Europe's 'North Korea' and the new Iron Curtain

Western countries have condemned Belarus for forcing down a civilian airliner to arrest a dissident. But the West's sanctions won't stop Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to restore his country's sphere of influence.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's game of playing the West off against Russia is over, for good, following his country's move to use fighter jets to force an Irish civilian airliner to land on its soil.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's game of playing the West off against Russia is over, for good, following his country's move to use fighter jets to force an Irish civilian airliner to land on its soil.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Perhaps because the violation of international law and norms was so brazen and outrageous, the European Union moved unusually swiftly this week to punish Belarus for using fighter jets to force an Irish civilian airliner to land on Belarusian soil, in order to detain an opponent of the regime who happened to be on board.

Discussions about the EU imposition of economic sanctions that would have taken months were decided upon within hours. Harsher sanctions against the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are in the offing. And the United States and Britain have also piled in; if anything, the British - who left the EU and are therefore not bound by its decisions - were even harsher in the sanctions they imposed on Belarus.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2021, with the headline 'Europe's 'North Korea' and the new Iron Curtain'. Subscribe