When Russia began the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it used neighboring Belarus as a staging ground for the assault on Kyiv. In response, the United States and European Union imposed financial sanctions on Belarus, tightening the noose around the country’s war machine and blocking access to the international financial system. However, the sanctions have had little impact as Belarus’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has moved closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin, becoming one of his most dependable allies in the region.
In an effort to address the situation, the United States has appointed a new special envoy for Belarus, to be based in Washington, with a deputy envoy in Vilnius. This appointment has been welcomed by former U.S. officials and Belarusian scholars, who hope that it will bring more attention to the country in Washington and Europe.
The new envoys face the challenge of making Belarus a priority in international policy discussions and supporting the country’s civil society and democratic leaders. The relationship between Belarus and the West has historically been tumultuous, and there is a need for a coherent long-term strategy to address the situation.
The appointment of special envoys comes amid deepening ties between Belarus and Russia, with Belarus becoming increasingly dependent on its powerful neighbor. As Russia continues to assert its influence in the region, the fate of Belarus hangs in the balance, and the outcome of the war in Ukraine will play a significant role in determining Belarus’s future.