Support for Democratization
Throughout the history of bilateral relations with Belarus, the U.S. Government has consistently encouraged the development of democratic institutions and a more open society, and has taken very seriously the honoring of commitments made by the government of Belarus to human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The growing neglect of internationally recognized practices in the above fields by the Belarusian authorities has led to the criticism of Belarus in the Department of State’s Human Rights Report and an eventual review of U.S. policy towards Belarus.
To assist democratic reform in Belarus, the Embassy has set up the Democracy Commission program to assist the nascent independent media and NGO sector and promote rule of law. The Public Affairs Section administers other public exchanges, brings to Belarus American experts to advise on democratic initiatives and reforms. Many of the democratic initiatives in Belarus are co-sponsored by U.S. Government agencies and private organizations.
The human rights situation in Belarus is taken very seriously by the international community. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) established its Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus in February 1998; the Group’s mandate is to assist the Belarusian authorities in promoting democratic institutions and to monitor and report on this process.
Support for Economic Reform
A bilateral trade treaty guaranteeing reciprocal most-favored-nation status entered into force between the United States and Belarus in February 1993; a bilateral investment treaty has been negotiated but not ratified by the U.S. Senate. Belarus is eligible to take part in several USG-supported assistance programs, such as the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (whose formation was announced during President Clinton’s visit to Minsk in 1994), SABIT (Special American Business Internship) Program and BISNIS (Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States). The U.S. has encouraged Belarus to conclude and adhere to agreements with the International Monetary Fund on the program of macroeconomic stabilization and related reform measures, as well as to undertake increased privatization and to create a favorable climate for business and investment. Although there has been some American direct private investment in Belarus, its development has been relatively slow given the uncertain pace of reform.
Participation in the U.S.-Belarusian Business Development Committee allows the American side to discuss opportunities for and obstacles to U.S. investment in Belarus. The interests of American business in Belarus are also promoted by the American Chamber of Commerce.
Presently, the U.S. Government does not encourage American companies to invest in Belarus.
Support to Demilitarization and Defense Conversion
The United States supported the decision of Belarus to become a non-nuclear state and values very highly the adherence of Belarus to the strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the Nunn-Lugar Program, the U.S. has signed agreements with Belarus to dismantle nuclear weapons and to provide assistance in defense conversion, export control, housing for demobilized military personnel and environmental restoration. In addition the U.S. has provided Belarus with emergency response equipment to respond to the consequences of a nuclear accident and a continuous communications link to allow the transmission of data and notifications under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) and START agreements. The United States also welcomed the signing by Belarus in October 1992 of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty to reduce and numerically limit key categories of military equipment. In addition to arms reduction-related activities, the United States and Belarus have established military-to-military ties, which include educational and training opportunities for Belarusian military personnel and exchange visits by military delegations. Belarus, along with 23 other nations in Europe, has joined the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty organization.
Support to Law Enforcement and Legislative Reform
Assistance in this field proceeds from the mutual understanding of the fundamental importance of maintaining law and creating a strong legal infrastructure in Belarus. During negotiations of the representatives from the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secret Service, the Customs Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Agency for International Development with Belarusian counterparts, the scope of the crime problem was explored and the rising threat it poses to both U.S. and Belarusian societies and to the international community as a whole has been noted. Specific programs in this respect include training courses and workshops for Belarusian law-enforcement officials.
Humanitarian Relief and Support to the Social Sector
U.S. humanitarian assistance to Belarus has been provided by the U.S. Government and private donors, including religious groups and individual American citizens, to alleviate hardship in this critical period of the ailing economic and social sectors.
On July 23, 2001 General Joseph Ralston, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and U.S. Ambassador in Belarus Michael Kozak dedicated the Blood Transfusion Center at the Emergency Treatment Hospital in Gomel. This project was funded by the U.S. European Command.