Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s PR machine kicked into overdrive yesterday during a meeting with Pope Benedict. RFE/RL’s Luke Allnut notes that the Belarussian strongman’s adorable son Nikola stole the show at the event: “Resplendent in a white cardigan among the papal grays and purples… playing with a football and presenting the pope with his ABC’s book.” It certainly sounds like Lukashenko is getting his money’s worth from his top-shelf British spin-doctors…
On this site last week, David Kramer and Irina Krasovskaya (whose husband was “disappeared” by the Lukashenko regime) argued that the E.U.’s efforts to reach out to Belarus were ill-advised and would only lead Lukashenko to crack down more on political dissent.
What is Benedict thinking? There are certainly times when talking with human rights abusers can be productive. But the Pope isn’t a realist, nor should he be. Unlike national leaders he’s in a position to act as a voice of conscience without worrying about political expediency. Considering the bad press he’s gotten over the last few months, it couldn’t have hurt the pope to say a few words in public about Lukashenko’s stifling of free speech and dissent in Belarus. Instead, he gave the dictator a photo-op to die for without a critical word.