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Minsk Willing To Hold Pause In Conflict With Washington

Minsk Willing To Hold Pause In Conflict With Washington
By Aleksey Zolotnitsky
Belorusskie Novosty
Withstanding from “throwing out” the American Ambassador from Belarus, as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko promised to earlier, and only persistently recommending  Karen Stewart to leave for Washington for consultations, official Minsk did not take responsibility for escalating the conflict between Belarus and the USA after the specific sanctions against Belarusian Belneftekhim were introduced.
On 12 March Karen Stewart flew to Washington for “sort-term consultations” that might last for several weeks. Karen Stuart herself said that the decision to call her back was made after the Belarusian Foreign Ministry repeated its recommendation for the American Ambassador to go for consultations.
Of course, the real reason for Karen Stewart’s departure was not the persistent requests to leave the country but rather the U.S. trying to express its discontent about official Minsk’s policy, which in fact is done through the diplomatic procedure of calling back the ambassadors. In the end, it was an attempt to play against official Minsk’s intention which  probably hoped to keep the conflict going for as long as possible.
David Cramer, the U.S. State Secretary’s Assistant in Democracy and Human Rights said to Belorusskie Novosty that taking into account the previous agreement between Minsk and Washington on releasing all political prisoners, including Alexander Kozulin, official Minsk has been shown a clear strategy it was going to follow.
Apparently, there is a group of officials that want to break free from the political blockade in relations with the West and USA, reckons Valery Karbalevich, an expert from Strategy Analytical Centre. Releasing some political prisoners was a part of the plan to find a compromise. However, the expert reckons that the situation with Kozulin has destroyed this plan and it is going nowhere.
The escalating tension with the USA might undermine all the positive results official Minsk managed to achieve with the West. This is why the Belarusian authorities tried not to cause any extra trouble and wanted to keep status quo hoping that the issue with Kozulin will be forgotten somehow. His release would be taken by Alexander Lukashenko as a political defeat, personal weakness, and can be used by domestic opponents. This is what official Minsk will probably be doing now – trying not to fuel this conflict and to slow it down in every possible way.
The fact that Washington and Brussels’ action are quite controversial is a good escape for official Minsk. Washington is prone to more decisive actions but it has probably already used up all economic sanctions it could. On the other hand, Valery Karbalevich reckons that the EU is highly unlikely to join these economic sanctions.
The EU has more points of contact with Belarus than the US, including in business. This is why when Alexander Lukashenko met a group of British businessmen not long ago, he mentioned large volumes of Russian gas and oil that go across Belarus to Europe. The EU has been staying away from the Belarusian-American conflict, although Brussels is interested in the positive outcome as much as Washington.
Now, the tension between Belarus and the USA is focused on Alexander Kozulin. Washington seems to be unwilling to take any positive feedback from Minsk unless it is Kozulin’s release. At the same time, the Belarusian authorities are as much determined not to do it.

14 Марта, 2008
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