News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

CIS meeting underway, Kyoto, the oil biz, Media problems, Edicts from the top, Polish spies, Bush, Kazulin day 40, Milinkevich, Blogs

From the Top

Heads of ex-Soviet republics open Belarus summit to focus on reforming their organization

From: IHT
The heads of 11 former Soviet republics on Tuesday took sides in the increasingly contentious debate over how the 15-year-old Commonwealth of Independent Nations could be transformed into an influential and effective organization.

The question has long hung over the Moscow-dominated group, which skeptics see as little more than a talking shop.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose oil-rich Central Asian nation holds the group's rotating presidency, said Tuesday's summit was a good opportunity "to work out a mechanism allowing us to raise the CIS's effectiveness." He has proposed turning the CIS into a free-trade zone like the European Union.

This could help keep in the fold Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, which are seeking to move out of Russia's shadow and have expressed skepticism about the future of the group. The three, along with Azerbaijan, have formed a group seen as an alternative to the commonwealth.

But reform is anathema for stalwarts such as Belarus, whose authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has said talk of transforming the organization was in the interest of "enemies" intent on ruining the CIS.

"Our summit is being closely watched not just in the Commonwealth of Independent States but the entire world," Lukashenko warned at the opening ceremony in Belarus' shining new National Library.

The CIS heads were expected to discuss security issues and strategies for combatting illegal migration, Russian media reported.

Several of the leaders were expected to hold bilateral meetings. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian were to discuss their countries' dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, while Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili were expected to focus on the roiling tensions between their nations.

Kremlin spokesman Alexei Gromov said Tuesday that Putin had no plans to meet with the Georgian leader but that "possibly they will talk on the sidelines." Saakashvili reiterated as he left for Minsk that it would be "very good" if he could speak with Putin.

One of the founders of the CIS, former Belarusian leader Stanislav Shushkevich, said the CIS had allowed the former Soviet republics to minimize bloodshed as the Union dissolved.

"This is not the 15th birthday for the CIS, but the 15th anniversary of the burial of the Soviet Union," he said.

Still, he said, there were increasingly few reasons to stay together since the members had chosen such different paths.

"Ukraine, for example, aspires to the EU. And what common interests can it have with Uzbekistan?" he said.

As for Moscow's role, he noted, "neo-imperialist Russia is only pushing away its potential allies, which is perfectly obvious even in the case of Belarus." Russia is trying to hike the price Belarus pays for gas fourfold to US$200 (€155) per 1,000 cubic meters, stoking tension that persists between the neighboring nations despite ties that are closer than most in the former Soviet Union.

Amnesty International appealed to the CIS leaders on the eve of the summit to finally abolish the death penalty within their territory. Seven CIS members have eliminated capital punishment and three — Russia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan — have moratoriums in effect, Amnesty said. Belarus and Uzbekistan continue to have the death penalty on the books and to apply it, it said, adding that incarceration conditions for death-row prisoners in a number of CIS states were inhumane.

The 12-member CIS includes all the former Soviet republics except the three Baltic states: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. However, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov rarely makes an appearance at its meetings.

Alexander Lukashenko calls upon CIS leaders to enhance integration

From: Belta
Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko called upon leaders of the CIS member-states to put more efforts in enhancing the integration.

Today Alexander Lukashenko stated during a private meeting of the CIS heads of state, first of all, the CIS states need to develop economic co-operation, work together to secure main social rights and guarantees for Commonwealth citizens. “We are facing large joint tasks to preserve the environment, develop culture, science and education”, said Belarus president.

He underlined, “The CIS main achievement is the preservation of the determination to co-operate”. Alexander Lukashenko admitted, some of the set goals were left unfulfilled. However, it does not mean they are no longer topical, the Belarusian leader is convinced.

"The volume of Belarus trade with CIS states will substantially exceed USD20 billion in 2006," Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko said today. "Over the last 15 years the CIS states have travelled a long and not always easy way establishing relations within the Commonwealth. A lot has been accomplished”.

According to Alexander Lukashenko, the CIS prevented the dangerous engagement of former Soviet republics in a confrontation on the scale of the former USSR. At the interstate level the countries have preserved the control over economic systems, ensured transparent customs administration, work hard in the standardisation field. The CIS free trade zone also contributed to restoring the capacity of the Commonwealth’s internal market.

