MEANING OF BELARUS
THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS FOR LUKASHENKO
On September 9, Belarus will go to the polls to elect a president, either the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, or one of his U.S.-sponsored challengers. In the Western media, at least, the decision has already been made: Mr. Lukashenko must go.
The elected president of Belarus since 1994, Lukashenko is branded almost every day in the English-speaking media as a "dictator" imposing a "tyrannical regime." Most ominously, the West is increasingly drawing an explicit comparison between the Belarussian president and the former Yugoslav one, Slobodan Milosevic.
Unlike the vast majority of articles on the Belarus elections, I am not interested here in judging Mr. Lukashenko, as that would be an editorial, and not the analytical study I try to present. As such, I am not so much concerned with the outcome of this election as with the media's depiction of it, and specifically, the implications that the equation of Lukashenko with Milosevic has for Western intervention against Slavic countries in general.
As Nebosja Malic has recently pointed out, Belarus has been for several years quite peacefully minding its own business; there would appear to be little reason for anyone to want to intervene against it. But since we're not talking about just anyone here, but about the U.S./NATO empire, there is much to be suspicious about. This time, however, the imperialists have let their guard down to such a degree that Western designs on Belarus can no longer be concealed.
THE SERBIAN PARALLEL
If anyone is still not convinced of the degree to which demonization of the Serbs has become ingrained in Western thinking, I commend the following statement. It comes from someone who has no special association with the Balkans a Loyalist politician in Northern Ireland, David Ervine. Condemning a recent bombing of Belfast children by a pro-UK terrorist group, he said, "I am ashamed to be associated with these people… they are allowing themselves to be seen as the Serbs of Northern Ireland."
This quote confirms that the insidious work of the media has made an entire ethnic group come to be hated and reviled, compared without a second thought to killers and terrorists. In fifty years, we will probably have a colloquial expression, "as evil as a Serb," which will have passed effortlessly into the collective vernacular, through the repetition of such slander and lies. Indeed, the propaganda machine is most breathtaking in its simplicity and effectiveness.
THE HARD FACTS: INVESTIGATING THE COVERAGE
In reviewing the news stories published recently on the Belarus elections, I have come across a pattern of condemnation so consistent, so clear and above all, so anti-Slavic, that it simply cannot be ignored. By consistently comparing Lukashenko negatively to Slobodan Milosevic, the Western media is attempting to clear the ground for an eventual NATO occupation of Belarus, betting that the same ignorant public that supported the war against Serbia will be duped into supporting yet another destructive NATO adventure.
The BBC got into the act on September 6, giving us the following helpful information about Mr. Lukashenko: "his country is home to an authoritarian regime often compared to that of deposed Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic." For good measure, they throw in an old file photo of Lukashenko and Milosevic together. As to who's doing the comparing of the two men, the BBC is suitably vague; the answer, of course, is the pro-NATO media, which generates "truths" simply by talking amongst itself, recycling interviews and quotes from the "International Community," a group murkily defined, but single-minded in its grim purpose: the enforcement of American dominance unilaterally.
The first step down the road of intervention is to dig up anything that can be construed as a "war crime." In countries like Belarus, which unfortunately remain deprived of war, other means are necessary; take the Guardian's Ian Traynor, who calls Lukashenko "Europe's last dictator." The "human rights" interventionists out there must be chafing at the bit to hear Traynor link Lukashenko to "crack troops of the elite 'Almaz' unit… who are reportedly behind the regime's 'death squads' which are said to have killed or kidnapped prominent opposition figures during the past two years."
Never mind Traynor's "reportedly" and "are said"; justification of allegations does not matter, since the "International Community" is always well-intended, and never mistaken. Again, Lukashenko is stuffed into the Serbian straightjacket:
"The talk in the capital, Minsk, and Moscow is of a Belgrade-style scenario where the regime steals victory from the opposition only to trigger a larger political crisis on the streets."
Mr. Traynor unblushingly makes the connection for us this time blaming the Belarussian president for Serbifying himself:
"Mr. Lukashenko, a larger-than-life Soviet-style autocrat, is using the Serbian parallel, seeking to fan the fear of violence and instability among a traditionally docile electorate by claiming that the west is hatching plans to have thousands of demonstrators storm his residence."
