Belarus: Background and U.S. Policy Concerns [Updated April 24, 2007]   [open pdf - 109KB]

"In a little over a decade, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has snuffed out Belarus's modest progress toward democracy and a free market economy and created an authoritarian, Soviet-style regime. Lukashenko won re-election by an overwhelming margin. Belarus's economy is the most unreformed in Europe, according to an assessment by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Belarus has close historical and cultural ties to Russia. Efforts to establish a political and economic 'union' between the two countries have had substantial public support in Belarus. Nevertheless, the pace of integration between Belarus and Russia remains slow. […] U.S. officials have criticized Lukashenko as 'Europe's last dictator.' They have also expressed concerns about Belarus's arms sales and other ties to rogue regimes, such Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The United States pursues a policy of 'selective engagement,' which limits ties to the regime, while providing modest support to pro-democracy organizations in Belarus. The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on top Belarusian leaders. Congress has responded to the situation in Belarus with legislation. The Belarus Democracy Act, signed by President Bush in October 2004 (P.L. 108-347), authorizes aid for pro-democracy forces in Belarus and […] supports sanctions on Belarus and top leaders of the Lukashenko regime […]. The bill also requires the President to report within 90 days and every year thereafter on the sale by Belarus of weapons or weapons-related assistance to regimes supporting terrorism, and on the personal wealth of Lukashenko and other senior Belarusian leaders."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32534
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