In Ecclesiastes 1:4-11, the author muses over the eternal cycles of human existence. Among the many examples that he brings up, the most compelling one states the following: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
To illustrate the sagacity of this insight, it should suffice to examine the history of minority rules. From times immemorial, all forms of minority rules have been based on mutual fears. Majorities have been afraid of their kings, emperors, dictators, and despots. In turn, the rulers have feared the people, because their reign has been based on oppression and not the consent of the governed. Ultimately, these cycles of mutual fears have always grown exponentially until they have led to violent and all consuming political explosions.
Belarus (in Russian: Belorussia), ruled with an iron fist since July 20,1994, by President Alyaksandr Ryhoravich Lukashenka (in Russian: Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko), is no exception. Prior to being engaged in politics, President Lukashenka was the director of a Soviet-style collective farm, called kolkhoz. Before this job, he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and a uniformed guard of the Soviet Border Troops. Having been appointed as a deputy to the Supreme Council of Belarus, he earned the dubious distinction of having cast the only vote against the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Having been labeled “Europe’s last dictatorship,” President Lukashenka has steadfastly prevented Belarus to even begin its transformation as a sovereign state from a Soviet-style dictatorship to a more Westernized pluralistic country. However, like Stalin’s constitution of 1936, the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus of 1994, are modelled in its language after the Western constitutions and at least formally entails all the institutional as well as the personal guarantees, rights and freedoms of a normal, pluralistic state. Accordingly, Section One solemnly declares that the government of the Republic of Belorus belongs to the people. The government is defined as a multi-party representative democracy. While the government guarantees the protection of rights and freedoms of all citizens, Section One also states that the individual citizen “bears a responsibility towards the State to discharge unwaveringly the duties imposed upon him by the Constitution.”
During Lukashenka’s reign, there were three crucial Amendments to the constitution. All Amendments were designed to significantly enhance the powers of the presidency. Approved by a fraudulent national referendum in May 1995 by a majority of 77%, the First Amendment authorized the President to unilaterally disband the Parliament.
The Second Amendment, unilaterally initiated by President Lukashenka, further strengthened his powers. The unicameral parliament, fittingly named the Supreme Soviet, was simply abolished. It was replaced by the National Assembly, a bicameral parliament. Demonstrating President Lukashenka’s increasing arrogance and megalomania, this Amendment was allegedly approved by 84% of the electorate. As a result, all opposition parties were excluded from the new parliament. To wit, due to the lack of transparency as well as ballot stuffing, the United States of America, the European Union, and many other states refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of either Amendment.
Finally, the Third Amendment abolished the presidential term limits in its entirety in 2004. Again, approved by a national referendum, 77.3% of the people consented to President Lukashenka’s demand to serve in the highest office for life. As with the 1996 referendum, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the legitimacy of this referendum into question. The organization bluntly declared that the referendum did not meet the requirements of “free and fair elections.” To add a final political insult to the death of legality, the Minister of Justice of Belorus and almost all the legal scholars in the country came up with a completely novel interpretation of the rule of law. In their opinion, laws are constitutional if they follow the will of President Lukashenka and the people. Those laws that do not fall into this category are non-existent and shall be ignored. As a result, the Constitution and most of the legal provisions are in contradiction.
Similarly, the economy of Belarus, which is the world’s 72nd largest, is almost totally controlled by the state. Dubbing his economic policies “Market Socialism,” he reintroduced in 1994 a purely Socialist economy in Belorus. Politically motivated Russian oil and gas deliveries have rendered Belorus completely energy dependent on the Kremlin. President Lukashenka’s feeble attempts to flirt with the West only made him another East European political prostitute of the region.
The most recent Soviet-style presidential election, held on August 9, 2020, delivered the expected result. Proving that in an orderly dictatorship there are no miracles, President Lukashenka beat the stand-in candidate of the opposition for her jailed husband Sergey Tsikhnousky, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya by 80.10% to 10.12%. The opposition cried foul, while President Lukashenka declared that “You speak about unfair elections and want fair ones? I have an answer for you. We had the elections. Unless you kill me, there will be no other elections.” The ensuing protests have been answered with brutal and ruthless crackdown. Calling the protesters “bands of criminals” and “rats,” President Lukashenka has pleaded with Russian President Putin to come to his rescue immediately. Meanwhile, thousands have been detained and at least two persons have died. More importantly, however, President for life Lukashenka has proved again that the mentality of the Soviet Union is well alive and kicking strongly in the eastern part of the continent.
His soulmate in governance, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been strangely silent throughout President Lukashenka’s ordeal. Clearly, he must have learned something from the events that surrounded former Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s dismal performance at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 in Kyiv and across Ukraine. President Putin’s restraint might have also been motivated by the potential threat of additional sanctions against his country. Be that as it may, Russia would only save President Lukashenka’s hide if Belorus would move decisively into the orbit of the European Union and NATO. Otherwise, a relaxation or even the demise of President Lukashenka’s severe dictatorship would not rattle the Kremlin.
Yet, the people of Belarus deserve the sympathy and support of the rest of the world. Russia’s eventual intervention should not discourage the United States of America and the European Union to provide political and any other support for the people who have unequivocally expressed their desire to finally live free in a democracy. Clearly, President Lukashenka’s days are numbers. Politically, he is done and not even Russia could save his dictatorship. In the Kremlin, President Putin and his colleagues must finally comprehend that the days of dictators in Europe are coming to an end. In case they would resist, their countries would become not only the graveyards of failed ideas, but also the economic catastrophes of the rest of the world.
