European Influence on a Modern Dictatorship

EU’s Experience with Belarus

Term Paper, 2010

24 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of content

1. Introduction

2. Theoretical background

3. Interaction between the European Union and Belarus

4. Conclusions

5. Summary in a foreign language


Bibliography and Internet sources

1. Introduction

The regime type is the primary determinant of the foreign policy of a state. In other words: the ruling power have a strong effect on relations with other states as well as the goals strived and methods used. States that share common fundamental organizing principles belong to the same regime type. Among several regimes types in the political systems, dictatorships are very special due to their suppressive methods when assuring country’s stability which remains in contradiction with Western democracies and their tools.

A dictatorship is a form of totalitarian or authoritarian regime, where the state’s power has been obtained through illegal measures such as violence or plots (SOBCZAK 2002: 65). Essentially, it is a system of government where the power is intense, unlimited, uncontrolled and not estimated in time. Authority is satisfied with the obedience of citizens, and it enforces desired behavior through brutal methods (BASZKIEWICZ 2002: 3). Furthermore, according to the study of Antoszewski and Herbut, common features of a dictatorship could be distinguished: high level of power concentration in hands of an individual or a particular group, access to public positions only to persons enjoying the confidence of the ruling group, deprivation of the political significance of the institution of parliament, directing citizens’ activities in the channel of dominant party, lack of competitive elections and, in fact, depriving citizens of the power impact, autonomy of the machinery of repression, common human rights violations (1997: 24 et seq.).

Authoritarianism became a dominant political regime in Europe after the 1st World War. The postwar period especially put new democracies to several tests: economic crises, national conflicts, conviction of the injustice caused by the Versailles Treaty, selfishness and incompetence of the ruling elites, and finally, ideological confusion. Classes and social groups, for which democracy was a new experience, tended to overestimate its impact. In this situation, there quickly emerged disappointment and frustration. That was extremely vulnerable ground, says Baszkiewicz, for spreading the Jacobin-Bolshevik myth about the extraordinary effectiveness of political violence. When democratic procedures and compromises fail, there is a temptation to introduce order through violence (2002: 3). Similar situation could be observed in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. In the absence of external homogeneity, internally and economically weak multi-national post-communist states faced the threat of disintegration into smaller parts. Sovereign states insisted therefore on an absolute loyalty from their citizens. According to the Hobbesian logic of “war of all against all”, consequently, this consideration not only precluded states, to a lesser or greater extent, from granting civic and political rights within their borders, but it also induced them to increase an aggressive foreign policy in order to emphasize the sovereignty in the decision making process (COMP. TARAS 1998: 1­3, STEIN 2000: IX, 3 E T SEm.). Some of them turned into dictatorships.

Dictatorship as a neighbor is not desirable because, as the historical experience has shown, such countries have a great potential of spreading conflicts and “flout the most basic principles of Western democracy” (LEWIS 2002: 413). European Union has already dealt with dictatorships in its neighborhood in the past. The case of Miloshevich’s Serbia is a great example of a successful policy towards an authoritarian regime because it managed to put the authoritarian regime, to smaller or greater extent, to the end. At this point a question appears: what would be the most effective tool(s) that EU can use in order to democratize a dictatorship? In other words: how should the EU support construction of a new, democratic reality in an authoritarian state? There are two possible answers to this question: by exercising political or economic pressure or, as alternative, by using political/economic sanctions. Classifying and evaluating the named possibilities would find the best, most effective way in order to diminish the democracy deficit in a dictatorship. In doing so in this study attention will be paid to both domestic and international means and how the developments in this area influence those in the other. As a normative base would serve the theory of the social constructivism proving that only exceptional circumstances and needs create new sociopolitical reality (GRIFFI THS, O'CALLAGHAN 2002: 50 E T Smm.). Three general categories of analysis will find application:

- Experience: How has the foreign EU’s policy towards an authoritarian state developed since the collapse of communism?
- Theory: What is the character and substance of those politics and what effects on the democratization processes do they have?
- Evidence: What kind of external influence is the most effective one? In this perspective, the focus is, according to the theoretical background, on aims at creating the key players, socialization mechanisms and taking an advantage of a possible chance situation. For purposes of this study the case of Belarus has been chosen because since 2004 the European Union shares with this state a common border and because since 2008 the EU is claiming some democratic progress there, worth to be analyzed.

2. Theoretical background

The aim of this chapter is to provide possible explanations on the EU’s interest in Belarus in terms of both, idealistic and realistic terms. The arguments will serve as a reason for external involvement into the internal issues of Belarus in order to construct a new sociopolitical reality that bases on democracy and not autocracy.

Belarus is located in the geographical centre of Europe. According to the critic Zbigniew Brzezitiski, it belongs to Eurasia’s periphery: the potential border of ‘Atlantic Europe’ (1997: 52). In the opinion of Samuel Huntington, there is a divide there among Catholic-Protestant and Orthodox communities. In addition, he states, it will mostly be the orthodox religious traditions which will impede the country’s successful integration into Western space (HUN TING TON 1996). There are consequences to the many years Belarus was under the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. Alexander Dugin, a theoretician from a Russian school of geopolitics, argues that the territories of Belarus, central Ukraine, Moldova, Rumania, Serbia and Bulgaria possess contradicting geopolitical characteristics. Geographically, they belong to the southern/eastern part of central Europe, but socially and culturally, to Russia, or even to Eurasia (1997: 376). Otto von Gabsburg is of contradictory opinion however. The leader of the pan-European movement supported by political scientists, mainly from ‘New Europe’, argues that Belarusians appear to be ‘forgotten Europeans’. This is separating a European cultural heritage and Belarus must become part of united Europe and accordingly part of the European Union (IGNATIK 2008).