The Belarusian leader also underscored, the CIS states are waging a serious joint fight against organised crime, terrorism, and economic crimes.

A. Lukashenko and K. Bakiev sign treaty on friendship and cooperation between Belarus and Kyrgyzstan

From: Belta
A treaty on friendship and cooperation between Belarus and Kyrgyzstan was signed today in Minsk by presidents of the two states Alexander Lukashenko and Kurmanbek Bakiev. According to the presidents, this document will give a new impetus to development of the cooperation between Belarus and Kyrgyzstan in various fields.

The two presidents also attended a ceremony of signing a cooperation program between the foreign ministries of Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. The two countries also concluded intergovernmental cooperation agreements in the fields of industrial property protection, certification of scientific and scientific-pedagogical highly qualified personnel, education and science.

The National Academies of Sciences of Belarus and Kyrgyzstan signed a scientific cooperation agreement. On the part of Belarus the document was signed by chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich.

Belarus and Kyrgyzstan intend to directly supply goods to each other, without middlemen. According to the Belarusian leader, at present many Kyrgyz goods are exported to Belarus by 5-6 middlemen, what is absolutely inadmissible. The countries should make direct supplies. The matter concerns Kyrgyz supplies of fruits, vegetables and cotton, Belarus needs so much. In turn, Belarus is ready to export equipment necessary for the national economy, agriculture and industry of Kyrgyzstan.

Belarus has confirmed its readiness to set up joint productions in Kyrgyzstan including an assembly production of MTZ tractors if Kyrgyzstan annually buys about 500 tractors.

According to the Belarusian leader, this will be a great step forward; the Kyrgyz tractor-building school will be formed there. “Today you can take part in this assembly production by supplying certain component and spare parts and gradually substitute those units, which are at present brought from Belarus”, the president said. “It is a normal way of development. And Belarus is ready to cooperate with Kyrgyzstan in this field”, Alexander Lukashenko noted.

Moreover, Belarus will do everything to help Kyrgyzstan restore its economy. Hard working Kyrgyz people should work normally and get worthy wages, the head of the Belarusian state underscored.

Belarus and Kazakhstan have prepared proposals on 40 joint scientific projects. The sides are ready to start working. According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, the co-operation agreement the national academies of science of Belarus and Kyrgyzstan signed on November 27 in the presence of the two presidents “opens significant prospects for co-operation in electronics and information technologies”.

Commenting on the friendship and co-operation treaty Belarus and Kazakhstan presidents signed in Minsk today, the press service of the Belarusian head of state noted, the document confirms the intention of the two countries to secure the development of economic, trade, scientific and technical relations between state authorities, territorial self-government bodies, banks, companies and self-employed businessmen.

The sides also confirmed the intention to co-operate in the security field in line with the UN Charter, in the fight against organised crime, terrorism, to join efforts to assist with transit of passengers and cargoes via the two countries.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko plans to visit Kyrgyzstan in 2007. Such agreement was reached today in the course of a meeting between Alexander Lukashenko and president of the Kyrgyz Republic Kurmanbek Bakiev.

According to the two leaders, the exchange of high-level visits promotes the strengthening of bilateral relations. Such visits will promote not only the growth of the trade turnover but also the growth of the economies of Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, Alexander Lukashenko considers.

Russia to Prevent Belarus from Earning on Its Crude

From: Kommersant
Russia’s intention to impose duties on crude export to Belarus starting from 2007 will probably materialize. Another attempt of Moscow and Minsk to agree on splitting the revenues from export duties on petroleum produced by Belarus’ refineries from Russia’s crude has eventuated in failure.

The good intention notwithstanding, on November 24, Russia and Belarus proved unable to come to terms and initial the draft agreement on splitting petroleum export duties, one of negotiators told PRIME-TASS yesterday on condition of anonymity.

Russia that imposes no duty on crude export to Belarus is pressing for splitting the revenues derived from the export of diesel fuel, black oil and gasoline produced from Russia’s crude. Moscow wants to get what it thinks is due to it when the petroleum produced from Russia’s crude is delivered to the third party, i.e. to Europe. The latest proposal of the Kremlin is splitting the revenues 85 percent to 15 percent in its favor.

