The American edition of The American Interest Online published an article two former U.S. government officials on policy towards Belarus.
Authors Damon Wilson — Vice president and director of international security think tank "Atlantic Council," the former director of the Department of Eastern and Central Europe, U.S. National Security Council, David Kramer — Senior Research Fellow at the German Marshall Fund (USA, former deputy assistant secretary of state for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. Mr. Kramer has repeatedly given an interview with Radio Liberty.
In his article, Sir Wilson and Kramer argue that it is the policy of sanctions has led to the release of political prisoners in Belarus in 2008, and accused German diplomacy is that it prevented this release. According to the authors cancellation policy of sanctions and dialogue with the official Minsk has led to a deterioration of the situation in that country.
We offer you a translation of the article.
Comment German political scientist, head of the Russia and CIS German Council on Foreign Policy Aleksandrov Rara You can read HERE.
If sanctions are
Lukashenko felt pressure from all sides — the sanctions from the West, and close respiration big bear from the East.
Almost immediately after the UN Security Council voted in June for a new sanctions resolution against Iran, skeptics have questioned whether they would have a real impact on Iran's behavior. Yes, some analysts have argued that the sanctions have never worked against those whom they were intended, they only bring harm to ordinary citizens, sometimes inadvertently helping the regime and demobilize the international community by creating the illusion of making "some measures".
Although researchers are constantly prove what sanctions are ineffective, all agree that in certain exceptional cases, the sanctions worked. The positive results are relatively rare (the most optimistic researchers say the success of not more than 34% of cases), and they reach the goal, for various reasons, but among the positive examples of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the Communist government in Poland.
Here is another success story, which did not pay so much attention to: Belarus. Company of sanctions against Belarus, which began in 2002, which led the United States with broad European support, has led to significant political concessions, without harming people. Belarus under the authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko — a country with 10 million inhabitants, which originated in 1992 on the ruins of the Soviet empire. Belarus, which has a border with Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, is in a very strained relations with Western countries (and even Russia). Known as "Europe's last dictator", Lukashenko led kleptocracy with Soviet features, from the time of his election in 1994, has successfully anchored democracy and the free market. Belarus has few natural resources. The main source of state revenue, and Lukashenka personally, was the sale of weapons, including Iraq during Saddam's rule, Syria, Venezuela, Sudan and Iran.
Substantially all of the criteria of Lukashenka's Belarus — a disgusting place. About ten years ago, because of opposition from the regime "disappeared" four well-known opposition leaders, their whereabouts are still unknown. In response, the U.S. and the European Union imposed a general ban on entry into the territory of Western States officials implicated in "disappearances." In 2002, the United States joined the European Union, which imposed additional visa restrictions, including a ban on Lukashenko himself, after it was closed the Minsk office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is engaged in monitoring the observance of human rights in the country. The visa ban was lifted the following year, if the Belarusian authorities allowed to re-open the office. In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed a bipartisan about the Belarus Democracy Act, which increased the pressure, and in which he said that "Europe whole and free is no place for this type of treatment."
In 2006, the West responded to more serious sanctions against the authorities after the rigged presidential election and the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. U.S. led campaign, carefully coordinated with the EU, imposing a visa ban and freeze the assets of several dozen high-ranking Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko, who was supposed to have been responsible for the violation of human rights by the government, electoral fraud, violence and widespread corruption. Targeted sanctions led to a problem for the public, while at the same time confirmed the determination of the West to establish the responsibility of individuals for their crimes. Forcing officials to incur personal expenses for the promotion of Lukashenko, the sanctions were to sow discord and doubt among his top aides.
Involvement of the European Union in the campaign, although it was not easy, it was very important to speak with one voice. It is meant to cut Lukashenko on his favorite places ski holiday in the Alps and on its western bank accounts. People around him were affected, however, in some cases, they found themselves in the humiliating position when it detects problems with credit cards western banks (they did not work). In several cases, the U.S. (although the EU is not connected) expanded sanctions when Lukashenka regime refused to compromise or renewed repressive activity.
The minimum mandatory step on the part of the authorities to weaken the sanctions was the release of six political prisoners, including Alexander Kozulin, who led a vigorous campaign against Lukashenko in the presidential election in 2006. For several years, Washington and Brussels have clearly declared their readiness to "selective engagement" or "step by step" approach: in response to the relief of repression by the authorities and the release of prisoners, the West was ready to lift sanctions and move to the positive interaction.
