The Department of State hosted the first Strategic Dialogue between the United States Government and the Belarusian democratic movement and civil society on December 6-8. Co-chaired by Belarusian democratic leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Christopher W. Smith, the Strategic Dialogue convened representatives of numerous U.S. government agencies with a broad cross-section of Belarusian democratic actors, including political leaders, civil society representatives, independent journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, union leaders, academics, and ordinary Belarusians.
At the Dialogue, the United States made several announcements:
- The United States’ efforts to promote accountability for the Lukashenka regime’s abuses in Belarus and abroad will continue, as exemplified by the sanctions levied December 5 against 11 companies and eight individuals enabling or complicit in the regime’s misdeeds.
- The U.S. Agency for International Development this month is opening a dedicated office in Vilnius, Lithuania, for its Belarus program. USAID has partnered with the Belarusian people for 20 years and the new office is proof that the partnership will continue as Belarusians strive for a sovereign, democratic and prosperous country.
- The United States will initiate exchanges and other programming designed to promote and protect Belarusians’ unique national and cultural identity, including their language, literature, arts, and history.
- The United States and representatives of the Belarusian democratic movement agreed to convene working groups in the coming months to continue the important discussions started at the Strategic Dialogue.
A key topic was the human rights catastrophe the regime in Minsk deliberately inflicts upon the people of Belarus since the fraudulent 2020 Belarus presidential election. Both sides condemned the horrors inflicted upon political prisoners and the need for rehabilitation and resocialization support. The United States continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release and rehabilitation of the regime’s nearly 1,500 political prisoners. We are also looking into ways to support rehabilitation efforts for political prisoners and their families.
Strategic Dialogue participants also discussed issues related to the future economic development of a democratic Belarus, the important role of Belarusian diaspora communities, the pressures placed upon independent media, countering disinformation and propaganda, and helping Belarus defend and reclaim its full sovereignty. The United States continues its unwavering support for the aspirations of the Belarusian people for a sovereign, democratic future, and salutes the courageous Belarusians who have risked, and continue to risk, so much in pursuit of that goal.