But today’s stumbling block is not the above ratio, which Belarus doesn’t challenge now, but rather the methods of calculating, the anonymous negotiator said. Belarus insists on deducting the VAT in time of calculation. VAT is paid when delivering crude to the country from Russia, and Belarus itself applies this deduction to make the petroleum export competitive.

Russia opposes this arithmetic, as there will be nothing to share if it is applied. With VAT taken into account, the effective rate of duty (i.e. the duty actually paid by Belarus exporters to the budget) doesn’t exceed 20 percent of the nominal one.

Belarus included into Kyoto Protocol Annex B

Belarus has been included into Kyoto Protocol Annex B, first deputy minister of natural resources and environmental protection Alexander Apatskiy informed a press conference in Minsk.

Belarus was granted the right at the 12th session of the 2006 United Nations Climate Change Conference and the second meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Nairobi on November 6-17, 2006. The forum gathered over one hundred ministers from all continents of the planet and almost 6,000 delegates and representatives of international organisations.

Annex B lists countries with assigned amounts of emissions. The countries can implement economic mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. Listed in the Annex B, Belarus will be able to attract funds for joint projects and to partake in international emissions trading, said Alexander Apatskiy. In the future Belarus will be able to use the income to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the deputy minister, the negotiations were very tense. “We were imposed more unprofitable and severe conditions than other countries faced. During the negotiations we stated if the amendment was not passed, our country would quit the protocol seeing no sense in being part of it”, he stressed.

Alexander Apatskiy also said, the Belarusian delegation managed to convince the delegates to pass the amendment, as the country had complied with all requirements and procedures of the Protocol. India, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Cuba were especially vigorous voicing their support for Belarus.

Specialists say, over the last 15 years Belarus halved greenhouse emissions in CO2 terms. At present the country uses only half of the amount the Protocol assigned. Alexander Apatskiy informed, it was no accident Kenya was chosen to host the forum. Scientists predict the climate changes to hit the poorest countries, many of which are in Africa, hardest. The expected climatic zone shift will deprive a third of African animals and plants of their natural environment by 2085. In some areas the rising sea level can destroy 30 per cent of the shore infrastructure. Experts advise to halve the world’s greenhouse exhausts by the middle of the century. As part of the Kyoto Protocol, which assigns limits on greenhouse gas emissions, 36 industrially developed countries are to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent in comparison with 1990 in 2008-2012.

In Belarus the Kyoto Protocol, which builds on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was put into action on November 24, 2005. The document was adopted in Japan during the third United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 1997.

Belarus has Nasha Niva on the run

From: Seattle PI
Belarusian authorities have warned a leading independent newspaper that it could face closure - a move its editor on Monday described as part of government efforts to muzzle critical voices.

Deputy Information Minister Lilia Ananich said the weekly Nasha Niva had been handed an official warning over its failure to indicate its address in the most recent issues published this month as required by Belarusian law. "The editors have rudely violated the law," she said.

The newspaper, which marked its 100th anniversary this month, had to change its offices four times this year after authorities barred it from the capital, Minsk. The state postal agency has refused to distribute the weekly, and authorities also have barred it from subscription.

"The Belarusian authorities don't stop attempts to destroy the last remaining independent newspapers in the country," Nasha Niva's editor Andrey Dynko said.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media rights watchdog, criticized the Belarusian authorities' moves against Nasha Niva, saying the newspaper's rental contracts had been canceled under official pressure.

"As in the case of Arche, a cultural magazine suspended by the Information Ministry in September, the authorities often use these practices to neutralize the independent press," the group said in a statement issued Friday.

Russian Journalists Boycott CIS Summit in Belarus

From: MossNews
Russian journalists accompanying Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Minsk, decided to leave the CIS summit after two of their colleagues were refused permission to work there. The CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) summit opened in the Belarusian capital on Tuesday.

According to the RIA Novosti news agency, the decision to boycott the summit came after the organizers of the meeting denied accreditation to reporters from the “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” and “Kommersant” daily newspapers. No comments from the Belarus side were available at the time of the report.

Heads of state from the CIS are gathering today in Minsk for talks expected to focus on two uncomfortable issues — energy and the future of the grouping itself.

Russia's domestic gas price to double by 2011 - Gref

From: Ria Novosti
Russia's economics minister said Tuesday the domestic price of natural gas will more than double by 2011 to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters.