The regime did not meet until January 2008. The stimulus to the response was the introduction of the United States (who acted alone and warned of impending Minsk additional sanctions if the requirements are met) in November 2007, additional sanctions against Belneftekhim, Belarusian state oil company, in which, as reported, were the immediate interests Lukashenko. Skeptics wince: that is unlikely to sanctions against a conglomerate that has a small business in the U.S. will be a success. But freezing the accounts of the company Belneftekhim USA Lukashenko found a weak point: it was his wallet. Although the direct impact of the freezing of assets was minimal, the actions of the Ministry of Finance and damaged the reputation of Belneftehim increased risk for any of the international financial institutions, leading business with him. In fact, the indirect impact of sanctions has led to a halt funding.
Two months after the freezing of assets Belneftehim, a government Lukashenko privately addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Minsk with the question, what will be the American response if the authorities to release political prisoners. Note that the mode is turned to the U.S., and not in any of the European embassies, because it increased the pressure on the U.S. government confirmed its seriousness, if the regime did not fulfill the promises and whose policies, starting with the president made tough statements and plainly of authoritarianism and corruption in Belarus. Lukashenko and his cronies wanted to avoid as much attention and be free from the pressure of the sanctions, and the only way out was the release of political prisoners.
Within 48 hours after the American response to the request mode, t
he first prisoner was released. Most of the others were also released shortly. Unfortunately, unwanted intervention of one of the European embassies in Minsk slowed the release Kozulin, the most delicate of all the cases of political prisoners. German Ambassador to Belarus Gebhardt Weiss invited representatives Lukashenko that Germany will take care of Kozulin and his very sick wife, but Kozulin refused the offer because he thought that it would mean a link. Intervention Weiss, who did not consult Kozulin before the regime announced a proposal may have delayed the release of Kazulin from prison. Irina Kozulin, who was then too ill to make any transfers, died a few weeks after a long but courageous battle with cancer.
The U.S. government is worried that the release Kozulin was canceled, not just postponed, in March 2008, once again tightened the noose of sanctions. This provoked a furious response regime, the U.S. ambassador was expelled, and the U.S. Embassy had to reduce staff from more than thirty-five (the State Department said the same, albeit on a smaller scale, the Belarusian Embassy in Washington, DC). Until now, the United States has no ambassador in Minsk (Belarus and no ambassador in Washington), which indicates that the relationship continues to be bad. However, in the end, in August 2008, the Belarusian authorities released Kozulin, although it was six months after the death of his wife. He was allowed to leave the prison walls for three days to attend the funeral of his wife in March of the same year.
Kazulin's release meant the liberation of the last political prisoner in Belarus, at least in 2008. Although it required considerable time and patience, the sanctions took their toll. Based on the authorities' attempts to come to terms with the U.S. Embassy in January 2008, as well as other information that we had in that time, we have no doubt that pressure from the United States, in support of the EU, has guaranteed the release of political prisoners.
Unfortunately, the EU's desire to keep the pressure on Lukashenko was very weak. After his release, Kozulin and several weeks after the parliamentary elections in September 2008, which did not meet any standards, the European Union voted to suspend all sanctions against the government, and this suspension has since continued for some time. (United States after the release Kozulin also immediately removed some sanctions, but not all, of their decision was not linked in time so badly, as the EU's decision, which was taken after all criticized the parliamentary elections.) EU leaders will decide in early fall of this year, re-impose sanctions or continue their suspension.
Some EU members have been concerned that the long-standing sanctions against Belarus will lead her into the arms of Russia, perhaps even lead to a political union, even though the joint U.S. and EU sanctions were adopted in response to the actions of the regime against the people, and not in connection with his relationship with Moscow. European business and financial circles have also played a role, although in Belarus is not so much Western investment. Concerns in Europe that the West is pushing Minsk and Moscow closer to each other, was absolutely false, because it is the most Russian policy towards Minsk actually pushed Belarus from Russia. The Russians were too busy trying to get out of Belarus, all that is possible, including the attempt to capture the main Belarusian assets and infrastructure, taking advantage of the price of gas and oil, as a tool against Lukashenko to understand that an offer of help at this point would nullify the effectiveness of sanctions against Belarus. Moscow's approach in the fight for what she considered its sphere of interest, Lukashenko assured that the alliance with Russia can only limit its power.
