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The Way Forward for Belarus
All people who live in democracies have the right to be governed in a way that the majority approves — that’s the foundation of the thing we call “democracy”.
And so it is in Belarus, a country that professes to be “democratic” and is a country that boasts a “democratic constitution” that guarantees the rights and responsibilities of citizens, government, the judiciary and the military. Therefore, no one could seriously argue that Belarus isn’t a democracy.
However, even in the best democracies, disputes can arise and sometimes those disputes relate to ‘who really won’ the most recent election.
Sometimes, it’s merely a case of ‘sour grapes’ where the losing side in the election won’t accept the results and subsequently mobilize their base to protest the loss, or to keep its base ‘fired-up’ until the next election, or they use the uprising to embarrass the governing party to induce it to submit to certain political demands. Which seems a bit sketchy, but it happens.
So, who won?
Thus far, no one has proven that the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, fraudulently won the August 9th election — nor has anyone proven that the opposition party led by Svetlana Tikhanouskaya lost the election, although tens of thousands of her supporters have been protesting every day since the election results were announced.
Which could be everything, or it could be nothing.
Therefore, what we need is an international effort, perhaps led by the UN, to investigate allegations that President Lukashenko stole the election and is refusing to step down, and have the UN publicly announce their findings.
Then, and only then, will we know who has won the Belarusian election.
How to Build Enough Momentum to Find the Truth of the Matter
1: Telephone Diplomacy Works
In 1990, then-U.S. President, George H. W. Bush’s telephone diplomacy worked wonders when Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded the tiny country next door to Iraq on 2 August 1990. President H.W. Bush subsequently telephoned almost every world leader and convinced them that it was necessary for the world to deal with the murderous Iraqi dictator and to evict Iraq’s military from Kuwait.
It took only one weekend for H.W. to create a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ with the noble goal of evicting the Iraqi Republican Guard from peaceful Kuwait. And HW’s plan worked magnificently. In a matter of weeks, Kuwait was liberated with the help of several countries.
2: “How Many Divisions Has the Pope?”
In 1981, Poland’s new Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law (to purportedly) crush a rapidly growing pro-democracy trade union movement known as Solidarity which threatened his (autocratic at best, and dictatorial at worst) leadership of Poland.
America’s President Reagan quickly conferred with the Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II (who was shot in a failed assassination attempt two weeks after that phone call in 1981) to ask what help the Church could offer to the people of Poland, most of whom were Christians of either Catholic or Russian Orthodox Church persuasion.
The quote above; “How many divisions has the Pope?” was uttered by former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin commenting on how much military power the Catholic Church didn’t have in comparison to the dozens of military units (divisions) that the former Soviet Union did have during Stalin’s time in power.
As it turned out, the fall of Soviet communism had much to do with the Catholic Church and its (even more powerful in Russia) brethren, the Russian Orthodox Church. So much so, that the Western attempt to engineer the fall of Soviet communism, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and end the Cold War would’ve failed without the help of tens of millions of Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the former Soviet Union.
How many divisions, indeed.
In today’s Belarus, most of the population there profess Christian belief and attend some kind of church, although, as in 1980’s Poland, most would be adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church, not Catholic. Still, there are many more Christians than Belarusian soldiers were you to count them by division strength.
In 1980’s Poland when (Christian) Polish soldiers were ordered to fire on (Christian) Solidarity movement supporters to end the many street protests, the soldiers refused to shoot their (Christian) brethren. And when the soldiers and police refuse orders to shoot, the largest majority wins.
Let’s hope that the situation in Belarus doesn’t ever approach that level of danger and drama, but it could be that if a fair and transparent body finds the Belarus leader has illegally held onto power after losing the recent election, that the threat of mobilization of millions of Belarusians by the Churches combined with the present level of citizen protests could provide the impetus for President Lukashenko to step down before things get out of hand.
That’s called a ‘leveraged exit’ in the diplomatic world where the leader will lose if world leaders proceed one way, but lose by a much wider margin if world leaders proceed another way regarding Belarus.
3: The UN ‘Soft Power’ Option
Of course, the United Nations has plenty of powers that it can bring to bear for a successful conclusion in Belarus, but only if it decides to do so. Unless a UN member proposes (basically sponsors) such an action, it usually doesn’t happen.
But the situation in Belarus is practically crying out for UN involvement — to at the very least! — have the UN independently verify which side won the August 9 election.
- The UN General Assembly could convene to discuss the matter and create a UN Resolution calling on President Lukashenko to step down if the evidence proves there’s been major fraud committed by the government or its agents.
- Further steps could be employed by the UN Security Council if it feels regional stability could be affected, employing a wide array of options against the Lukashenko regime if the evidence proves major fraud was committed by the government or its agents.
Such Security Council resolutions could involve trade restrictions against Belarus, ‘No Entry’ to any UN member country by Belarusian government officials, closing of Belarusian embassies and consulates around the world, and all airline traffic to and from Belarus could be cancelled until further notice, oil and gas shipments to Belarus could be diverted or delayed, and other options could be employed besides that very short list.
Life would quickly become very difficult for the present leader of Belarus if he’s found to have engaged in some kind of major election fraud.
Which to Choose?
It seems the first order of business is to ascertain whether the election was fraudulent or whether the results are merely unpopular with a vocal minority of voters.
Second, some kind of diplomacy must be employed to convince the Belarusian leader that it’s a fight he can’t win (if there has been election fraud) and that he must step down immediately in exchange for minimal prosecution.
Third, pressure must be brought to bear in a unified fashion, where the lightest punishment is first employed (the powerful Christian demographic added to the existing protest pool) and punishments are increased every 14-days (UN General Assembly resolution) followed by UN Security resolutions (closing Belarusian embassies and consulates) followed by curtailment of oil and gas to Belarus, and finally closing the airspace of Belarus to civilian airlines and closing of land borders especially to passenger trains — all designed to increase the pressure on President Lukashenko to step down for the good of the country.
At no time (assuming he’s guilty, which hasn’t been proven yet) should he feel that he could win, and he must be made to realize that every subsequent 14-days his life will be worse than in the previous 14-days.
So, let’s find out if there indeed has been election fraud — before we proceed! — because it’s astonishingly easy to depose a world leader when the facts become known in such cases. And then the UN, the Churches, and the citizens of that country can all work together to build a better future for their people no matter what has occurred.
Historically speaking, deposing a leader is the one thing that works every time that we actually try — but please! — let’s get our facts straight before we proceed further.