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Grandmaster Lukashenko

Say what you will about Europe’s last dictator Alexander Lukashenko, the guy is a smart political operator. From Pavol Demeš on RealClearWorld:

Lukashenko is at his chess game again – and winning. Top Western officials are writing him letters, negotiating, and asking him politely to do the things they would like him to do. Fact-finding missions are coming to Belarus to discover what they knew before. While Poland and the EU take the time to consider their next step, Lukashenko is already way ahead of them. Indeed, his plans likely include making a grand display of stopping the attacks and beginning a reconciliation process between Belarusians and Poles. But before he does that, he’ll ask for further international financial assistance and other benefits from the very people and institutions who are now asking him to stop persecuting his country’s minorities. And when that assistance arrives, he will use it to extend his control over domestic resistance and opposition before the new round of elections early next year.

Lukashenko is a tough chess player who frequently uses forbiddenmoves (including removing pieces from the board) that throw hisdomestic and international opponents off-balance. The new EU leadersshould recognize that their peculiar neighbor will not respond tostandard diplomatic warnings and pressure, does not care about EUmembership, and is capable of creating the illusion of success forthose who enter into negotiations with him. They must appreciate thathe is fully aware of the West’s political and economic weaknesses andthe increasingly process-driven mentality when it comes to democracyassistance and the protection of human rights. In short, the policy ofengagement that replaced the strict isolation of Lukashenko’s regimeneeds to be rethought and recalibrated.