What better way to start the new year than with some harmless predictions?
As you know, Belarus staged (being the appropriate word) elections on December 19 that were – to put it as mildly as did the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – ‘flawed’.
Interestingly, the rigged, violent election that saw the incumbent crack down on dissent took place shortly after another rigged, violent election in Ivory Coast prompted immediate condemnation and swift sanctions from the European Union.
Despite the fact that Belarus is a much more immediate security concern, the EU’s response has been flimsier than Alexandr Lukashenka’s democratic credentials.
The slap-headed strongman decided not to renew the OSCE’s mandate to poke its nose into Belarus on December 31, and ordered that the organization’s office be shut down. Coincidentally, the very next day the chairmanship of the OSCE was taken over by neighbouring Lithuania for a year-long term.
So let’s take a guess what happens next…
1) Lithuania makes rebuilding relations with Belarus one of its priorities.
2) President Dalia Grybauskaite pays a visit to her pal Lukashenka to try to persuade him to re-open the OSCE office in Minsk. She and old Moustache Man get on like a polling station on fire. Indeed after speaking with him last time, she somehow managed to accurately predict the outcome of the election months in advance (she said Lukashenka would get 75%, in the end he got 79%).
3) Lukashenka comes over all reasonable and decides to re-open the OSCE office, provided of course that the EU decides not to introduce any sanctions and contents itself with a bit of tut-tutting before continuing to invest in his crooked regime.
4) Lithuania gets a feather in its cap for sorting the whole thing out and gets to feel like it is important, which is a national obsession. Oh, and because no sanctions have been introduced, Venezuelan oil can flow through the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda unhindered.
5) Lithuania continues to act as Belarus’ mentor in Europe, pushing for visa-free regimes, the warming of relations and arguing – as Grybauskaite already has – that isolating Luka and his bully-boys will not produce results but rapprochement will.
6) Towards the end of the year, Lukashenka does something “nice” to end Lithuania’s OSCE stint on a high and rekindle the gullible eurocrats’ fantasies that he can negotiated out of office. Maybe he decides against building a nuke plant on the border or does something to piss off Russia.
So everyone wins. Except of course the people of Belarus who get shafted yet again, stuck with the tyrant, his Bobby Charlton haircut and his Tom Selleck moustache for another four years. After which he can play the whole game all over again, as with Ukraine heading the OSCE in 2013 (Ireland in 2012 has enough on its plate to bother much with he OSCE) he will find in President Viktor Yanukovich someone just as amenable as President Dalia Grybauskaite.