Belarus and the Flight from Sovereignty
COIT BLACKER AND CONDOLEEZZA RICE
Given half a chance, most national communities will seek the highest degree of political autonomy and self-determination, up to and including de jure independence (or international legal sovereignty, to use the term employed throughout this volume). They do so in large measure on the basis of the conviction that as a unique people—ethnically, linguistically, and/or culturally distinct from all others—they have earned and thus deserve such status, and because, in the end, the only surefire way to protect themselves against oppression and exploitation at the hands of others is through self-rule. 1 Historically, few such communities, when presented with the opportunity to chart their own sovereign course, have declined to take on the challenge. 2 That many of those efforts ended disastrously should not obscure the larger point that state-seeking nationalism has been, and remains, an enormously potent force in contemporary world politics.
What are we to make, then, of Belarus, one of twelve New Independent States to emerge from the wreckage of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, which has made political and economic union with the Russian Federation— a development that, if implemented, would surely diminish various aspects of Belarusian sovereignty—the centerpiece of its national policy?
Most new states go to elaborate lengths to imbed, affirm, and otherwise demonstrate their newly attained status as independent actors. They lower the old flag and raise the new. They field an army and begin printing their own money. They apply for membership in the United Nations and dispatch the foreign minister to Washington for “urgent consultations.”