"We plan to do this by around 2011. This is a timeframe in which all Russian companies will be able to adequately prepare for a domestic price of above $100," German Gref told reporters, adding that the rise would be gradual.

Domestic industrial consumers currently buy natural gas wholesale at just $40 per 1,000 cu m.

Russian gas is now sold abroad at up to $260 per 1,000 cu m, so the domestic price should ideally be set at $125, or about one half the export price, the minister said.

Russian state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom incurs billions of rubles in losses each year from cheap gas sold on the domestic market.

As well as raising domestic prices, currently around five times below the average export rate to the European Union, Gapzrom is also pushing for higher prices for Russia's ex-Soviet neighbors, including Belarus, which until recently enjoyed concessions comparable to the domestic price, and Georgia.

Gazprom has announced a nearly four-fold price increase to $180-$200 per 1,000 cu m for supplies to Belarus as of 2007, from $50 charged now, and said it will more than double the price for Georgia, to $230 from the current $110.

The price of gas sold to the EU - which relies on Russia for around 30% of its energy needs, including 44% of its gas - could be brought up to $293 per 1,000 cu m in 2007, 15% higher than this year's $257.

Belarus elaborates draft program on small towns’ development for 2006-2010

The government of Belarus has been elaborating a draft program for the development of small towns and villages for 2006-2010. The document is aimed to meet one of the country’s top priorities for this five-year period. The main purposes of the program are to cut the unemployment, provide the opportunities to earn good money and construct houses in rural areas.

As BelTA learnt from chief of the department for regional economy and habitat of the economy ministry of Belarus Stanislav Matuk, the core of the program will be made of offers on development of specific towns and villages. The act will be also based on suggestions of local authorities on how to improve operation of their subordinate companies.

Belarus has 112 medium and 95 small towns and about 24,000 villages. In accordance with the town-planning classification, small towns are settlements with the population under 20,000 people; medium towns have the population of 20,000 to 100,000 people.

Some 31 towns will be turned into agro-towns. A total of 1,481 agro-towns will be formed in Belarus in accordance with the village revival program for 2005-2010.

Thus, the rural development of the country will be carried out in line with the state program for the development of regions, small towns and villages for 2006-2010 and the village revival program for 2005-2010.

'Immoral' parents to lose children

From: CNN
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, berated in the West for his authoritarian methods, has ordered that children be taken from families deemed "immoral" and sent to orphanages.

This would be done bypassing the courts under Lukashenko's decree, which was signed late on Friday and will come into force on January 1, 2007.

Parents would have to repay the costs of their children's stay in orphanages and their own homes could be confiscated.

"If it is established that parents are leading an immoral life which corrupts their children, if they are hardcore alcoholics or drug addicts, or if they in any other way neglect their parental duties, their children will be placed under state guardianship," Lukashenko's press service said.

"Thus, such procedures are envisaged to be implemented bypassing courts," it said.

In a move strikingly similar to Soviet-era campaigns against "spongers and ill-gained profits", Lukashenko said "careless parents" would be prosecuted if they dodged compulsory labor or misreported their real incomes.

Authorities have in recent years tightened procedures for foreign adoptions, now subject to approval by the education minister, and made it more difficult for children to be sent on holidays abroad.

The move came after a couple in Italy tried to prevent the return home to Belarus of a child in their care. The couple said she was being mistreated at her orphanage, an allegation denied by Belarussian officials.

Belarus authorities say they want to protect children from uncaring parents and domestic violence, as well as Western influences they say are alien to Belarussian customs.

Under the latest presidential decree, local authorities across the ex-Soviet state may evict "immoral" parents from their native towns or villages.

Belarus buries Napoleonic troops

From: BBC News
ceremony has been held in Belarus to bury the remains of 224 Napoleonic soldiers killed in 1812 as the French imperial army retreated from Russia.
Their bodies were discovered last year and their regiments identified from remnants of their uniforms.

The soldiers were buried on the River Berezina, east of the capital Minsk.

The ceremony took place on the 194th anniversary of the crossing of the Berezina by Napoleon's troops, as Russian forces shelled them.

France's ambassador thanked Belarusian officials for discovering the remains of the soldiers and for helping bury them.

Re-enactors, dressed as 1812-era Russian soldiers, fired a cannon.

Orthodox and Roman Catholic prayers were offered in the French, Old Slavonic and Belarussian languages.

