The Courtship of Belarus

The most interesting story of the past few weeks that has received no attention has been the courtship of Belarus by both the European Union and Vladimir Putin. Belarus was formerly the most friendly of the post-Soviet states toward Russia, but Vladimir Putin’s destruction of the “soft power” built by former President Yeltsin had put cooperation on ice. Stay, Putin has been playing nice since the international rejection his unilateral recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Putin temporarily sees the need for friends.

While Belarus still refuses to join Russia and Nicaragua in recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Belarus has apparently allowed those two statelets to join the Union State of Russia and Belarus as observers. Europe’s attempts at friendship rely less on one-off subsidies and more on building political and financial links. Thus, Belarus and EU member Latvia are working on energy and portage, and the EU pushes Belarus to allow European politicians in.

If the future is international institutions that focus on economics, then Belarus’s future should be in Europe, not in Russia.

Let’s hope Belarus agrees.

The Institutional Approach to Stability

Russia’s bailout of Iceland is on ice.

An ad-hoc collection of rich dicators? Not going to help Pakistan..

But (as my friend Dan Nexon snarkily wrote), watch Ukraine. Ukraine and Hungary will both be obtaining aid from the International Monetary Fund, and IMF aid to other countries is coming soon. Depending on one rich friend to bail out a country is anarchonistic. Rather, American-led institutions like the World Bank, European led institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, and hopefully soon a similar institution from East Asia, provide a networked, stable, and bureaucratic way to get the job done.