JPEG - 25.7 kb

During the last decade, the "revolutions" of eastern Europe have taken place and Russia has been gradually isolated from its former allies of the Warsaw Pact. Born with the collapse and disappearance of the Soviet Union, this vast restructuring only seems to stop with the setting up of pro-American governments in the region. Final goal: the overthrow of the apparatus of the Russian state, currently supported by the New Russia party of Vladimir Putin - a strategy already studied by the United States and its NATO allies.

"Kremlin experts", "Sovietologists" and all kinds of specialists in Russian affairs, regularly publish their viewpoints about this topic in US newspapers, and 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, supported by Mark Brezinski, son of Zbigniew, even made it one of his favourite topics during the last American presidential campaign. Vladimir Putin surprisingly responded giving his support to candidate Bush.

However, after their success in Georgia and Ukraine, it seems that today Washington faces difficulties in Belarus. Neither the warnings of the State Department, nor the support of local Non Governmental Organizations have thus far destabilized the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukachenko.

Belarus, a key "piece" of the region, is a territory of over 200,000 km2 that has borders with Russia to the East, with Ukraine to the South and with the Baltic countries to the West - what explains the interest of the United States. It is also located in the way of the natural gas exports of Russia, and there is a radar emplacement in its territory that watches NATO activities in the region. However, when other former Soviet republics have joined NATO, Belarus has resisted the interference attempts by Washington for more than three years.

A Region of Great Turbulence

Berlin, 1989. A wall collapsed and the multi-polar world that existed since the end of World War II, as a result of the clash between the Soviet Union and the United States, disappeared with it. Severely deprived of the Russian support, the group of states that previously integrated the Warsaw Pact started to suffer ever greater pressure from the United States which tries to buy new vassals with dollars and promises of accession to the European Union.

A useful strategy: during the following decade, the countries of Central Europe came closer to the United States and, in 1999, three of them joined NATO (Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland).

JPEG - 5.5 kb
Aleksandr Lukachenko

This success was based on Washington’s good preparation. Except for Condoleeza Rice, who refused to consider an alliance with the former satellite republics of the Soviet Union, the planners in the Pentagon since 1992 designed the American strategy aimed at Central and Eastern Europe and thus appeared in the Defense Planning Guidance of 1992, headed by then Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, entrusted to Paul Wolfowitz and written by Zalmay Khalilzad, assistant to Scooter Libby in the Pentagon.

The text renovated Wolfowitz’s thesis according to which it was necessary for the United States to avoid the emergence of any potential rival of its hegemony, particularly the «advanced industrial nations» such as Germany and Japan.

This principle especially aimed at the European Union, which was asked on the same year to include in the Maastricht Treaty a clause in which it subordinates its defense policy to NATO [1].

However, since that time, the Pentagon was considering a future expansion to the East which in its opinion was a vital step to preserve their control over Europe and - who knows? -open a corridor for them to the petroleum of the Caspian Sea. Thus, the report advocated for the integration of the new Eastern and Central European states to the European Union and, at the same time, benefited them with a military agreement that protected them from a possible Russian attack.

It is difficult to know how the United States understood the fall of the Berlin wall and considered the future new Europe. Undoubtedly, Washington was well implanted among the organizations that opposed the existing regimes in Eastern Europe, mainly thanks to its propaganda apparatus: Radio Free Europe. The destabilization of the government of Jaruzelski in Poland by the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s is a good example.

In the months prior to the collapse of the USSR, many important leaders of the Warsaw Pact sent their children to study to in Anglo-Saxon universities, which allowed the United States to prepare the change. At first, this strategy had some success in the countries of Central Europe. Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania quickly fell under the influence of Washington. In 1999, the intervention in Kosovo allowed the United States to establish itself in the Balkans. Afterwards, Serbia got rid of pro-Russian Slobodan Milosevic with the help of one of the first «velvet revolutions» sponsored by George Soros, in the fall of 2000.

Gradually, the Russian Federation was surrounded: after the former members of the Warsaw Pact, the former USSR republics became the new targets, according to the "rollback" strategy of Zbigniew Brezinski. Since the early 1990s, the Baltic countries integrated to NATO. Georgia, loyal to Washington since its independence, was the theater of a velvet coup d’état in November 2003 after its president, Edouard Chevardnadze erroneously got closer to Moscow.