Yet what if these apocalyptic prophesies do come true, and there is revolutionary violence in the streets of Minsk? Will that provide NATO with the chance it needs to begin a "humanitarian" occupation of Belarus? Will the Bosnia, Kosovo (and now Macedonia) syndrome be repeated again this time, on the very doorstep of Russia?
THE EMPIRE SHOWS ITS HAND
To improve upon the New York Times' famous motto: "all the news that's fit to print, in order to please NATO and the US." An editorial of August 29 in that formidable publication reveals just what the US fears from Belarus, and what it should do about it leaving unsaid only the question of how it should intervene.
Titled "The Bully of Belarus," the editorial damns Belarus as "Europe's last redoubt of Soviet-style tyranny," and also, "Europe's last dictatorship." As we have seen, this negative characterization is not so uncommon. Where the story gets interesting is in the tacit fears the newspaper has about Belarus. The Times cites its suspicions about "…Moscow's interest in Belarus as a conduit for Russian gas exports, and as a site for radar monitoring of NATO activities. There is even misguided talk of reuniting the two countries, and restoring the political link that existed under the Soviet Union." To this dreaded idea, the Times avers, "Moscow's interest would be better served simply by the election of a more enlightened Belarussian leader."
Russian profiting from natural gas and NATO surveillance now how could that possibly offend the US?
THE BOTTOM LINE
While this is left unstated, the editors are more forthright in making the link for us. Yelping that we must do something, must intervene somehow to bring about justice in Belarus, they boldly suggest that "the kind of coordinated American and European campaign that helped keep Slobodan Milosevic from stealing Yugoslavia's presidential election last year could be effective in Belarus next month."
Hmm… I wonder what that could mean?
PUT THE BOOT DOWN!
The first campaign of an interventionist war is always fought on the ground, by invisible soldiers and spies, and long before anyone else knows that there is in fact a war on. This campaign is executed by the army of the NGO's, "international observers," and other government-sponsored chumps whose role it is to spread dissent and unrest from within, in the hopes of bringing about the kind of civil upheaval that could warrant intervention. This is the kind of covert action the Times editorial is openly alluding to and condoning, a tactic made so effective by virtue of its secretive and seemingly innocent nature. In Kosovo, American organizations like the National Democratic Institute were the real ground troops of NATO; and NDI is quite proud of its efforts in Serbia in toppling Milosevic. In Macedonia, too, the US government is pumping money through its proxy army to try and manipulate the Macedonian people into supporting a bogus and harmful "peace treaty." And, like their Democratic counterparts, the International Republican Institute is hard at work in Skopje, selling out the Macedonian people under the pretense of fostering "democracy." These and other organizations, for example, the "Open Society" institute of George Soros, international meddler par extraordinaire, have been operating hazardously in Belarus for years.
In this context we can comprehend the State Department's veiled threat against Belarus. Spokesman Richard Boucher last month questioned the legitimacy of the election before it has even been conducted, while criticizing the "climate of fear" that Lukashenko has "failed to end." Most telling of all is a companion AP report from August 10: "last week, the department denounced Belarus authorities for seizing U.S.-supplied equipment designed to assist the country's democratic opposition ahead of the presidential election." The report does not answer what seems to be an obvious question: what in hell is the US doing trying to influence a foreign election by buying equipment for its candidates?
In further admission of direct interference in Belarus, the congressionally-funded Radio Free Europe began on August 6 to double its broadcasts to Belarus, with the clearly stated goal being "to provide the citizens of Belarus with comprehensive, balanced news, and analyses they will need to make an informed choice when they go to the polls."
Reports of US interference in Belarus resurfaced again last week, when an American representative of the AFL-CIO, Robert Fielding, was "detained and expelled" after the Belarussian government "accused him of making plans with the opposition for a coup should Mr. Lukashenko be reelected." ("Beleaguered Belarus leader steps up Press crackdown," New York Times, 8/28/01).
The most ominous sign, however, that endgame is coming to Belarus is "the statement of US ambassador to Belarus, Michael Kozak, who threatened that Washington would only recognize the results of the September election if observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe determine that it was fair."
