- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Smart people can certainly disagree about the relationship between levels of democracy and the likelihood of terrorism, but I do think strongman Aleksandr Lukashnko is on pretty shaky ground when he attributes last week’s Minsk metro bombing to Belarusians having too much freedom:
“Above all, the government is to blame for this,” Mr. Lukashenko said in his annual state of the nation address. “We have had so much so-called democracy that it has made us nauseated.” […]
Speaking to lawmakers, he said that Belarus had “over-democratized” ahead of a presidential election last December, adding, “I said then that we would give full freedom and democracy, but that this would have consequences.” […]
Given the situation, he said, Belarus could ill afford to weaken the current “vertical authority.” He said that he was not opposed to democracy per se, but that it should be “limited to a square meter around where you stand.”
“Brush shoulders with another person,” he said, “and that is where your democracy ends.”
This is a pretty remarkable statement, even for someone with Lukashenko’s track record. (If this is his idea of democracy, I’d hate to see what dictatorship looks like.) One of the defining features of modern dictatorships is that they nearly always pay lip service to democracy and adopt at least a few of its outward trappings. Saif al-Qaddafi describes his father’s form of government as "the most democratic state in the world." Even North Korea calls itself a republic.This isn’t even some cultural relativist argument about traditional values — which would in any case be pretty odd from a country that borders the EU. This is just a flat out threat to the Belarusian people.