Almost certainly not, but they are clearly maneuvering for time.
The authoritarian president of Belarus has promised to consider pardons for jailed opposition figures that the West considers political prisoners.
Alexander Lukashenko’s statement Thursday comes in the wake of Belarus’ increasing isolation. The European Union in February introduced new sanctions against Belarus over repression of the political opposition.
Belarus then asked the head of the EU’s delegation and the Polish ambassador to leave, prompting EU countries to recall all their ambassadors.
Whether this turns into something (slightly) larger or not is yet to be seen. Belarus is sparring with its Russian patron, and is almost certainly making its best imitation of doe-eyes to draw Putin’s Russia back with open arms.
The larger question is not so much how Belarus blunders (that it will blunder is a given), but rather how the European Union reacts. It has taken a highly uneven approach to encouraging democracy in the former Soviet Union, choosing harsh words over open arms much more of late. Whether this is a result of its own basketcase countries, poor leadership at the top, or some combination thereof is something we will only know in the years ahead.
In the interim, Lukashenko’s decision will tell us very little.
<a href=”http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-122827p1.html?pl=edit-00&cr=00″>URALSKIY IVAN</a> / <a href=”http://www.shutterstock.com/?pl=edit-00&cr=00″>Shutterstock.com</a>