Belarus has lifted a cap on the number of US diplomats allowed in the country, an influential news resource focusing on diplomatic issues says.
On January 10, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey informed the US State Department’s top diplomat on Europe, Wess A. Mitchell, of the decision in a phone call, Foreign Policy reports with reference to two diplomatic sources briefed on the matter. The media outlet calls it a ‘diplomatic breakthrough’.
After the US imposed additional sanctions on the country in 2008, Belarus expelled the American envoy and most of diplomats; the number of officials serving in the embassy in Minsk was limited to five (later 10).
“It’s a big step. This is the beginning of a thaw,” Foreign Policy quotes one of the US officials.
A US embassy in a country the size of Belarus could otherwise typically have around 30 staff members, not including local hires, the article reads.
According to FP authors Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon, it is the current deterioration of Belarus-Russia relations that made such a step possible. They quote president Alyaksandr Lukashenka who has reportedly warned Russia against losing its only ally.
In late October, the Belarusian leader spoke to Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, at the Munich Security Conference Core Group meeting. Shortly before the event, Mr Mitchell promised to support Eastern European countries, i.e. ‘frontier states like Ukraine, Georgia, and even Belarus, that offer the surest bulwark against Russian neo-imperialism’.
“If we make advances in our relations, I promise you that Belarusians will be the most reliable, honest and sincere partners of yours,” Lukashenka told the US top official.
belsat.eu, via Foreign Policy