This was then followed by the claim,
...you seem to wish to perpetuate Lukashenko on the basis that the opposition cannot produce an economic argument, therefore they must not be voted for...the Belarusian 'books' are not open for inspection by the Belarusian people, therefore nobody can ever formulate a different economic policy to the one on offer.
There is no moral reason to "perpetuate" Lukashenko. Yet individuals outside Belarus cannot change the facts as they are overnight.
That oppositionists cannot even hazard a guess as to the kind of economic reforms they would put forward in the event of Lukashenko being removed from power. This does not make much sense. Charter97 says "no to dictatorial privatisation". But not to corrupt privatisations decided upon from unaccountable elites from above with little consent from below.
Besides Lukashenko not being a Stalin, they fail to say what sort of privatisation would happen on removing Lukashenko by peaceful methods. Given that privatisation is already happening in 2011, the chances could be that eventually the regime will cede political power as under Franco in Spain in the 1970s.
The key issue is: on what basis would Belarus move from having 70% of its industry controlled by the state sector. Would the oppositionists impose shock therapy or would they give guarantees that vital Belarus' industries would not be "downsized" and asset stripped and social provisions and pensions remain in tact? After all, it's for the people to decide.
But they cannot make a decision unless the opposition gives an outline of the sort of economic changes it would think need to be introduced. It is incumbent on the opposition to be transparent about where they get their funding from and what economic model they propose for Belarus.
The contradiction in arguing for transparency and openness whilst not disclosing what the economic plans for Belarus are once Lukashenko goes is one reason he can discredit them. If there were the groundswell of popular opinion for change then Lukashenko would not be able to defeat the oppositionists.
Even the Charter97 news agency lacks accountability, posing as a forum for dissent whilst censoring or refusing to have any comment online that asks questions about their economic policy or where many of the designer outfits agitating for change get their money from. Clarity on that has not been forthcoming.
The age of the heroic dissident seems to have died out after 1989. If there are those like Oscar Paya in Cuba who is equally opposed to the Castro junta and US style neoliberal "reforms" destroying social provision, then their voice is not being heard. It is odd that Belarus does not seem to have dissidents of the same sort.
Interestingly, Anne Applebaum, wife of Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, has argued in The Washington Post that is is precisely the failure to fund opposition enough has led Lukashenko to rig elections, batter protesters, and she accepts the claims of the Polish based Belsat that his true level of support is really around 30%.
This....is what the "decline of the West" looks like in the eastern half of Europe: The United States and Europe, out of money and out of ideas, scarcely fund the Belarusan opposition. Russia, flush with oil money once again, has agreed to back Lukashenko and fund his regime. Let's hope it costs them a lot more than they expect.Yet this contradicts what numerous other sources have claimed about Lukashenko's popularity and Belsat may or may not be right. Moreover, Applebaum claims,
European foreign ministers cannot guarantee Lukashenko personal wealth. They cannot offer corrupt oil deals. They can talk about "freedom" - and they did - but they have to compete with others who talk about "the Chinese model," who offer more predictable forms of job security and who aren't bothered by a few arrests.Perhaps those like Margaret Thatcher's former PR guru Tim Bell certainly are not so bothered about "a few arrests" but that applied with her governments attitude towards Chile in the 1970s and 1980s under Pinochet's right wing dictatorship which was far more brutal than Lukashenko's regime.
The fact that European ministers cannot do that much is hardly due to some self inflicted decline unconnected to neoliberal capitalism and thus to do solely with the withering of the West's confidence and belief in the superiority of its own values.
It is more due to the stalling of momentum that has resulted in the collapse of the appeal of "The West" created by the instability of neoliberal economic policies. For Belarus has weathered the global crash better in some respects than the Baltic Republics.
Back in 2002 John Laughland wrote of the inherent problems of the obsession with NATO expansion and "regime change" with regards Belarus that it was more cynically connected with power politics dressed up in talk of human rights,
The real reason why the west hates Lukashenko has nothing to do with concern for democracy or human rights. It is instead that, as a genuinely popular politician who has preserved his country from the worst ravages which economic reform has inflicted on its neighbours, Lukashenko is not given to taking orders.
In this respect, he is unlike any of the other senior former communist officials currently hobnobbing in Prague. The west's friends in eastern Europe today have their hands firmly on the commanding heights of political control in their countries, just as in many cases they personally did under communist dictatorship.
The west prefers such people because the demands it makes on post-communist countries are so unpopular. All eastern European states are required to sell off their national economic assets to foreigners, and close down their agriculture by accepting the dumping of subsidised EU food imports.
This creates massive social disruption and unemployment. In addition, they must spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence, preferably on arms made in the US.
Consequently, a small country like Lithuania, whose economy has collapsed so catastrophically, has just announced the purchase of $34m worth of Stinger missiles, made by the Raytheon Corporation of Tucson, Arizona.
When Tanzania announced it was spending $40m on a new civilian air traffic control system, there was an outcry; but Lithuania, whose official GDP is not much larger than Tanzania's, will have to spend $240m on arms every year as the price for Nato membership. And Lithuania is just one of seven new member states, all of which are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on arms.
If things have not worked according to plan in Belarus, part of the blame has to be attributed to the West having squandered the opportunities in 1989-1991 and replaced Communism with doctrinaire neoliberal "reforms" that failed to take into account the needs of ordinary people and so ensured that its lost its allure.