In the Ukrainian elections of December 2004, the same situation took place with the weird victory of NATO’s candidate, Viktor Yushenko, against his pro-Russian adversary Viktor Yanukovytch. In this context, Belarus, which remains close to Russia, is naturally in the front sight.

Russia, which has already lost its sea access to the West and sees how its former satellites gradually join the Atlantic countries, has in Belarus one of its last allies in the region. The destabilization attempts have already begun and, in case of success, it would mean the overthrow of the «Putin House».

The first symptoms of Washington’s willingness to intervene in Belarus date back from September 2001. While outgoing president Alexander Lukachenko nominated himself for re-election, the Western media expressed their opposition to his regime, which they described as «tyrannical» and present him as a «dictator». As Christopher Desilo showed in an article published in 2001, the discredit campaign was essentially based on a comparison between Lukachenko and Slobodan Milosevic [2].

In this way, on September 6, the BBC referred to «an authoritarian regime frequently resembling that of Slobodan Milosevic» [3]. In The Guardian, Ian Traynor spoke of «the last dictator of Europe».

As in the case of the brainwashing campaign carried out in Haiti against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in December 2003, it invoked «the “Almaz” elite troops (...) that seem to be behind the “death squads” of the regime that it is said to have assassinated or kidnapped important opposition figures over the last two years» [4].

According to Ian Traynor, the repetition of a «Serbia-like» scenario was considered with concern by Moscow: «The discussions in the capital, Minsk, and in Moscow focus on a situation like that “of Belgrade” where a regime deprived the opposition of their (electoral) victory, which triggered an even more important political crisis on the streets».

The presidential elections had to serve to topple the pro-Russian regime of Lukachenko. In any case, that is what emerges from a New York Times editorial which detailed the incestuous relations between Russian and its Belarusian neighbor: «Moscow is a close ally of Lukachenko and it expects to take advantage of the situation in Belarus and use it as a way to export the Russian natural gas and as an emplacement for radar surveillance of NATO activities. There are even insensible discussions about the reunification of these two countries to re-establish the political link that existed at the time of the Soviet Union». The warning of the American newspaper was clear: «The interests of Moscow would be better served simply with the election of a more sensible Russian leader».

For this purpose, Washington counts on a well-coordinated plan - successfully tested in Belgrade: the New York Times affirmed that «as a political voice of the democracies of Europe, the European Union ought to help those who fight in the heart of the last dictatorship of Europe. The kind of coordinated campaign between Americans and Europeans that prevented Milosevic from committing fraud during last year’s presidential campaign could be effective in Belarus. In particular, Brussels and Washington need to join the plans of the Organization for European security and Cooperation to supervise the thousands of international observers who are in Belarus to oversee the elections. The nomination of Goncharik offers the Belarusians a real opportunity to free themselves from the tyrannical Lukachenko» [5]. This was a rhetoric that coincides, almost word for word, with that used in 2003, in Georgia, and in 2004, in Ukraine.

Washington spares no efforts. In early August, Radio Free Europe, the privileged propaganda instrument of the CIA, doubles its broadcasts in Belarus in an effort to «provide the citizens (of the country) with detailed and objective information as well as with analysis that will be useful for them when they go to the polls». In the previous months, the country had already been the target of a fierce international campaign according to which the "death squads" would carry out punishment operations in Belarus to exterminate opposition members. Such campaign was based on the revelations of two former instruction officials of the Belarusian Attorney’s Office, Dmitri Petruchkevitch and Oleg Slutchek.

The two men fled the country, first going to Poland before they were granted political asylum in the United States. They accused a member of the Alpha group (Belarusian special forces) of having executed several important figures of the country, namely «former Parliament vice-president Viktor Gontchar, former Interior Minister Yuri Zakharenko and businessman Anatoli Krassovski - of whom nothing has been heard since 1999 - as well as a journalist of the ORT Russian public network, Dmitri Zavadski» for «arms trade with Libya and Iraq, one of the financial backers of the tentacular presidential administration» [6].

In the same period, the State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, denounced the «environment of fear» that existed in the country and the organizational conditions of the election [7].

JPEG - 9.6 kb
Michael Kozak

For his part, the US Ambassador in Belarus, Michael Kozak, declared that the United States would only recognize the results if the OSCE international observers were authorized to supervise the electoral process [8].

