Following December’s presidential election in Belarus, which OSCE observers said failed to meet international standards, Alexander Lukashenka claimed an implausible landslide victory and launched a wave of political repression. In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Matthew Rojansky outlines steps the West should take to respond to the crackdown and lay the groundwork for positive, democratic change in Belarus.

U.S. Policy Recommendations:

  • Insist on a reversal of the recent crackdown: U.S. sanctions against Belarus should remain in place until the regime releases political prisoners, halts politically motivated prosecutions, and ends harassment of opposition leaders, civil society groups, and independent media.
     
  • Invest directly in Belarusian civil society:  While punishing the regime, the United States must sustain and enhance its engagement with ordinary citizens. Increased aid should be provided to grassroots organizations—especially those outside Minsk—that treat social problems, track implementation of reform laws, and monitor corruption.
     
  • Support independent media: Above all, Belarusian citizens will benefit from expanded access to information from independent media outlets. Technical and financial support for journalists working in Belarus—including education, exchange, and professional training programs—should be increased.

Rojansky argues that rather than directly seeking Lukashenka’s overthrow, “the goal must be to develop the skills and capacity among Belarusians to take responsibility for their own political future.”