The gauntlet, therefore, has been set: play fair, Belarus, and placate the OSCE's "observers" or suffer the consequences. Of course, the Belarussian are lucky to have the US as the judge of electoral fairness. After all, when have the Americans ever had trouble holding an election correctly?
LOOSE ENDS: UKRAINE HUMILIATED, RUSSIA CONTAINED
Intimidation of Slavic countries by the US is not limited to just Serbia, Macedonia and now Belarus. Ukraine found out the hard way last month, after American pressure (in the form of visits from Condeleeza Rice and Javier Solana) forced it to stop selling arms to Macedonia despite the fact that NATO had considered Macedonia, only a few months ago, "well within its rights" to accept military aid for its own self-defense. The problem was, the aid was in danger of actually being an effective tool against the terrorists of the NLA. The American ultimatum came, and Ukraine bowed out with scarcely a whimper.
Some, like Ukrainian intellectual Vladimir Malenkovich, thundered in vain against the American strong-arm tactics: "putting pressure on Ukraine to force it to stop delivering arms to Macedonia is absolutely impermissible. This is nothing but an imperialistic American policy, a policy practiced by people (who) are accustomed to being obeyed everywhere and all the time." However obvious this might be, there was nothing that Ukraine could do about it; as was sadly noted by Macedonia's Prime Minister Georgievski, "we should not play with NATO's authority."
Adding to the menace against the Slavic countries is the continuing shift in the US government away from the relatively moderate views of Colin Powell, frozen out of the decision-making process by hawkish Cold War dinosaurs like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Their obsolete rhetoric of defending the West against a nonexistent Russian threat is used to justify the continued existence of NATO, as the tool for "containing" Russia. NATO's eastward encroachment has brought it to Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and, most daring of all, far afield to Georgia, where the race to stifle Russian competition in the Caspian oil and gas reserves involves some dangerous and potentially explosive scenarios, especially considering that Russia believes that the establishment of NATO bases in the Caucasus would pose "a direct threat to Russian security on its southern borders and would upset the traditional balance of powers in the region."
Yet cash-strapped Georgia, an Orthodox, if somewhat shortsighted country, has recently hosted military exercises with NATO, and so played right into the hands of the imperialists. The US has exploited tiny regional squabbles in the Caucasus, not only in Georgia's Abkhazia region, but also in the area of Nagorno-Karabhak (disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan) to gain a diplomatic foothold in the region; that is, to build the same administrative infrastructure, the same network of spies and saboteurs, that has decimated Yugoslavia, compromised Macedonia, and is now threatening Belarus.
Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects NDI, as well as Soros' gang (who have been facilitating summits of Caucasus NGO's for years), OSCE, IRI, and especially, our particular favorite, Human Rights Watch all have their turf staked out in those areas of the Caucasus having strategic economic and military importance for the US and NATO. We don't need to be concerned now that no one in the West seems to know or care very much about these far-off regions; we can have faith that the Empire's media and public relations warriors will inform us, when the time is right, as to who is the good guy and who the bad, and why we should wholeheartedly and fervently pledge to intervene. If you want my prediction, however, the bad guy will continue to be Russia, especially as far as Chechnya goes, and its unfortunate extended family Ukraine, Belarus, Macedonia and Yugoslavia. It is more than ironic that NATO's stated goals of bringing peace and stability have failed miserably within its (as yet) only theater of operation, the Balkans. It seems, unfortunately, that this hubristic and outdated, hulking monster will not rest until the needless trail of blood stretches all the way from Sarajevo to Samarkand, by way of Skopje, Odessa and Minsk.
Christopher Deliso is a San Francisco-based travel writer and journalist with special interest in the Balkans. He received a BA in Philosophy and Greek (Hampshire College, 1997) and an M.Phil with distinction in Byzantine Studies (Oxford University, 1999). From 1997-2000 Mr. Deliso lived and worked in Ireland, England, Turkey and Greece, and he spent one month in Macedonia in January, 2000. He is currently investigating media and governmental policies regarding the Macedonian crisis, and he publishes regularly on European travel destinations.
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