The hope, of course, is that opening up the economy will go hand-in-hand with democratization.
The highlight for me though was the interview with Lukashenka, where he's even now joking about being tagged the last dictator in Europe:
"You are so lucky to have a chance to talk to the last dictator of Europe. You could only dream of meeting with the last dictator of Europe and see what kind of dictator he is. Touch him, sit at the same table with him. You only read this in books, but now you’ve seen it for real."
Also interesting to see the official line on Belarus's decision to go down the privatization road now -- in reality because Russia isn't prepared any longer to prop up the economy with cheap gas -- is essentially, we decided to wait, we weren't ready, we wanted to take our time and do things properly. And now we're doing things properly.
This fits nicely into Lukashenka's old narrative of how Belarus was always blessed as it managed, due to his skillful leadership, to escape the ravages of criminal capitalism in Russia
If the plan works and the privatization goes smoothly, and Belarus becomes a nice little progressive hamlet of Russia, a land of cycle paths and Internet cafes, then it would be a masterstroke of political disingenuity for Lukashenka.
But that said, he still seems as nutty as ever, referring to himself as "this dictator" and talking about diving into ice holes with his sons.
-- Luke Allnutt