Isolating so-called pariah states has been a recurring theme of international diplomacy since the end of the Cold War, but in many cases, isolation is more an illusion than a reality. Having diversified its foreign policy after the "Special Period" caused by the fall of the USSR, Cuba now once again faces an uncertain future in the aftermath of Hugo Chavez's death. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has used the West's efforts to isolate his regime to burnish his credentials among fellow post-colonial countries. And the constraints of contrasting pressures from Moscow and Brussels have left Belarus facing an uneasy trade-off.

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