Great expectations: Washington considering next steps towards Belarus

In recent days, officials of the U.S. Department of State and the Congress have been consulting the experts on the subject of Belarus and the authorities’ repressions of Belarusians.

“It is unclear whether there will be any pressure on [Lukashenka’s] regime or cooperation with the regime. There are only discussions behind the scenes and closed strategic sessions. One of them was held on Monday; the main topic was what issues should be prioritized now,” Belarusian journalist Franak Vyachorka who is currently studying International Relations and Intercultural Communication at American University in Washington, told RFE/RL.

Sanctions again?

The U.S. officials are expected to make a decision on further continuation of the moratorium on sanctions against a number of Belarusian enterprises by the end of April.

The United States suspended sanctions in 2015 to encourage democratic reforms and rapprochement with the West. But now the world knows that hundreds Belarusians have been lately detained for participating in peaceful protests and dozens of criminal cases have been initiated. All this is too far from the values of the Western civilization.

“There are nine enterprises on the sanctions list, including Grodno Azot and Belshina – the both are supposed to be sponsors of Lukashenka’s regime. But the issue of introducing targeted, economic or any other sanctions that can affect Belarusian people is off the table at the moment,” Vyachorka stresses.

Russian threat

Lukashenka is taking an advantage of the possible threat of Russia’s intervention in Belarus to strengthen his own power and stem off sanctions.

“Both the EU and the United States do not want to return to the policy [of sanctions], which was previously considered to be ineffective against Belarus. And now they are in a situation of expectation – they hope that the wave of repression may be over,” says political analyst Andrey Yahorau.

According to unofficial statements by U.S. experts, Washington’s and Brussels’ decision on possible stepping up sanctions will depend on the actions of the Belarusian authorities on April 26 (March in remembrance of the Chernobyl tragedy victims) and May 1 (another ‘non-parasite’ rally)., phot. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / Forum

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