Last week’s detention of an activist in Belarus is only the latest of many signals that we must relearn how to defend our values
The west’s ineffectiveness in the face of the arrant use of torture, unlawful arrest, savage imprisonment without trial and flagrant abuse of international law, even close to home in Europe, is among the bleakest symptoms of our times. The people power we saw embodied in the strikes in the Gdańsk shipyards, the fall of the Berlin Wall and even the Arab spring has not presaged the new era of democracy we once hoped for. Instead, the 21st century is becoming defined as a new era of agile autocracy and vicious strong-man rule.
As the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, prepared the UK’s response to last Sunday’s forced landing of a Ryanair jet by a Belarusian MiG-29 over its airspace to secure the trumped-up detention of a well-known democracy activist, Roman Protasevich, it must have crossed his mind that Britain’s response would have been so much stronger within the EU. The UK is now a little Sir Echo, weakening the west. It is part of the reason why Belarus’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, can act with impunity, as he refuses to acknowledge his loss of last’s August presidential election.