What to Do with Belarus

belarus020409.jpgWriting in the Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Gedmin, the president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has a few suggestions:

The U.S. and the EU need to consider two issues in their relations with Belarus. It’s only through a coordinated approach that we’ll make progress towards reform.

The first issue has to do with democratic development. The heady days of the 1990s, when it appeared that freedom was on the march around the world, have given way to a decade of democracy recession. The most troubling developments have taken place in Russia and its periphery.

Democratization in countries such as Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine will almost certainly help to curb Russia’s imperial appetite. Faced with neighboring democracies, Russia would be forced to take greater stock of its affairs at home. Garry Kasparov, the chess champion turned Putin opponent, thinks of an inside and an outside game if you want to support Russian democracy today. Mr. Kasparov argues that the outside game — what happens in Russia’s neighborhood — may be as important as what’s happening inside Russia.

Let’s encircle Russia with states that provide a powerful model fordemocratization. It has been 20 years since George H.W. Bush gave his”Europe, Whole and Free” speech in Mainz, Germany, and the project isonly half complete.

Second, the prospects for political change in Belarus may not be asbleak as some believe. True, the opposition is weak. For his part, Mr.Lukashenko never fails to disappoint. Despite all evidence to thecontrary, the regime calls into question the fact that the mass graveson the outskirts of Minsk are the work of Stalin’s henchmen. And Mr.Lukashenko is the only ex-Soviet leader to have proudly retained thename “KGB” for his security services.