Author: Andy Dabilis
Issue : 826
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has learned well there are big advantages to being called "The Last Dictator in Europe" by the European Union, a phrase which overlooked Russian President Vladimir Putin and a host of crackpots in the outer reaches of Europe, like soon-to-be-president for life Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan, who rigged elections to scrap the country's term limits so he can stay in power. The EU likes to use what it calls "soft power" in dealing with tyrants and occasionally pretends to get tough, such as banning them from visiting EU countries, but only until Europe needs them or their oil or gas or finds some other reason to cave in faster than you can say "Where's the Viagra?"
Lukashenko knew it was just a matter of time before the EU cracked, as it has again in a duplicitous twofaced fork-tongued resolution from its foreign ministers who said a travel ban preventing him from coming to the EU won't be lifted, but it won't be imposed either. These guys must be great picking up women in bars with lines like that. The EU won't say it, but that opens the door for Lukashenko to come to Prague for a big May 7 meeting with a 450 million Euro offer aimed at improving relations with eastern European countries where democracy is a myth. Wouldn't you love to see the look on their faces if he shows up and smiles for some photo ops and greets them with the same hand that has strangled the life out of his country, and a few dissidents too, like human rights activist Yana Palyakova, 33, driven to commit suicide because she was convicted of slandering a police officer she said beat her.
That's Belarus for you: Lukashenko's goons beat you and you're the one who goes to jail, but that's the kind of guy the EU loves now. Why? Because they need him more than they do a handful of dissidents - including Alexander Milinkevic, winner of the European Parliament's 2006 Sakharov Prize for human rights. Too bad he didn't have an oil or gas field or they would have given him a bigger award, even if he were a dictator too. Lukashenko even looks the part, the kind of bald-pated toys in the attic tinhorn thug that Hollywood loves to use in Bmovies playing petty people who are repressive rulers like, well, Lukashenko, strutting around like a second-rate Slobodan Milosevic and shouting orders to make themselves feel big.
Talk about typecasting. When he's not rigging elections or throwing people in jail for looking sideways at him - the kind he called "scum" in response to the EU's olive branch - Lukashenko is playing both sides against the middle, releasing a few political prisoners to appease the EU, while keeping the doors open to Russia. After the EU folded like a two-dollar tent, he said "thanks" and tucked his tail between his legs and ran to Moscow to meet with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, where they probably had a good laugh at the EU's expense. Maybe Putin will even give Lukashenko permission to go to Prague, with orders to bring back some intelligence reports or pictures of young Czech female gymnasts. The EU hopes being lenient with Lukashenko will bring Belarus into the Eastern Partnership the EU wants so desperately it's making the promises now, even willing to look the other way on human rights, as it proved when it lifted sanctions and travel bans on Uzbekistan's leaders who directed the massacre of 1,500 people at Andijan in 2005. That's 1,500 more than Lukashenko, unless you count Palyakova. The EU didn't.