Occupied by the Russian empire since the end of the 18th century, Belarus declared a short-lived National Republic in 1918 only to be forcibly absorbed into the Soviet Union. It became independent in 1991. Since 1994, it has been run by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. Under Lukashenko U.S.-Belarusian relations have remained at a low level. After a presidential election in 2006 that violated international norms and was neither free nor fair, the Unites States and the European Union implemented travel restrictions and targeted financial sanctions on nine state-owned entities and 16 individuals (including Lukashenko). In 2008, after the United States tightened sanctions due to worsening human rights abuses, Belarus expelled the U.S. ambassador – a position that has remained vacant – and 30 out of 35 U.S. diplomats. In August 2015, Lukashenka released all six of Belarus’ political prisoners. In response, the United States provided limited sanctions relief, suspending sanctions on the state-owned entities. Since sanctions relief began, Belarus has taken some steps to improve democracy and human rights. Increased bilateral engagement depends on Belarus making additional progress on human rights and democracy issues.
U.S. Government assistance to Belarus focuses on expanding democratic rights and fundamental freedoms and promoting a market economy by strengthening the private sector and stimulating entrepreneurship. Today, the U.S. embassy is in Minsk. For more information on our relationship with Belarus, please click here.
Source, United States Department of State, Office of the Historian and Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.