Mediation Activity Helping to Rehabilitate Belarus’ President Lukashenko
Friday, February, 27, 2015
Although regarded in many quarters as the last true dictator in power in Europe, President Lukashenko of Belarus has made strides towards repairing his image and improving his country’s relations with the European Union through his statesmanlike assistance with Ukrainian mediation. There is now talk of removing some of the sanctions the EU has placed on Belarus and possibly inviting Lukashenko to the upcoming summit in May, a move that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.
Belarus has never swerved from its sympathy with Russia and Vladimir Putin, which has put it at odds with the rest of Europe and made it stand out from other former-Soviet countries who have shunned Russia in favor of free trade and democratic reforms. Allegations of rigged elections and human rights violations in Belarus have gotten little more than shrugs, souring relations further.
Although attitudes towards Belarus appear to be softening in response to its support of mediation in Ukraine, the EU is bound to proceed carefully, unwilling to repeat the blunders that led to a revolution and civil war in Ukraine, largely seen as the result of too much, too fast with Europe. The mediation work Lukashenko did in Ukraine is largely seen as a sign that Belarus is more open to détente with the EU than ever before.
Although many warn that the human rights issues in Belarus cannot be ignored, they also feel that the best way to address them is to forge closer ties with the country, encouraging better behavior by rewarding it, instead of trying to discourage it with sanctions, which tend to punish innocent citizens rather than dictators.