Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lukashenka and His Dangerous Friends

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is reporting several news items about Belarusian foreign policy that are as alarming as the injustice and ineffectiveness of their internal policies. Specifics?

1) Lukashenka recently told Iranian Commerce Minister Masud Mir-Kazemi that Belarus plans to expand its trade and economic cooperation with Iran. Belapan reported. Bilateral trade amounted to $38.4 million last year, with Belarus's exports totaling $35.6 million. Belarus supplies MAZ truck kits to an assembly plant in Iran and is in talks for opening a similar assembly facility for MTZ tractors. The country also supplies Iran with road-construction equipment and petrochemical products.

2) The first of the our S-300 surface-to-air missile systems that Russia has contracted to supply to Belarus arrived in Minsk on April 21st. The remaining three systems will be delivered until the end of this year. The systems, which will reportedly include 24 launchers, are expected to be used in a common air defense system currently created by Belarus and Russia to guard Belarus's western borders. Maltsau denied a report earlier this month by Jane's Intelligence Digest suggesting that Belarus may reexport S-300 missile systems to Iran.

3) Syarhey Sidorski met with Cuban leader Fidel Castro at the Revolution Palace in Havana on April 21, Belapan reported. Sidorski told journalists in Havana the previous day that Belarus had been invited to participate in a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement scheduled to take place in the Cuban capital this coming fall. Sidorski also noted that Belarus would like to actively develop economic relations with Cuba. Belarus exports mainly trucks and tractors to Cuba and imports raw sugar from there.

The world is becoming an uglier, more dangerous place every day -- and thugs like Lukashenka, Castro, Putin, Khamenei, and Ahmadinejad are all major components of that slide.