A Belsat TV journalist talks with Chargé d’affaires ad interim Scott M. Rauland about USA-Belarus relations, our country’s unique position on the international scene, a need to promote entrepreneurship and the incompleteness of democracy (See the interview in English in the video above).
Things have definitely improved over the time I have been there. We’ve been able to add two positions back to Embassy. We have two diplomats more than we had when I came here. There are seven now, seven positions approved, there were five when I got here. I’ve seen cooperation on a number of different things – the release of political prisoners was something U.S. and EU worked very hard for, and we take that as a very positive sign.
Belarus has played a very important role serving as a venue for the meeting of the Contact Group. And the Contact Group has done important work trying to get to the two sides and additional players of the conflict talking to each other. Belarus is in a unique position: it has good relations with Ukraine, it has good relations with Russia. There are not too many other countries that could serve as such a forum for the meetings of the Contact Group, and this is greatly appreciated by both United States and the European Union.
The IT sector in Belarus is doing fabulously well. This is a model that probably could be applied to other sectors of the Belarusian economy. The U.S. is a big believer in private market and entrepreneurship, and we work to support those things because we think entrepreneurship is a model for economic growth. I think to the extent that we can work with the government of Belarus to promote more entrepreneurship, to promote growth in a private market, this will lead to the creation of new jobs in Belarus and to an economy of the future because if you don’t change you won’t be able to keep up with other leading economies of the world.
Look, at the North American continent we have three huge democracies: Mexico, Canada and the U.S. During my lifetime – and I am a pretty old man – we have not been at war with each other. I think that’s a model for other regions in the world – we have good, healthy democracies and trade relations. You don’t need to worry about instability, war and violence, you can look forward to a very stable future. Let me quote my colleague Bruce Bucknell who likes to quote the figure that we both respect – Winston Churchill: “Yes, democracy is a very bad system. Unfortunately, all the other ones are worse”. Democracy is messy, but the key is to work, to continuely make it better. With democracy, you never reach a point when everything is perfect. It always needs work.
Progress has been made, for example, political prisoners have been released. We certainly want the status quo to be preserved.If there are new political prisoners, it will certainly threaten the status quo. Six month from now, we look at the question of extending the suspension or not.