Lithuania Arrests Belarus Spy Working Against Poland

From: MossNews
A Belarusian spy working against the interests of Poland was arrested Saturday in neighboring Lithuania, Poland’s national prosecutor is quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

Prosecutor Janusz Kaczmarek said the Belarusian had worked “for a long time against the economic and defense interests of Poland.”

He was arrested in a “joint undertaking between Polish intelligence and the Lithuanian services,” Kaczmarek said during an interview broadcast on TVN24 television.

He refused to identify the suspect or divulge any further details. Officials in Lithuania could not immediately be reached for comment.
Poland, which has long pushed for democratic change in neighboring Belarus, has tense relations with Minsk.
  • Note: Imagine that...

    George Bush: “We are Together with Belarusian Nation in Its Fight for Freedom”

    From: Charter '97
    Today in Riga where the NATO summit is held, US President George Bush met with the leader of the democratic forces of Belarus Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the international coordinator of the Charter’97 Andrei Sannikov and the former Belarusian political prisoner Mikhail Marynich. The Belarusian democrats were presented to US President by Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga. As the Charter’97 press-center was informed by Andrei Sannikov from Riga, during the meeting US President expressed solidarity with the Belarusian nation in its struggle for its rights and freedom.

    Before the meeting with Belarusian democrats George Bush delivered a speech in Latvian university. In his speech US President touched upon Belarusian topic as well. In particular, he mentioned that opposition leaders Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski, Yury Zakharanka and a journalist Dzmitry Zavadski had disappeared.

    US President stated that “our vision of a united free and peaceful Europe includes Belarus”.

    “We stand together with the Belarusian nation in its fight for freedom,” US President said.

    Day 40: Alyaksandr Kazulin Can be Transferred to Prison Hospital in Minsk

    From: Charter '97
    The former Belarusian candidate for presidency Alyaksandr Kazulin, who continues hunger strike in the colony for the 40th day, does not have health complaints or ask for hospitalization, a deputy head of the penal jurisdiction department of Belarusian Interior Ministry of Belarus Yury Barankou said to Interfax. However, as said by him, “doctors evaluate Kazulin’s condition as moderately grave, close to satisfactory, and they are ready to render all range pf necessary medical care for him”.

    Y. Barankou said that “Kazulin has lost about 20 kilograms over the hunger strike. He has symptoms usual for a long hunger strike – blood thickening and acetone-odour”. A deputy director of the penal jurisdiction department has also said that “last Monday the head of the penal jurisdiction department’s medical division Vasily Zavadski visited the colony. He examined A. Kazulin. “A. Kazulin agreed on methods of intensive therapy in case he would lose consciousness,” told Y. Barankou. He also noted that “A. Kazulin is checked by doctors daily, he hasn’t denied to undergo laboratory tests”.

    “Glucose and albumin are available in the colony for the case of emergency. If needed, A. Kazulin would be transferred to one of the regional medical institutions, or to a prison hospital in Minsk,” he said. He underlined that “nobody would feed him forcibly, it is prohibited by law”.

    He has also informed that “A. Kazulin is allowed to take a shower oftener than other prisoners, which is one of the main rules of a long fasting, besides, almost all day he stays outdoors in a specially equipped place at the territory of the colony. He does not work”.

    The political prisoner has lost about 30 kilograms and is in a grave condition. The politician refuses to stop the protest until his major demand to consider the situation in Belarus at the UN Security Council session is fulfilled.

    President believes there should be opposition in a country

    From: Belta
    On November 23rd, during a press-conference for Ukrainian media, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said it is important that there be opposition in a country.

    “My attitude to the opposition is normal. It [the opposition] should be present so that we could not "become moss-grown”: the authority should hear a different point of view,” the head of state said.

    “I call it “the so-called opposition”. God let every president have such opposition as in Belarus,” the president said. He added, “Today, by the way, the most successful opposition leaders are those who have once “ran away” from Lukashenko”.

    At the same time Alexander Lukashenko voiced against attempts on the part of representatives of the opposition to use other states for deteriorating the situation at home. “If this opposition leave Belarus, call upon enforcing sanctions against this country and are happy when gas prices go up, what can be the attitude to them?” Alexander Lukashenko said.

