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We Shouldn’t Worry About A New Cold War: Everything’s Far Worse – OpEd

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Someone wrote that they’re shocked by the fact that there are Lukashenko supporters among Latvians and other European nations that have once themselves fought for freedom from the Soviet regime.

The explanation to this paradox must be looked for much deeper and wider. It is undeniable that Latvians and other Europeans feel let down by the so-called Western values. It is also undeniable that the EU itself has discredited these valued in recent years.

We mustn’t forget that not so long ago the European Commission and the European Parliament explicitly stated that there are “higher” and “lower” class nations in the EU, i.e. nations that don’t deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Even more, if these nations demand these rights, it is allowed to silence them with police batons. Many EU leaders called it “just and democratic” actions. We mustn’t also forget that the EU has its own political prisoners who are currently in jail.

One EU nation recently saw brutal action taken against peaceful voters – they were not spared, just like the protesters in Minsk and Moscow. The EP voted to strip the immunity of politicians these protesters voted for, despite legal specialists pointing out that this goes against the basic values of democracy. This move was also recently deemed illegal by the EU Court of Justice. These are far from being the only examples of the double standards present in the EU and the West as a whole.

Putin and Lukashenko, being experienced manipulators and heirs of Soviet propaganda traditions, know how to easily use this in their favor. There are people who, upon experiencing the cynical and widespread corruption in Latvia, begin looking for alternatives. And Russian propaganda experts are skilled in sensing such sentiments.

We should remember that not so long ago Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš visited Belarus. During his meeting with Lukashenko, Kariņš gifted him a Latvian hockey shirt (see the screenshot from the leading propaganda media outlet in Belarus Belta). The visit took place briefly before the presidential election.

Many foreign affairs experts noted that Lukashenko must have perceived this as a message from Europe saying that “we are willing to tolerate another election farce”. A popular European politician, former MEP, Merkel’s good friend and the head of the Latvian government essentially encouraged Lukashenko to do what he did.

Was Kariņš and the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) at the time not aware that Lukashenko is a dictator who brutally deals with the opposition and has already previously assassinated his political opponents? Of course, they were aware! So why the visit? Was it a naïve attempt to “tame” Lukashenko? Or were democratic values once again ignored for economic benefit? The visit – seemingly intended to sell the hopes of the Belarusian people for freedom – once again solidified Lukashenko’s monopoly on power.

I must note that the Latvian MoFA is not unique in this regard – similar “peculiarities” can be observed also in the political leadership of other EU nations when they try to awkwardly bow to blatant dictators.

People are also well aware that European mainstream media will decide to not see or deal with these facts because no one wants to criticize Kariņš, Rinkēvičs or Brussels. This proves that in the EU media outlets tend to be very selective when it comes to reporting on facts that may hurt the government.

I believe Europe should first understand two things:

– you can’t moralize about democracy and justice when you throw these notions out of the window if it benefits you personally;

– Putin and Lukashenko are obviously psychopaths who have for years honed their skills of remaining in power, pathological lying, bluffing, stealing, arresting and assassinating with no remorse. Once having tasted blood and power, they are unable to stop.

The situation is similar to the thirties of the 20th century – when Hitler came to power, he didn’t immediately start a war. He started gradually, just like Putin and Lukashenko are doing now, by persecuting the opposition, falsifying elections, assassinating opponents abroad and staging provocations in neighboring countries.

Then, he made a pact with a monster just like him, Stalin, and they both trampled their neighbors. Step by step, they both opened the door for the most tragic catastrophe of the 20th century. Europe just watched and reluctantly attempted to tame him, but it was already too late.

Has the EU learned its lesson from this recent and tragic history? Sadly, the answer is that the democratic Europeans are once again giving in to blackmail by dictators – they are helplessly moaning and trying to “discuss” the issues and “establish a dialogue” or threatening with meaningless sanctions. All while the dictators’ club is amusingly laughing.

EU leaders pretend to not notice that a new cold war has begun along with the renaissance of totalitarianism. Twenty years ago at the beginning of the 21st century, Putin seemed to be a weird exception – a dictator in Europe. Now, his colleagues have multiplied, and their global influence continues to expand. Unfortunately, no sanctions are going to stop them, since the dictators have long established a mutually self-sufficient environment. Totalitarianism and authoritarianism spread faster than viruses and may have much graver consequences.

If the West continues flirting with blatantly criminal regimes and engaging in wishful thinking, believing that a dialogue with these regimes is possible, future holds some very serious challenges for us.

Déjà vu.

*Otto Ozols, pen name of Mārtiņš Barkovskis, is a Latvian columnist, writer and social activist.

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