Two days ago, on the sideline of an OSCE meeting in Kazakhstan, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov met bilaterally with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to announce that Belarus intends to get rid of all of its remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU), which just a few months ago seemed so unlikely. The terms of the deal are not completely clear, but it was noted in the joint communique that the "The United States intends to provide technical and financial assistance to support the completion of this effort as expeditiously as possible."
It is not exactly clear why the Belarusian administration has decided to take this opportunity to utilize one its last few negotiating chips, but it could likely be in order to gain favor with the West prior to the December elections. As Digest readers know, Lukashenka has had a falling out - to say the least - with its one-time benefactor Russia. In all likelihood, Lukashenko has decided to follow Kenny Roger's advice and play the ace up his sleeve.
However, the Belarusian leader should not count on this buying him anything more than an invitation to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, which he has already received, and certainly not anything along the lines of what he likely has in mind - acquiescence from the West when the upcoming election turns out to be less than free and fair. In the spirit of not counting my money while I'm still at the table, I won't go quite as far as the The Economist and declare the election over because crazier things have happened, but I would also not recommend the reader to hold his or her breath.
by Andrew Riedy, contributing writer