When the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, the world -- including Russia -- worried about what would happen to the highly enriched and weapons-grade uranium left in the pieces of the former U.S.S.R., including Belarus. That reason for concern remains acute.
Last year, Belarus agreed to transfer its nuclear stocks to Russia by 2012. In the meantime, its dictator, Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has held power since 1994, has persisted in his harsh treatment of opponents.
The most recent U.S. reaction was to impose economic sanctions on Belarus. Mr. Lukashenko's response this month was to suspend the agreement to hand over the country's highly enriched uranium. That action placed Belarus in the nuclear-outlaw category occupied by Iran and North Korea.
The question, for American diplomats and others, is why anyone would have imagined he would do otherwise.