To understand Vladimir Putin’s wars, the key is to understand the final two decades of the Soviet Union, not the first two decades of the new Russia.
by Tom Nichols • The Federalist
Americans have been grasping to find explanations for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s serial aggressions in Europe. We keep searching for bumper stickers we can understand, so we gravitate to simple explanations like “geopolitics” or “nationalism,” not least because such notions promise solutions. (If it’s about geopolitics, cutting a deal with Putin will stop this; if it’s about nationalism, it’ll burn itself out when Putin has recaptured enough ethnic Russians around his borders.)
And, of course, there’s always “realism.” In this month’s Foreign Affairs, John Mearsheimer argues the Russo-Ukraine war is basically the West’s fault. (We expanded NATO, we supported the Maidan protesters, we were generally just mean to Russia, etc.) Continue reading
by Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
In the book entitled “The Documentary History of the Roots of the German Hanseatic Cities” it is stated that already in the 14th century the Hanseatic confederation laws absolutely prohibited the citizens of its member cities to provide Russians goods on credit; lending them money under any circumstances, including humanitarian assistance; or even borrowing money of them, under the threat of speedy and drastic punishment. This draconian criminal provision was inserted in the law as a consequence of frequent complaints by German merchants about serial Russian dishonesty in the form of sham furs; false trademarks; lying about the existence or non-existence of contracts; tinkering with quantity and quality of exported goods; forced bribes that were pocketed by ruthless bureaucrats; and other unimaginable deceits perpetrated with impunity by Russians of all walks of life. Continue reading
by Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 departed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur at 11:14 am GMT with 298 people on board, including 15 crew members. At 2:15 GMT the flight lost contact and disappeared from the radar as it flew over Ukrainian airspace. Shortly thereafter, it crashed north of Torez, next to the village of Chomukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some fifty miles northwest of Donetsk, and about twenty-five miles of the Russian border. Continue reading
In his Allegory of the Cave Plato asserts that the universe revealed by our senses is not the actual world but the shadow of reality. Thus, this virtual reality is merely an illusion designed to obscure the true differences between the causes and the consequences of events and phenomena. Today too, politicians and peoples alike stare at the walls of their own caves where shadows fight shadows with deadly intensity, while realities are ignored, or even ridiculed. Indeed, in our hyper-ideologized and hyper-mediatized domestic and international politics the fallacious appearances of the shadows are perceived to be more authentic than the blunt facts. In this manner, the silhouettes present enticingly idolatrous images that partially or completely conceal the truth. Continue reading
by Peter Roff
Is there some kind of unwritten law that says the IQ of a sportscaster can be no higher than the average combined score of the ten previous Super Bowls? After listening to NBC’s Bob Costas speak fawningly about the history of the former Soviet Union during the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, you really have to wonder.
As part of his color commentary, Costas called the 1917 Russian Revolution that eventually brought Lenin to power a “pivotal moment” in history. He did so, however, in a manner that glossed over just why that was the case. It should never be forgotten that more than 100 million people around the world – and that’s a conservative estimate – died as a result of what that one event put into play.
Reporters have been telling lies about what the Soviets and their allies did for years. From the New York Times’ Walter Duranty and Herbert Matthews – who wrote admiringly about Stalin and Fidel Castro – to television’s contemporary “superstar” journalists, far too many of those in whom rests the responsibility for telling the truth about world events have slanted their coverage in ways that benefited communist aims. Even today, the New York Times refuses to return the Pulitzer Prize Duranty won in 1932 for his dishonest account of the mass starvation in Ukraine. Continue reading
“Every dollar the federal government does not take from us, every decision it does not make for us will make our economy stronger, our lives more abundant, our future more free.”
by Scott L. Vanatter
Granted the privilege of being elected to a second term, it was his first term accomplishments which enabled Reagan to describe the continued path to an even greater future. These concrete accomplishments – in the face of a terrible economy and a palpable lack of hope — gave the country confidence that we could become the shining city on a hill he so often pointed to. His February 6, 1985 State of the Union address cemented these hopes in the minds and hearts of Americans of all walks of life. Reagan’s generous, positive vision of the future was contagious. This contagion was assisted by the results of the politics and policies he pursued. Continue reading
“I am not frightened by what lies ahead and I don’t believe the American people are frightened by what lies ahead. Together, we’re going to do what has to be done.”
by Scott L. Vanatter
On election night November 4, 1980 Ronald Reagan revealed that he had expected “a cliffhanger.” Perhaps the fact that he had previously worked as an actor colored the language he used that night.
He said he was humbled not just because of the large margin of victory, but also the mere fact of being elected. “Even if it had been the cliffhanger that all of us, I think, were expecting, it would have been the same way.”
Reagan said he would keep “the trust you have placed in me sacred and I give you my sacred oath that I will do my utmost to justify your faith.” Continue reading
We’re Americans and we have a rendezvous with destiny.
by Scott L. Vanatter
Ronald Reagan sought to dethrone a sitting president, though unelected, Gerald Ford. He laid out his case in a major televised campaign address on March 31, 1976 entitled, “To Restore America.” While he failed to secure the nomination, he set the scene for success just four years later.
One of Reagan’s initial critiques of the politics of 1976 was the top line issue of what things the Federal government should tackle. Or not. His point is that there are some things which the Federal government does not do well, and some things it should not do at all. “The truth is, Washington has taken over functions that don’t truly belong to it. In almost every case it has been a failure. Now, understand, I’m speaking of those programs which logically should be administered at state and local levels.” Continue reading