The Last Stalinist in Europe

Last week, a tragedy occurred in Europe, though the American media largely ignored it, and our political leadership has not made it an issue.  For all the talk of democracy in Iraq and in the Middle East, there is still one bastion of Stalinism in Europe.  That is in the country of Belarus, where last week, the last of the Old Guard of the KGB flexed its muscle.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko 'garnered' 82.6% of the popular vote in that election, against 3 other candidates.  The reform candidates tried to garner a 'White Revolution' in Belarus (Belarus actually means White Russia), but Mr. Lukashenko saw to it that the peaceful Belarussians were hauled off to jail and beaten with night sticks.

Reform candidate Alexander Milinkevich was briefly detained during the peaceful protest.
 
Lukashenko was originally elected in 1994 as a "reform protest" candidate, but that did not last very long.  And while the Belarus constitution only allows for two terms of four years for the President, a rather controversial "referendum" allowed for Lukashenko to continue in office indefinitely. 
 
But Lukashenko's true colors should have been known before.  In 1991, when then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was detained during a brief coup, Lukashenko as a member of the Soviet Parliament supported the Soviet hard liners who tried to overthrow Gorbachev. 
 
And even though Lukashenko was once hailed as a "reformer," in 1996 he disbanded the Belarussian Parliament.  In 2003 Lukashenko stated "An authoritarian style of rule is characteristic of me, and I have always admitted it."  Some of Lukashenko's political enemies have simply disappeared and have never been heard from again, something that happened many times during Stalin's era. 

The EU in a brief moment of sanity, decided that further sanctions needed to be imposed on Lukashenko's regime.  But the sanctions will be little more than window dressing.  President Lukashenko now cannot enter any EU country.  And any assets in any EU bank of the Belarussian government can now be seized. 

But this alone will do little to stop Lukashenko. 

There has been very little talk in the United States about the last Stalinist of Eastern Europe.  But Lukashenko's crimes are open for the world to see.  His regime has dabbled in human slavery, selling Belarussian women to foreign countries as sex slaves.  He has murdered journalists who have tried to shine a light on his government.  He has also engaged in money laundering. 

I can sympathize to some extent with the EU's refusal to assist us in Iraq.  I do not agree with their stance, but that is their right.  But this is their continent, and the government in Minsk is their responsibility and their problem. 

Some exit polls say that Lukashenko might have won the election outright without the need for intimidation tactics.  These tactics include sending chilling text messages to young Belarussians over their cell phones, saying 'Watch out for your life and your health.' Well, maybe Lukashenko would have won honestly, but we shall never know. 
 
The Belarussians live in fear. I was talking to a young student in Minsk named Olya (her last name will be left off to protect her safety) just before the elections.  Olya is in her early 20's.  Olya and I were discussing the upcoming election, and she sang to me Lukashenko's praises.  We were having a friendly conversation, and then she said to me that she was very afraid.  She quickly hung up the phone, I have not heard from her since. 
 
We now see what she has to be afraid of.  People being arrested in the middle of the night. Thugs armed with machine guns and night sticks beating peaceful protestors in the middle of the capital city of Minsk. 

What we do know is that Lukashenko is a blight on the European continent.  Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, no reformer himself, is not thrilled by Lukashenko's regime. 
 
To get rid of Lukashenko will be difficult, but it is doable. The first step needs to be taken at the G—8 summit in St. Petersburg. Putin will try to use this first summit in the Russian Federation to show off.  Bush and the other European leaders must publicly and then privately condemn Lukashenko's reign of terror. 

Putin, while an ideological soulmate of Lukashenko, is believed to be bothered by aspects of Lukashenko's "Presidency" and is rumored to want a less controversial dictator for Belarus. More economic and political pressure from the US and from the EU must be applied to Russia, so that Putin can be maneuvered to do the right thing and have Lukashenko removed from office. 

It is time for the United States, The EU and NATO to finally muster up some testosterone, and demand free and fair elections in Belarus. 

Pastor John Massoud publishes Christ Church Online.