The government of Lukachenko, under pressure, was forced to respect his international commitments and to accept the presence in his territory of OSCE observers. However, Minsk chooses the hard way in the face of Washington’s threats. In 1998, taking the offensive, Alexander Lukachenko expelled three journalists of an independent Russian television network.

The same year, he forced a group of Western ambassadors to move out of their nice residences in the outskirts of Minsk with the ridiculous pretext of «buying the land and buildings to his own real state company» [9], an aggressive measure that led many diplomats to leave the country. The Belarusian authorities thus expelled all foreign citizens who were suspicious of belonging to the interference mechanism of the United States.

In 1997, the offices of the Soros Foundation in Belarus had already been closed by the government to the detriment of the State Department that then decided to issue a statement. Consequently, the pro-American ONGs (non governmental organizations) in Belarus were less effective than in Ukraine and Georgia, and the "Zoubr" youth movement, an imitation of the Otpor movement of Serbia, is also less effective than its counterparts and currently very active movements such as the Pora in Kiev (Ukraine) and the Kmara, in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

Another weak point of Washington’s mechanism: the political alternative chose by Washington and embodied by Vladimir Goncharik lacks credibility. Goncharik, former leader of the local Communist Party who turned into the head of the largest union of the country, does not hide his preferences: in July 2001 he affirmed that he has no objections to Belarus joining NATO and the European Union [10].

JPEG - 3.4 kb
Vladimir Goncharik

In order to avoid any interference in the electoral process, the Belarusian authorities tried to control the American activities in this field. In early August, they confiscated electoral material given to the opposition by the United States and «conceived to help the democratic opposition of the country prior to the presidential elections» [11].

In late August, they expelled Robert Fielding, a representative of AFL-CIO, who works for the NED who was accused of «promoting a coup d’état with opposition in the case of Lukachenko’s re-election» [12].

These efforts produced results. Contrary to what happened in Belgrade in 1999, in Georgia in 2003 and in Ukraine in 2004, President Lukachenko was successfully re-elected with more than 80% of the votes. The United States, bad players, «denied all credibility of the election» and spoke of «undemocratic» and «insignificant» elections [13].

Marie Jégo, of the Le Monde French daily, vociferated, along with the wolves, «a result worthy of the Soviet epoch» [14].

However, the OSCE observers, in situ, have not been able to officially prove any fraud while everyone agrees on the fact that the 12% obtained by Vladimir Goncharik was already a success for him. The truce did not last long for Lukachenko though. Two years later, the United States made new attempts with the lessons of their past failure.

[1] «The policy of the Union in the sense of the current article does not affect the specific nature of the defense and security policy of some member states, it respects the obligations that some member states have as members of NATO and it is compatible with the common defense and security policy established in this framework”. Maastricht Treaty, title V, article J4, paragraph 4.

[2] «The Meaning of Belarus», by Christopher Deliso, Antiwar.com, September 8th, 2001.

[3] «Wild accusations herald Belarus vote», by Steven Eke, BBC, September 5th, 2001.

[4] «Reign of terror in a Soviet time warp», by Ian Traynor, The Guardian, September 7th, 2001.

[5] «The Bully of Belarus», New York Times, August 29th, 2001.

[6] «Escuadrones de la muerte denunciados en Bielorrusia», (Death Squads Dennounced in Belarus) by Marie Jégo, Le Monde, Paris daily, July 3rd, 2001.

[7] Belarus Obstructs Election Observation Preparation, Statements by Richard Boucher, spokesman, August 10th, 2001.

[8] «Trouble Brewing Surrounding Upcoming Election in Belarus», Associated Press, August 3rd, 2001.

[9] «La Biélorussie, une dictature aux portes de l’Europe» (Belarus: a dictatorship at Europe’s door), in French, by Natalie Nougayrède, Le Monde daily, June 24th, 1998.

[10] «Belarus Opposition Agrees on Single Election Candidate», AFP, July 23rd, 2001.

[11] U.S. Government Equipment Illegally Seized by Belarus , statement by Richard Boucher, August 3rd, 2001.

[12] «Beleaguered Belarus Leader Steps Up Press Crackdown», New York Times, August 28th, 2001.

[13] Quoted in «Belarus: “undemocratic” and “insignificant” elections / statement by an American spokesperson», Le Monde French daily, September 12th, 2001.

[14] «Belarusian president Lukachenko was re-elected with figures worthy of the Soviet epoch», by Marie Jégo, Le Monde, September 11th, 2001.