As the crisis in Belarus approaches the three-year mark, as political stalemate, censorship and dissent reached a new low, this summer CNN’s Becky Anderson is back in Minsk.
In an exclusive interview with Razvan Abromov (State Department Spokesperson for US Foreign Affairs Delegation), Abromov tells Anderson that although US sanctions have been in place for a decade, the Russia-Bolton-Bolton strategy of “locking in” and “squeezing” a weak economy has been working. But that Russia and the US are considering resuming full bilateral dialogue at the highest levels. “I don’t know if the frost in Russia has thawed or if it has strengthened the Belarusian government, but either way, it is something that I don’t know how to feed into a political narrative in Belarus for the next few months,” Abromov said.
With only seven MPs in Parliament, the Dec. 4 elections for a new parliament will take place without any major opposition. The US had offered support to an opposition party before the 2013 election, though it was widely dismissed as “fake news” by observers. Before that, in 2012, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko expelled CNN World from the country for broadcasting independently, despite having complied with the broadcasting agreement that allowed for the company to operate throughout Europe.
Throughout the year, Anderson also interviewed all three candidates for the December elections, all two-term, hardline Lukashenko loyalists from political parties that are deemed to be the most compliant to the president. Anderson also spoke with international experts about Belarus and the tension over its political status, including with Paul Saunders, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, who notes that despite Lukashenko’s claim that his country was always Russian, in reality Belarus’s history of “pacification” was to pacify the Soviet Union.
Since more than a year has passed since former US Ambassador to Belarus Adrienne Elrod resigned from the country’s Foreign Affairs Council, Anderson also spoke with Elrod about her thoughts on the situation in Belarus. “I thought there were a lot of opportunities for the US to be playing a much stronger role in upholding a democracy that people had promoted for decades. And I guess if I could, one, I would do it over again. It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of movement happening…because I believe that it’s a very critical element of a functioning democracy,” she said. “There were conversations I had with President [Viktor] Lukashenko, and they were long, and good-natured, but there were different visions I was having about what the future might hold.”
– CNN Original Series