Last week, a tragedy occurred in Europe, though the American media largely ignored it, and our political leadership has not made it an issue.  For all the talk of democracy in Iraq and in the Middle East, there is still one bastion of Stalinism in Europe.  That is in the country of Belarus, where last week, the last of the Old Guard of the KGB flexed its muscle.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko 'garnered' 82.6% of the popular vote in that election, against 3 other candidates.  The reform candidates tried to garner a 'White Revolution' in Belarus (Belarus actually means White Russia), but Mr. Lukashenko saw to it that the peaceful Belarussians were hauled off to jail and beaten with night sticks.

Reform candidate Alexander Milinkevich was briefly detained during the peaceful protest.
 
Lukashenko was originally elected in 1994 as a "reform protest" candidate, but that did not last very long.  And while the Belarus constitution only allows for two terms of four years for the President, a rather controversial "referendum" allowed for Lukashenko to continue in office indefinitely. 
 
But Lukashenko's true colors should have been known before.  In 1991, when then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was detained during a brief coup, Lukashenko as a member of the Soviet Parliament supported the Soviet hard liners who tried to overthrow Gorbachev. 
 
And even though Lukashenko was once hailed as a "reformer," in 1996 he disbanded the Belarussian Parliament.  In 2003 Lukashenko stated "An authoritarian style of rule is characteristic of me, and I have always admitted it."  Some of Lukashenko's political enemies have simply disappeared and have never been heard from again, something that happened many times during Stalin's era. 

The EU in a brief moment of sanity, decided that further sanctions needed to be imposed on Lukashenko's regime.  But the sanctions will be little more than window dressing.  President Lukashenko now cannot enter any EU country.  And any assets in any EU bank of the Belarussian government can now be seized. 

But this alone will do little to stop Lukashenko. 

There has been very little talk in the United States about the last Stalinist of Eastern Europe.  But Lukashenko's crimes are open for the world to see.  His regime has dabbled in human slavery, selling Belarussian women to foreign countries as sex slaves.  He has murdered journalists who have tried to shine a light on his government.  He has also engaged in money laundering. 

I can sympathize to some extent with the EU's refusal to assist us in Iraq.  I do not agree with their stance, but that is their right.  But this is their continent, and the government in Minsk is their responsibility and their problem. 

Some exit polls say that Lukashenko might have won the election outright without the need for intimidation tactics.  These tactics include sending chilling text messages to young Belarussians over their cell phones, saying 'Watch out for your life and your health.' Well, maybe Lukashenko would have won honestly, but we shall never know. 
 
The Belarussians live in fear. I was talking to a young student in Minsk named Olya (her last name will be left off to protect her safety) just before the elections.  Olya is in her early 20's.  Olya and I were discussing the upcoming election, and she sang to me Lukashenko's praises.  We were having a friendly conversation, and then she said to me that she was very afraid.  She quickly hung up the phone, I have not heard from her since. 
 
We now see what she has to be afraid of.  People being arrested in the middle of the night. Thugs armed with machine guns and night sticks beating peaceful protestors in the middle of the capital city of Minsk. 

What we do know is that Lukashenko is a blight on the European continent.  Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, no reformer himself, is not thrilled by Lukashenko's regime. 
 
To get rid of Lukashenko will be difficult, but it is doable. The first step needs to be taken at the G—8 summit in St. Petersburg. Putin will try to use this first summit in the Russian Federation to show off.  Bush and the other European leaders must publicly and then privately condemn Lukashenko's reign of terror. 

Putin, while an ideological soulmate of Lukashenko, is believed to be bothered by aspects of Lukashenko's "Presidency" and is rumored to want a less controversial dictator for Belarus. More economic and political pressure from the US and from the EU must be applied to Russia, so that Putin can be maneuvered to do the right thing and have Lukashenko removed from office. 

It is time for the United States, The EU and NATO to finally muster up some testosterone, and demand free and fair elections in Belarus. 

Pastor John Massoud publishes Christ Church Online.