In bad weather. With unsettling music.
Take a moment if you can to read my monthly travel column at 3 Quarks Daily, posted this morning. It’s about a quirky little cruise way off the map, out to the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.
The pace of events quickens as an air of crisis surrounds President Lukashenka, who was roundly booed while speaking in public yesterday, a previously unthinkable moment that recalls the final days of Nikolai Ceaucescu in Romania.
For English speakers, Meduza has opened a live blog this morning. The Moscow Times has a dedicated section, Unrest in Belarus. RFERL has one too, under the banner Crisis in Belarus. And the Baltic Times has a range of articles.
If you can speak Russian, try tut.by Belarusian portal, or if not, Google can roughly translate it for you.
Best laid predictions, well, sometimes they aren’t all that well laid. In spite of my last, curmudgeonly post, a video posted to RFERL today of protests in Minsk is just thrilling. It shows political engagement we’ve just never seen before in post-Soviet Belarus.
Please watch it. And this:
I’ll hold to my original thoughts for now. But it would be fun to be wrong.
With their breathless talk of crisis, protests and turning points in Belarus, pro-democracy pundits are making their most common mistake, namely, prematurely declaring victory over authoritarianism because they want it to be so. In the Belarusian protests it’s particularly important to consider the position of Vladimir Putin, for whom a functioning democracy on Russia’s border is utterly impermissible.
Note that after he took in the fleeing Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovich (tour Mezhyhirya, Yanukovich’s former residence outside Kyiv here), as he doubtless would Lukashenka, Putin found it necessary to seize Crimea and disrupt the Donbas, in order to be able to upend the larger Ukrainian political situation as he sees fit, at a moment’s notice, until further notice.
Kudos to the Belarusian people, credit to their bravery, and a paean to the heart’s indomitable spirit. And apologies for my cynicism. I may be wrong, and it would be nice if it turns out that way, but in this case it’s hard to imagine the Russian president permitting free elections, leading to something close to democratic rule, in his fellow Slavic, White Russian buffer state.
“After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations. They exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the border.”
– President Trump on his latest initiative. In the presidential idiom, the Israeli/Emirati border is a border, many people say, when you think about it, like no one has ever seen before. Because, of course, there is no Israeli/Emirati border. The two countries are about 1200 miles apart.
The wait is over. There will be no greater summer blockbuster than the blistering new release by former dentist and Arkadag (The Protector) Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
Who, you ask? Why, the president of Turkmenistan, of course. In merely his 53rd book, The Spiritual World of the Turkmen People, the Protector (pondering the depth of the human soul, above) shares his “deep thoughts on the historical experience of the Turkmen people.”
Darn it, it’s not on Amazon yet. In the meantime you may wish to top up on some of the Arkadag’s considerable accomplishments.
Coincidentally, a few weeks back I wrote about a former British colony that demanded to be re-affiliated with its colonial master – and succeeded. Read the curious history of Anguilla here.