The World Today for July 17, 2023


The Autocrat, the Lapdog


Belarussian artist and political dissident Ales Pushkin, 57, recently died in prison from an undisclosed cause. His crime: painting a picture.

Prosecutors said, incredibly, that his work glorified Nazism. As the Moscow Times reported, however, the timing of his arrest suggests his true transgression. Police nabbed Pushkin in 2021 as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in office since 1994, was cracking down on anti-government protests.

In another example of the twisted, oppressive civic culture of the former Soviet republic, as described by Human Rights Watch, Belarusian authorities recently charged an attorney and a journalist with aiding extremism because they shared information about the attorney’s disbarment – even though the information is also publicly available on government websites.

The ridiculousness of these criminal cases reflects the absurd state of Belarus today. The dictatorial Lukashenko persecutes citizens who challenge his rule. Yet he is arguably the biggest lapdog in Europe as Belarus has become a “vassal state” of Russia, wrote the New York Times.

Lukashenko allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to install nuclear weapons in Belarus, putting a target on his country for American, British, and French ballistic missiles. Factories in Belarus, one of the poorest countries in Europe, produce uniforms for Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. Lukashenko needed Russian economic aid and security guarantees after he squelched anti-government unrest a few years ago. He downplays talk of a union between Belarus and Russia, but Putin now openly discusses it.

Belarus has not contributed troops to the war in Ukraine, but Lukashenko has provided support to Putin in every other way, including hosting Russian troops who could conceivably open a second front against Ukraine, added Bloomberg. These developments led the Telegraph to declare that Russia has been stealthily invading the country.

Furthermore, as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explained, Lukashenko allegedly helped broker a peace deal between Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, who recently led an aborted coup against leaders in the Kremlin. Oddly, however, Prigozhin doesn’t appear to have ever moved to Belarus where, under the deal, he was supposed to receive asylum.

However, the BBC reported that Wagner folks are training troops in Belarus.

Belarus’s poor human rights record, its role in the Ukraine war and related issues are why Belarussian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya recently exhorted NATO leaders to pay more attention to her country. “For almost a year, there has been no new pressure against the regime,” Tsikhanouskaya told Radio Free Europe. “This is viewed as a weakness of democracy – Lukashenko and his cronies do crime after crime, and there is no punishment for that.”

The absurdity can’t last forever, though, analysts believe. The lapdog’s time will come.

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