By Steven PiferFrom 2001 to 2004, I was the senior American official to visit Belarus. The United States and European Union were thoroughly dissatisfied with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s authoritarianism, and US policy mandated that no official higher than a deputy assistant secretary travel to Minsk. EU officials and EU member states observed comparable restrictions.
Washington had no particular geopolitical interest in Belarus, and trade was minimal. During my first visit in February 2002, the primary objective was to persuade the Belarusian government to ease up on repression, respect human rights, and allow a bit more political space. We presented Belarusian officials …read more