Indeed, Russia has made inadvertently Western sanctions more effective than they could be in another scenario. Rather than offer relief to many years of Lukashenka Western pressure, Russia has pressed on him, so he gave her the Belarusian assets, threatening that otherwise he will face higher costs for energy, and demonstrate the seriousness of its solutions by reducing the supply of oil in 2007 . Deliveries were again significantly reduced in June of this year, but Lukashenko surprised Moscow demanding that Minsk have another 70 million in unpaid transit fees. In case if Russia has opened its doors to Lukashenko and would continue to provide it with energy at low prices, Western sanctions would be less sensitive. Instead, Lukashenko felt pressure from all sides — the sanctions from the West, and close respiration big bear from the East. In the West, he knew the only way to reduce stress, it was the requirement to release political prisoners. As for Russia, the only way to improve the relationship would be selling large parts of the country and its infrastructure, and he was not ready for this. Thus, the West should thank Russia for the fact that the policy of sanctions has been so effective. (Provide Lukashenko asylum to the former Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev Moscow for gouging issue the airbase "Manas" in 2009, and his refusal to join the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan, of course will not improve relations with Russia Minsk).
Those who believe that the sanctions against Belarus did not act, and we are confident that the government released political prisoners, for other reasons, have to see how events unfolded in Belarus since the European Union lifted sanctions (the majority of U.S. sanctions remain). After the initial EU's decision in October 2008 to suspend the sanctions, a number of EU member states turned his attention directly to Lukashenko, putting an end to its former status of a diplomatic outcast. The European Union has invited him to Prague summit, when was the start of the program "Eastern Partnership" in May 2009 (to the relief of Czech hosts, Lukashenko ignored the invitation.) Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and other European leaders visited Minsk in search of favors Lukashenko and Lukashenko and his five year old son visited Rome, where he met with Pope Benedict XVI in April 2009.
But in spite of this generous approach and European offers of cooperation, the situation in Belarus has deteriorated. Regime has increased the pressure on the leaders of the opposition, civil society activists arrested, brutally suppressed the protests, has the Polish minority and denied registration to a number of newspapers. In some respects, the regime changed the face of repression: avoids criminal cases against prominent political figures, to which the international community to turn its attention that would cause problems with the image, but that does not mean that there are no political prisoners. Make no mistake: the general political situation and the human rights situation has not improved and will likely only get worse as how to approach the Belarus presidential elections at the end of this year or at the beginning of the next.
In response to the European Union almost did not hear any concern. Voice of the European Union has begun to sound only when there were contradictions in respect of the Polish national minority. Not surprisingly, the chief prosecutor acted Warsaw. Poland, however, as previously advocated the lifting of sanctions because of false concerns about the impact they would have on the Belarusian-Russian relations. Most European observers in Minsk agree that the efforts of the EU to establish a dialogue with the government failed, although some may argue that a policy of engagement should be long-term.
In fact, the current European policy Lukashenko has shown that, as a corrupt authoritarian demagogue and being in the center of Europe, it can get away with little cost. View of "Europe whole and free" earlier reflects consensus that Europe will not tolerate such a leader. Unfortunately, the EU member states do not want to renew sanctions a
gainst the regime of prolonged violation of the rights of its citizens, although Lukashenko pays attention only to the sanctions (the so-called "fist").
Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, tried to strengthen the EU's common core, increasing demands for Minsk. He said that the EU expects Belarus to abolish the death penalty, put an end to the repression and to hold democratic presidential elections. As expected, Lukashenko did not agree with the concept of the EU "roadmap of reforms", saying that Belarus "will kneel before you, Russia or the United States." Thus, the question remains whether Brussels will take a decision about the consequences of such intransigence will pass over in silence or simply the fact that Lukashenko continues to exist as Europe's last dictator.
Belarus is very different from Iran, and it's obvious. But to the extent that the international community continues to try to understand how to face the unyielding and dangerous regime in Tehran should pay attention to the lessons that can be derived from the application of sanctions against Lukashenko: targeted, co-ordinated with the European Union, which was growing in strength . The sanctions will be effective if they find a vulnerability exact mode, when the effective coordination of blocking loopholes in the sanctions regime, and where sanctions can be easily changed depending on the behavior of the regime. Experience has shown that if these three conditions exist simultaneously, the authorization will be ineffective and could even be counterproductive. That's about these options, you need to remember when it comes to Iran.