it is being made by a handful of reporters and journalists in elite newspapers. References: Barber, Tony. “Belarus Fears Battle for Regional Influence. ” The Financial Times. May 2, 2009. Moscow Times. “Lukashenko Expected to Skip EU’s Prague Summit.
May 4, 2009 EU Business. “European Parliament Chief Calls for Democracy in Belarus. April 29, 2009. Radio Free Liberty. “Belarussian President Will not Attend Prague Summit. ” April 30, 2009. Labareque, Paul. “Belarussians Defend their Interests. ” Non Aligned Press Network. February, 15, 2005 Johnson, Matthew Raphael. Belarus: A New Look. The American Journal for Russian and Slavic Studies, 2006. Kommersant. “Lukashenko Speaks Chinese. ” May 24, 2006 World Bank. Belarus. 2009. (Cf www. worldbank. org/by) for all the statistical information on the Belarussian economy.