  • Opinion

    Horse Racing Season Open

    From: Kommersant
    Meeting his counterparts in the CIS this summer, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin tried to mix business with recreation – securing their support in reforming CIS and inviting guests from former Soviet republics to see a horse race. No one would have thought that that betting at the races would become symbolic. The political pitch of the Commonwealth which has long been grassy and dreary now looks like an exciting race track. Visitors feel the long-forgotten thrill and brace themselves to weight all odds before making their bets.
    In fact, the Minsk summit is becoming a real competition where the presidents’ horses have been replaced with different views on the CIS’s future 15 years after its creation. The Kazakh stallion is ready to make a leap as President Nazarbaev comes up with the boldest and most profound reform of the Commonwealth. The Russian stallion is more prudent, preferring to save energy for other races. It evades fast and drastic changes inside the CIS. There is at least one more approach and one more horse. Belarusian President Lukashenko, on the contrary, suggests turning round and running back, which means observing current agreements, for example, the one on free trade space in the CIS as of 1994. The Belarusian says: let’s bury this reform of the Commonwealth deep, otherwise, we will break one necks. It is no accident, though, that in his comments about the future of the CIS before the summit, its host was unusually excited. He spoke about a danger of the collapse of the CIS along the lines of “the Yugoslavian scenario”, the event that external forces are allegedly seeking, he claims. Alexander Lukashenko underscored that he is strongly against the split of the CIS which is essentially a 300 million people market and “the only space where you can speak without interpreters”.

    Lukashenko’s keen intuition has shown that the CIS is facing a new danger of a final and irreversible collapse of everything that has been left after the 15-year poor integration. However, the argument about external forces which are hatching a plot against the Commonwealth does not seem very convincing. One could see some sense in a conspiracy theory when the overtly anti-CIS GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) was formed in the CIS and they made it clear they would rather be with the West than with Moscow. Yet, the picture is quite different these days. The few countries which have long been perceived as the backbone of the CIS (Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus) are now entering a competition with each other – a real horse race. The only thing that matters for them in this situation is coming in first, beating the rival, not merely trotting and thinking that “the primary goal is participation, not the victory in competition”.

    Thus, it is not external influence but an attempt to ask the natural question: “What’s next?” that is splitting the CIS. This is the question – that each member has their own answers to – may split the CIS for good.

    Economic Coercion Is Not an Effective Foreign Policy Tool

    From: Independant Institute by Ivan Eland
    Many foreign policy experts advocate using economic sanctions to motivate foreign governments to change policy. And, while it may be true that many of these governments could improve their countries with policy reforms, history shows that economic coercion doesn’t work.

    Both conservatives and liberals like to use economic coercion. For more than 45 years, conservatives have largely been responsible for attempting to get rid of Fidel Castro by putting the screws to the Cuban population. Yet conservatives always maintained that economic coercion would not get rid of apartheid in South Africa. In contrast, liberals were skeptical that sanctions would get rid of Fidel, but warmly embraced them for use against the repressive South African regime. But measures of economic coercion should succeed or fail through the same processes, regardless of whether the regime is hated by the left or the right.

    With some qualifications, economic sanctions usually fail, both economically and politically. Although bans on trade, investment, lending, travel, etc. can bite initially, smuggling and black markets are lucrative and, over time, become rampant. Over the long-term, the best that can be accomplished is to raise the prices paid by the target nation for the things it wants. Because sanctions use economic coercion to try to achieve political ends, attenuation of the economic pain through adaptation lessens the chance that sanctions will produce the desired political outcome. The possibility of political success is further diminished by the oft grandiose goals of the sanctioning nations—for example, sanctions attempting to change the nature of an oppressive regime, such as those proposed against the government of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. Furthermore, although apartheid was eventually eliminated in South Africa, the mild international sanctions imposed on that country had less to do with apartheid than the internal social movement for the reform of a ghastly social anachronism.

    Also undermining the achievement of sanctions’ political goals is the “rally around the flag” effect. When attacked, either militarily or economically, by a foreign power, the populace of a country usually rallies around the existing leader—no matter how odious he or she may be. Fidel Castro, despite the disastrous consequences of his centralization of the Cuban economy, has been able to blame poverty and economic stagnation on the coercive economic measures imposed by his powerful northern neighbor. In other words, the Cuban people likely would have thrown out Castro long ago if the United States hadn’t declared him “enemy number one.” Also, the most comprehensive international sanctions in world history against Iraq—which at least initially had a grinding and impoverishing effect on the country—were unsuccessful in getting rid of the tyrant Saddam Hussein.

