Books on Belarus
Update No: 324 - (19/12/07)
An axis of the future?
Belarus might seem to be the ultimate backwater. An unkind critic could say:
“It is downwind of two unpleasant realities, the Chernobyl disaster and
Russia; a radioactive marsh in the wrong part of the world.”
This is not the view of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, downwind of the US.
He knows that the disaster at Chernobyl in March 1986 was tragic, certainly, but
failed to have the fall-out expected. The winds blew most of it away.
He is convinced that Belarus is an important geopolitical player. It is astride
energy routes from Russia to Europe, likely to be of growing importance in the
years to come. It has a special relationship to
Moscow in more ways than one
The Russians always knew and still know that the Belarussians are their only
true friends in the FSU, White Russians as one. They have consequently confided
in them military secrets that they would never divulge elsewhere.
Belarus is the site of immensely sophisticated former Soviet defence
capabilities, namely air-defence systems. It is the repository of top-secret
secrets, whose value is literally incalculable.
Chavez knows this full well. He spotted an opportunity, the fact that the
Belarussians and the Russians have rather fallen out. It is over the price of
energy, that is of oil and gas. He could do what might be a brilliant deal –
he appears to have done it.
The new Castro
Something new has consequently happened in world politics – and this is rather
rare. The two outcasts have decided to co-align.
Chavez has taken over from Castro the role of being the bete noir of the US in
the Western Hemisphere. He does everything possible to vex Washington, including
bankrolling Cuba. But he is now extending his reach to the Eastern Hemisphere.
Chavez has formed a close alliance with Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenka,
'the last dictator of Europe,' as Condaleezza Rice called him. They know that
they are genuinely popular with (some of) the poor and outcast in their
countries, while how did Rice's boss get elected in the first place?
Oil for arms
Chavez has promised to supply the oil needs of Belarus for years to come and
dismissed Western accusations that the former Soviet republic's leader is a
dictator. Concluding his first visit to Venezuela, Lukashenka promised to help
the South American country beef up its military.
Chavez said both he and his counterpart are wrongly labeled
"dictators" by their critics. "The international media
dictatorship ... calls him 'Europe's last dictator,' and me the last dictator of
Here we are, the last dictators," Chavez said, laughing. "They
demonize us ... (because) we're leading a process of liberating our nations,
uniting our nations."
Venezuela and Belarus share similarly hostile stances toward Washington. The
U.S. government calls the leftist Chavez a threat to Latin America's stability
and Belarus an "outpost of tyranny," accusing Lukashenka of stifling
dissent and free speech, (which is a matter we have often recorded). In fairness
to Chavez he has stopped short of stifling free speech and has shown he can
abide by the democratic process. He has just lost a nationwide referendum on a
number of issues important to him by the narrow margin of 51% to 49% and
accepted the result. This was much to the consternation of the US media, who had
confidently predicted he would cheat, as George W Bush appeared to do in
Florida. Not so. He appeared on Venezuelan TV, ruefully accepted the count and
congratulated his opposition, the winners. One cannot under any circumstances,
envisage Lukashenka doing likewise.
Chavez presented Lukashenka with a medal for his collection, and they signed an
agreement pledging military cooperation. They did not discuss specifics
publicly, but Chavez has expressed interest in buying an air-defence system from
Belarus equipped with radar and anti-aircraft missiles.
The two governments also signed an accord establishing a joint venture to
exploit oil and natural gas in Venezuela.
"The oil your nation needs ... is here, as much as you need for 100 years,
200 years," Chavez said during a ceremony at Guara Este oil field in