US Charge d’Affaires in Belarus (RB) Jennifer Moore announced on June 3 that the new US ambassador would arrive in the republic this summer. The news is indicative, given that the country is undergoing an election campaign. President Alexander Lukashenko, who wants to maintain his post, seems to be ready for anything for this. However, his actions, in the end, can only benefit the West.
For 12 years, Washington and Minsk maintained diplomatic relations only at the level of charge d’affaires, but this year the process of restoring full-fledged relations began to move forward by leaps and bounds. Forcing it from both sides seemed quite logical: Lukashenko became more and more bogged down in disputes with the Russian leadership, and the White House obviously decided that it would be easier than ever to enlist the support of the Belarusian leader in such conditions. Indicative in this regard, for example, the brave words of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the readiness to fully supply Belarus with oil. However, several months have passed since that statement, and Minsk is still looking for foreign sources of raw materials.
In any case, in the context of current bilateral relations, the fact that the new US ambassador will arrive in Minsk in the summer is very symptomatic. Especially if this happens before the presidential election in Belarus, scheduled for August 9. Washington cannot help but see the zeal of Lukashenko, seeking to take the post of head of state for the sixth time. For the sake of this, he is ready even to resort again to the detentions of political activists and to other undemocratic measures. At the same time, the West, in the person of both Americans and Europeans, has always condemned such steps. And now, the Parliamentary Assembly (PA) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is criticizing the recent actions of the Belarusian authorities.
We are very concerned, because the detention of prominent political activists not only impedes the work of potential candidates (for the presidency. NEWS.ru), but also has a terrifying impact on society, ”said a joint statement by OSCE PA Vice President Kari Henriksen and her colleagues from Human Rights Committee Assembly.
The White House has so far refrained from such assessments, instead of focusing on restoring diplomatic ties between Washington and Minsk. And this may well become part of a large party that the United States consciously plays out using Lukashenko’s presidential ambitions.
The arrival of the American ambassador in Minsk at the height of the election campaign will certainly allow Washington to exert a certain influence on it. But if earlier the Western countries branded the Belarusian leader as the “last dictator of Europe”, now it hardly meets their goals. The political situation has changed: the United States, the EU, and Belarus have very tense relations with Russia. Under these conditions, resorting to serious sanctions against Lukashenko, as happened during the last presidential election in Belarus, the collective West, in spite of its claims, is unlikely to become.
The United States is interested in the republic playing according to American rules because in this case, Washington will strengthen its influence on the territory of Russia’s main European ally. And the current election campaign in the “Lukashenko style” will allow achieving this without direct pressure: in return for concessions from the Belarusian leader, it is enough to promise him to close his eyes to the fact that the elections will not be too free. The president has little choice: disagreeing with a compromise with Western partners, he again risks becoming an outcast. But now, when relations with the Kremlin are strained, he does not need such a scenario.
As a result, Lukashenko, even having won the election, in a broader sense will lose. In the future, he will have to either take Western interests into account so as not to lose the conditional support of the US and the EU, or try to take a step towards Moscow. And the second he, taking into account the temperament, is unlikely to agree.