    Dictators often have control over their nation’s economy and can redirect the pain of sanctions onto the backs of those in society least able to weather them. Saddam did this in Iraq and Manuel Noriega did the same when harsh financial sanctions were imposed against Panama in the late 1980s. The authoritarian Lukashenko is likely to do the same if the United States imposes the proposed financial and export sanctions against the government of Belarus, its senior officials, and its companies. Belarus’ government controls 80 percent of that country’s economy.

    So why do public officials from both parties continue to advocate the use of a policy instrument that has such an abysmal track record? In short, sanctions usually can achieve only modest goals—usually symbolic—but this is of great use to politicians. They can send a signal to their politically important domestic constituencies that they are doing something about a problem short of a costly “over-the-top” military attack. For example, the U.S. government showed the African-American community that it was concerned about racism in South Africa by imposing mild sanctions on South Africa and has signaled, for 45 years, Cuban exiles in the important electoral state of Florida that it wanted Fidel Castro removed from power. No matter that such sanctions had little effect—or in some cases, a counterproductive one—in the target country.

    Also, there is a bit of hypocrisy in U.S. policy. Sanctions are often imposed selectively—against only autocratic regimes that the United States doesn’t like or that won’t play ball with U.S. policy. Although the United States actively supports despots in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other nations around the world, both the Executive Branch and Congress have focused their ire on Lukashenko—a thug that local polls say is popular—because Belarus is the one former Soviet country to maintain close economic and political relations with Russia and is resistant to NATO expansion in its neighborhood. Some already say Lukashenko is beginning to resemble a “Slavic Castro,” who receives preferential economic treatment and subsidies from Moscow. In its silent post–Cold War Cold War against Russia, the U.S. superpower is frustrated that it can’t pry away the last major nation in Moscow’s vastly diminished European sphere of influence. But ratcheting up the pressure by imposing economic sanctions will only ensure that Lukashenko does become a genuine “Slavic Castro”—potentially lasting in power for 45 or more years.

    The proposed sanctions against Lukashenko’s tawdry regime are only a microcosm of a much larger problem: The tendency of the U.S. government to overuse ineffective, and potentially counterproductive, economic coercion for symbolic purposes.

  • From the blogs


    From: The Mikes Vacation Blog
    When Belarus drafted the U.N. resolution "Situation of Democracy and Human Rights in United States", she illuminated evidence of broken democracy in United States, but perhaps the citizens of America and the world should notice more than a pervasive abhoration of American principles cataloged by Belarus.

    It is true that Belarus has pointed to some problems in the United States, our electoral college system, our torture of POWs and kidnap victims, police brutality, the multigenerational oppression of the poor due to lack of effective social engeneering, capital punishment policies that would be embarrassing to most third world countries, all of this was important for Minsk to author against, because all of these are real and disturbing problems.

    But the real evidence proving these problems exist came not from the primary Belarusian resolution itself, but from the vacuous response from the American government.

    For example, when Belarus expressed concern over U.S. governmental control and interference with the media and the general atrophy of the freedom of the press, did the Bush administration ask for a public discussion of the matter to take place including the National Writers Union ? No-obviously they did not!

    When the Belarusians voiced concern over arbitrary , incommunicado and secret arrests and detentions, did the Bush administration proudly ask for the opinion of the ACLU to make statements defending US policies? No- obviously not!

    When the Belarusians authored their resolution to include concerns over the electoral system in America, specificly the electoral college system. Did the Bush administration proudly ask for help from Gary Parish- author of " The Electoral College: " Source of Inequality and Social Injustice in America" ? No- they did not!

    When Belarus via their reslolution initiated free and open discussion regarding U.S. capital punishment policies for minors and mentally ill persons, did George Bush desire to proudly tell the world about his own leadership as the govenor of Texas in relation to reasonable capital punishment leadership. I don't think so.

    When Belarus voiced concern over the TENS OF THOUSANDS of of POW's and kidnap victims being held and tortured indefinetly, did the Bush administration desire to begin an open and public discussion with the families and loved ones these same kidnap victims? Did George Bush begin an open discussion with the countrymen of these same kidnap and torture victims regarding their wherabouts and conditions?
    Of course not!

