Donald Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, is due to visit Belarus as soon as this week, the media are citing Foreign Policy.
Bolton’s trip will mark the highest-level U.S. government visit to Belarus this century.
“Treating [Belarus] as a black hole and ignoring it has been a failure. It hasn’t produced any forward movement on human rights,” Michael Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, told Foreign Policy.
The program and agenda of Bolton’s visit are yet unknown, Belarusian portal TUT.BY writes.
According to Foreign Policy, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale is also expected to travel to Belarus next month to discuss the expanding U.S. diplomatic presence in the country. This includes, in particular, potentially exchanging ambassadors with Minsk, according to sources familiar with the visit.
Frozen for decades
Amid some recent improvement, relations between Belarus and the USA remain complicated, TUT.BY explains.
In 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush imposed sanctions on Alexander Lukashenko, a number of Belarusians officials and their families as a response to presidential elections that were proclaimed non-democratic by the West. Sanctions were also imposed against Belarusian companies.
Also, since 2008 the United States has no ambassador in Belarus – the diplomatic duties are performed by the charge d’affaires.
The official visits from the USA to Belarus have intensified in the past year, TUT.BY adds.
The only reason for John Bolton’s visit to the region is reacting to Russia’s police, political expert Artyom Shraibman believes.
“The trip to Minsk, as well as the visit to neighboring Kyiv, is nothing but a very clear signal to Moscow,” Shraibman writes. Bolton’s visit is too high-level for it to be connected with the return of the ambassador.
“This visit would not be scheduled unless fears that Belarus could be Kremlin’s next meal had not reached the top in Washington,” the expert writes.
“I do not, however, believe in this scenario. But without this hype and alarmism, Belarus would not have gotten all that attention.”
Which means the diversification of foreign policy. Which, in the end, is not a bad thing, Shraibman concludes.