The diplomatic storm raised by the incident might not be of primary concern to Lukashenko. TIME correspondent Yuri Zarakovich reports that the authoritarian president has restored a Soviet-style command economy, and last April responded to a fall in the Belarus ruble by firing and jailing dozens of officials. With Lukashenko citing Hitler's stewardship of Germany as a role model for his presidency, it's fair to assume that diplomatic protocol is not his priority.
Washington is threatening to get out the welding torch after its Belarus ambassador, Daniel Speckhard, yesterday found the gates to his residence welded shut. The government of President Alexander Lukashenko -- a Soviet-era hardliner -- has warned diplomats from 22 countries to leave their residential compound, insisting that it needed repairs. The U.S. denounced the action as a violation of diplomatic conventions, and warned of unspecified retaliation. "We would certainly have options of our own in the welding area," State Department spokesman James Rubin joked.