    You see, the Belarusians had the national integrity to author a resolution to address these and more issues, but it was the response, or lack of a correct and reasonable response from Washington that extra-validated Minsk's concerns.

    A truly democratic government, of the people and for the people would be motivated from their deepest marrow to root out even the faintest rumor of any of the above accusations, a legitimate leader would martyr his political career if neccessary to bring attention and fair resolution to even one of these troubling issues.

    But alas, we the people of America have allowed ethicly hollow Texas oil mafiosi, and war criminals, to gain control of our precious and expensive government.

    It is clear and obvious to the reasonable mind that if Minsk's U.N. resolution was not fairly grounded, and provable and realisticly arguable, Washington would have proudly and loudly initiated long and exhausting publicity to decry it.

    It was in fact Washington's lack of a proud national response that lends any responsible observer to conclude that George Bush's war criminal decisions, and sophmoric domestic policies, have made the American Democratic Condition not only embarrassing and undefendable, but simply incriminating and oxidizing to Washington and Common America as a whole.

    Our founding fathers would be so proud.

    "Secret" Russian radar station

    From: Belarus News and Facts
    Radar station Volga constructed in a birch wood on the place of former Belarus guerrilla base looks like the mysterious monster. The antimissile radar is 11-storied complex with hundred thousand tons of concrete and 750 millions of dollars.

    Antimissile defense of Russia have 8 radio engineering units. Five of them are in former Soviet republics. On each position there are radar stations. Without radar stations the Russian System of the Rocket Attack Warning is deaf and blind.

    - The ballistic missiles of NATO cannot pass Volga by, - the colonel Paul Lavrenenko tells. - We completely close aerospace on the northwest strategic direction. Our task is probe of the zone with powerful microwave-radiation. In the other words we are shooting from electronic guns-modules to the real space objects. Electronics received the reflected signal and never will confuse attacking rocket with the false one. The information from the illuminated objects in the radar-tracking field of Volga goes to the reception center. They defined parameters of space object over there. If it is a rocket then they find place of its start, a trajectory of flight and point of falling.

    There are about thousand of 56-kilogram guns-modules collected in one rectangular package-aerial. Modules are wrapped up with blue pipes-snakes with desalted water for cooling. Modules send their invisible rays up to 6000 kilometers high. Radar station Volga can find out also the low-flying objective at level of 10-12-storeyed house. And even if the object will be in the size of the football which is made from metal they could see a trajectory of its movement on the match of Chelsea in London.

    Americans brag vainly, that they can cover with one blow not only Volga but the whole Russian System of the Rocket Attack Warning. Even if Volga will be pressed by the electronic noise it is already considered as an attack attribute.

    Flying time of the enemy rockets to the Volga and Russia air borders is 7-19 minutes. It is quite enough. Together with the ground radar stations there are military seismic stations and other systems of space investigation. And all set of the information on the forthcoming impact goes to Moscow in seconds, including nuclear suitcase of the President of the Russian Federation. The commander-in-chief has up to 5 minutes to make a decision down to starting orders to the Russia nuclear triad (ground missiles, naval missiles and air missiles).

    The command post is the big hall looks like business-office with the enormous screen. There is the space on the screen limited by two bright green lines: from the north of Africa up to Greenland. Inside of sector there are all the European countries, the Great Britain and the Atlantic Ocean.

    Each object in the zone of radar station Volga has own number and all characteristics which are writing down to the special Catalogue of the space control center. The catalogue is accessible only by Russia and the USA. It includes all satellites and space stations (9000 items) started from Russia, Israel, China, etc. Each satellite which is flying above Volga they check and verified with the catalogue.

    Russians cherish Moscow like the apple of their eye. By the Anti-Rocket Defense Treaty (1972) the USSR and the USA have chosen each their own special defended area. And the main object of the USA defense is rocket base on the cape Warren where the Control centre of all nuclear shield of the USA is located.

    Police Release Belarus Opposition Leader

    From: RFE/RL
    Belarusian police have released opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich.

    Authorities in the Vitebsk region say Milinkevich and a local opposition activist were detained on suspicion that their car was involved in an earlier accident.

    They later determined it was not the same car.

    Milinkevich was in the region to gather signatures in support of candidates for local elections.

    He ran against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in March and led public protests after that disputed vote.