By Elena Chinyaeva
On November 30, the presidents of Belarus and Russia, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin, signed an agreement about the introduction, in 2005, of the ruble as the only currency in both countries, thus taking the process of their unification to a qualitatively new stage. It will be interesting to see how Russia will go about integrating with a country whose political and economic makeup has by now become so distinctly different from her own. No less interesting will be to observe the integration of the new union into the existing system of Western-Russian relations, especially in light of the negative reaction of the West to the controversial political developments in Belarus: Western governments called the results of last summer's parliamentary elections in Belarus illegitimate. Will a scandal similar to the recent Yugoslavian one develop in Belarus with next summer's presidential elections there? Sadly, international politics today, ten years after the collapse of the bipolar international system, seems to be run on the old principle of "he who is not with us is against us." That might turn out to be a trap for all parties involved: the battle surrounding Belarus could undermine Western-Russian relations and thereby endlessly delay the painful reforms badly needed to allow this country to catch up in the transition process.
THE WEST WOULD LIKE TO SEE BELARUS DEMOCRATIC
Speaking in late November to the Cambridge Union, one of the most influential discussion clubs in Great Britain, Jamie Shea, the NATO spokesman who had organized the ideological victory for the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Yugoslavia last year, claimed that NATO had played the decisive role in organizing the Milosevic regime's fall and the election of democrat Vojislav Kostunica to the post of Yugoslavia's president. Shea emphasized that supporting democrats at the elections in all postcommunist countries has proven to be a correct and successful strategy. One of the students present in the audience, who turned out to be a correspondent with Kommersant, a Moscow business daily, reported in the newspaper that Mr. Shea implied that Belarus should be the next country in Europe toward which NATO employs this strategy.
Because no records of the meeting are available, the question of who said and heard what is a matter of dispute. It is symptomatic, however, that such a scandal should have arisen at all. Judging by his rhetorical exercise, Mr.