The idea of spreading democracy eastwards has involved the new EU member states that aspire to be included into discussion on the future borders of the European Union as well as the negotiations with the neighbors Selection of such objectives is associated with specific geographic positions of the states participating in the Eastern enlargement of the EU. The task of these states here is to prevent the complete isolation of Belarus and its perception as being an area under the Russian sphere of influence.

Also the realistic point of view must also be taken into consideration. First of all, the importance of Russian resources flowing to Europe via the Belarusian territory (mainly gas and petroleum, but also agricultural goods, raw materials and minerals) induces the EU to ensure the region being stabile and accountable. During Putin’s presidency, the oil boom was the most important source of Belarusian revenues. Belarus imported cheap crude oil from Russia, refined it, and then exported oil products to Europe at market prices. Nowadays Belarus faces the problem of the global financial crisis that is putting an end to the relative prosperity of recent years, the so-called ‘Belarusian economic miracle’1. Additionally Russia has got adopted a new oil price policy for Belarus. Realistically, such situation bothers the EU that has already experienced the gas cut supplies via Ukraine.

Also the border zone pragmatism increases the European interest in Belarus’ issues. Two Euro-Regions on the Polish-Lithuanian-Belarusian border deal with common ecologic problems, tourism activities and educational co-operation. As a very blunt example of such serves as well the German-Belarusian project against the drying of Pripet marshes: The Programme in Support of Belarus, 2002 (KNAUER 2002). Aside from the cross-border co-operation, there also the trans-border issues, like the effects of Chernobyl, organized crime, illegal migration and the local issues, such as problems of water contamination and industrial pollution.

Security issue was until recent time not a matter of an intense attention from side of the European Union. Lately however, after the Polish newspaper “Wprost” obtained secret documents about a simulated ground and nuclear attack on Poland in Western Belarus, the EU expressed its concerns. Joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises “Zapad 2009” near the borders of the Baltic states simulated a ground and nuclear attack on Polish Republic (,, A less peaceful theory for actions towards Belarus suggests the realistic approach of the ‘Polish prometeism’. Originally it was an integral part of Józef Pilsudski's so-called 'prometeism' policy, which sought to coordinate all non-Russian and non-Soviet activities in order to make them less dangerous to Poland (see: ATTACHMENT 1). Nowadays prometeism is aiming at liberating “the major non-Russian peoples that Russia had subjugated since shaking off her own ‘Tartar yoke’ in the 16th century” (DZIEWANOWSKI 1979).

Having in mind the reasons why the form of a dictatorship is not desirable for the European Union, as well as considering its interest in the region, it becomes clear why the EU body is aiming at changing the reality in the country. According to social constructivism, only exceptional circumstances and needs create innovative conditions. A major focus of social constructivism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived social reality and identity over time (GRIFFI THS, O'CALLAGHAN 2002: 50 E T SQQ.). In order to create a new political reality in a dictatorship that would base on democratic principles, it would be worth to explain first, what the expected result would be. In other words: what does it mean to democratize a state.

Democratization is the transition to a more democratic political regime. The main characteristics of a democratic regime include: competitive elections, both substantively and procedurally, freedom of political expression, speech and the press. In some countries, democracy is based on the philosophical principle of equal rights. In terms of liberal democracy, it may include additional elements such as political pluralism, equality before the law, the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances, due process, civil liberties, human rights, and elements of civil society outside the government (SCHImD T 2008: 431 E T SQQ.).

In order to create such political reality that is missing in the Republic of Belarus, or more pragmatically, to repeat the “Yugoslavian scenario”, the European Union is aiming at shaping conditions for called features. Social constructivism explains EU’s attitude and helps to assess whether the political tools of the EU indeed support the democratization process in Belarus.

The focus of constructivism is on human consciousness and its place in world affairs. Much International Relations theory, and especially neorealism, is materialist2. Constructivists reject such a one-sided material focus. Human relations, including international ones, consist of thought and ideas and not essentially of material conditions or forces. They argue that the most important aspect of international relations is social, not material (JACKSON 2006: 163). In the processes of interaction the identities and interests of states are created. National interest is the self-regarding desire by states for power, security or wealth (WENDT 1999: 92). Social structures are defined, by shared understandings, expectations, or knowledge. These constitute the actors in a situation and the nature of their relationships, whether cooperative or conflictual. A security dilemma, for example, is a social structure composed of inter-subjective understandings in which states are so distrustful that they make worst-case assumptions about each other’s intentions, and as a result define their interests in self-help terms. A security community is a different social structure, one composed of shared knowledge in which states trust one another to resolve disputes without war (WENDT 1992: 73; comp.


1 significant economic growth in an economy that did not undergo fundamental reforms and that is still mostly controlled by the state.

2 It focuses on how the distribution of material power, such as military forces and economic capabilities, defines balances of power between states and explains the behavior of states (GRIFFI THS; O'CALLAGHAN 2002).

Excerpt out of 24 pages


European Influence on a Modern Dictatorship
EU’s Experience with Belarus
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
CSFP-Northern and Eastern Dimensions of the EU
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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The regime type is the primary determinant of the foreign policy of a state. In other words: the ruling power have a strong effect on relations with other states as well as the goals strived and methods used. States that share common fundamental organizing principles belong to the same regime type. Among several regimes types in the political systems, dictatorships are very special due to their suppressive methods when assuring country’s stability which remains in contradiction with Western democracies and their tools.
7.1. Belarus, Demokratisierung, European union, EU, Weissrussland, Białoruś, PCA, dictatorship, Lukashenko
Quote paper
BA Elzbieta Szumanska (Author), 2010, European Influence on a Modern Dictatorship, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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