Without a doubt, Belarus is Europe’s most oppressive state with regards to civil and personal liberties. While many like to point to Putin’s Russia as an example of an emerging dictatorship, it is rather in the Soviet relic of Belarus that one will find an old school, Stalinist dictator in the form of Aleksandr Lukashenko. Belarus has retained its Soviet planned economy with 80% of its population employed by the state. Lukashenko enjoys a complete monopoly over media and politics. The recent economic difficulties which have brought many regimes to their knees have also jostled the oak of Lukashenko’s entrenched regime. Like the Arab Spring, dissidents are using social networking and the internet to organize themselves against the regime. Public demonstrations or denunciations are impossible so organization of opposition to Lukashenko has to be covert. But if not Lukashenko then who? Vladimir Putin has made his intentions for Belarus clear in that it will remain firmly in Moscow’s sphere. The World Affairs Journal sums up Lukashenko’s likely fate in terms of his communist counterparts from the Iron Curtain era:
“The first would be a revolution in which a mass of people storms the presidential palace. The second would be the ‘Ceausescu option,’ in which, faced with large street protests, figures in the Belarusian security apparatus decide to dispose of Lukashenko as their counterparts in the Romanian army executed the communist leader and his wife. Third is the ‘Kuchma option,’whereby Lukashenko, like the former Ukrainian president who failed to orchestrate the fraudulent election victory of his successor, stepped down peacefully. Finally, there is the ‘Jaruzelski option,’ named after the last Communist leader of Poland, who took part in the negotiations with the opposition Solidarity movement that set the way for the first fully democratic elections in 1991.”
Viktor Martinovich, a journalist for Bel Gazeta, decries western aid to the opposition groups in Belarus because they are corrupt and by giving them aid or help the West helps to perpetuate the regime. He lauds the emergent “Through Social Networks” group because he sees the traditional opposition groups as largely ineffective. It is hoped that, like in the Arab Spring, the groups that utilize these hard to detect methods to organize can overcome the monolithic Lukashenko state and bring about a subsequent change in government.