The ice has broken: the United States and Belarus for the first time in 11 years will exchange ambassadors
Minsk and Washington decided to restore interstate relations at the level of ambassadors after more than 11 years of “frozen” relations. Analysts in Moscow and Minsk argue that the Trump administration is building an anti-Russian frontier in Eastern Europe.
Washington has decided to restore diplomatic missions with Belarus at the ambassadorial level, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
“We believe that today is a historic moment in the Belarusian-American relations. I am delighted to be taking part in announcing the readiness to exchange ambassadors as the next step in the normalization of our relationship, ”said Hale.
The official Minsk a few months earlier announced its readiness to positively resolve the issue of the status of the diplomatic mission, but Washington replied that it takes time to make a final decision.
David Hale, who arrived in Minsk on 17 on September, said that the time had come.
“We agree with you that this state of affairs is unnatural, abnormal. We are glad this chapter ends. We are closing it taking into account the steps that your country and you personally have taken. We also note the vision that you have adopted - greater diversity both in internal affairs and in relations with the outside world. We actively support this vision and will do our best to help you on this path, ”the official Belarusian media are quoted as saying.
The exact date of arrival of the American ambassador to Minsk is still unknown. A candidate for this position must pass approval in the US Senate.
David Hale said that the United States is restoring full-fledged relations with Belarus not for the purpose of competing with some other country, but only in order to fully realize the potential of bilateral relations.
“And also because this region is very dear to us, and we are very attentive to security issues. Also because we strongly support the sovereignty and independence of Belarus, ”said David Hale.
Why there were no ambassadors for a long time and how did this interfere with ordinary Belarusians
The USA recognized Belarus as an independent state on December 25, 1991 - the second after Ukraine. And after three days, the countries officially established diplomatic relations.
Since the early 2000s, relations have deteriorated - the States suspected Lukashenka of laundering Saddam Hussein's money and suppressing the local sprouts of democracy. In early October 2004, the US imposed sanctions against Lukashenka and the country he leads for suppressing democratic freedoms by adopting the “Belarus Democracy Act” with a long list of requirements for the current Belarusian president. One of the demands concerned the disappearance of Lukashenka's political opponents, information about whose fate has not yet been made public.
Official Minsk ignored the demands made by Washington - except at the level of propaganda campaigns, indicating the problem of deteriorating relations with the United States.
In March 2008, following the imposition of sanctions by the United States against the state concern Belneftekhim in connection with human rights violations in Belarus, at the insistence of the Belarusian side, the number of employees of the US Embassy in Minsk was reduced.
The Belarusian ambassador to the United States, Mikhail Khvostov, was recalled to Minsk for consultations, and the ambassador of the United States, Karen Stewart, left Minsk at the insistence of the Belarusian side. Since then, the US mission in Minsk was led by charge d'affaires.
The diplomatic staff of the US embassy in Minsk was reduced from 35 to five people; also reduced the list of consular services to citizens. Belarusian citizens were forced to apply for American visas at the consular offices of US embassies in Moscow, Warsaw, Kiev and Vilnius.
In 2014, the embassy resumed issuing visas to certain categories of citizens - for example, students, exchange program participants, people over 70 years old and those who previously had an American visa.
Now that the countries have announced full diplomatic representation, they will not have to travel from Minsk for visas to other lands.
President Lukashenko, meeting in Minsk with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, stressed that Minsk was "not the only signal to the US leadership about the normalization of relations."
The threat of an "anti-Russian arc"
Analysts in Russia and Belarus unanimously note Washington’s increased activity during the debate between Minsk and Moscow on the principles of allied relations.
The participants of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, organized after the collapse of the USSR, have recently begun to fundamentally sort out their relations - and it was at the time of the formation of the road maps for deepening integration in Minsk in the last days of August that John, who served as the US President's National Security Advisor, arrived on an official visit. Bolton (he left office shortly thereafter). Since the beginning of the millennium, American officials of such a high rank have not come to Belarus.
Bolton following the results of the Minsk meetings сообщилthat no breakthrough decisions have been made, but the parties are working on progress. A week and a half later, John Bolton was dismissed by Trump, giving rise to a lot of memes and sarcastic comments in social networks in Minsk.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reiterated to David Hale that the United States could fruitfully help resolve the conflict in Ukraine and praised the American guest for his attention to Eastern Europe.
“At this difficult time, your interest in this region is encouraging,” Lukashenka is quoted as saying by his press service.
Russian media comment on the current Belarusian-American decisions and curtsies in the spectrum from “betrayal of the fraternal union” to “master's pragmatism of Lukashenka”. The Belarusian media note that Lukashenka is forced to maneuver, even "getting bogged down in the clauses of a long-standing alliance agreement with the Kremlin."
“The United States is ready to support some initiatives aimed at strengthening Belarusian sovereignty. But this does not mean that they will actively promote some kind of agenda. Rather, they will help if there is some appeal or a desire to cooperate in this direction from the Belarusian authorities, ”believes Andrei Kazakevich, director of the Political Sphere Institute.
“They understand that it is good for Belarus to be sovereign and have some kind of autonomy and distance from Russia, they are ready to support this, but there is no reason to promote it somehow. Still, it is clear that Belarus is in the orbit of Russian influence; the population and elite of the country are largely (at least in the opinion of many Americans) pro-Russian here. The situation is very different from Ukraine, Georgia and even Moldova, where, after all, such assistance to strengthen sovereignty can be perceived with greater gratitude, ”Kazakevich told Belorusskie Novosti.
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