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"It Is Time For Change To Come To Belarus."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is earning her pay and proving just how different she is from former Secretary Colin Powell. She is already setting a pace to out-travel Powell quite significantly (more on this to come).


On her trip to Europe this week, in Vilnius, Lithuania, she did not mince words in expressing America's desire for free and fair elections in Belarus.

Noting that it is "really the last true dictatorship in the center of Europe," Secretary Rice asserted that "it is time for change to come to Belarus."

That she made the comments in Lithuania is not insignificant. Lithuania, once part of the Soviet Empire, still understands and values the concept of freedom. In fact, Lithuanian President Adamkus went out of his way to support the Orange Revolution late last year in Ukraine. Her comment, ever un-Powell-like, drew sharp criticism, predictably, from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russia, which was recently downgraded from "Partially Free" to "Not Free" by Freedom House, supports the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Russia still treats Belarus like a satellite in its Cold War sphere of influence.

Secretary Rice later explained at a NATO Ministerial how the international community can cooperate to affect democratic change:

What the United States can do, what the European Union can do, what we can do together... is shine a spotlight on places where people are still denied freedom....

We can put that on the international agenda. We can insist on certain standards of behavior by any government, any place in the world, including standards of behavior when it comes to the holding of elections. We can provide support, as both we and the European Union are doing, to the development of civil society groups and the training of independent media and independent political and civil society forces. That's the role of outside forces....

...people know about the struggle in Belarus and are prepared to support independent voices in that struggle. And the Belarusian government should know that their behavior is being watched by the international community, that this is not a dark corner in which things can go on unobserved, uncommented on, and as if Belarus was somehow not a part of the European continent.

Rice then went one step further, actually meeting with Belarussian dissidents:

"While it may seem difficult and long, and at times far way, there will be a road to democracy in Belarus," Rice told the seven opposition figures, among them an academic, a politician and human rights activists.

Opposition politician Aleksander Dobrovolskiy said Rice pledged to support their efforts to open the country's political system to greater participation, a move that would challenge the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"She said the United States and Europe remained committed to helping Belarus become free," Dobrovolskiy told reporters after the meeting. "We intend to offer an alternative and initiate a mass pressure for that change."

What's so bad about Belarus, anyway?

The latest Freedom House rating of Belarus, a country already classified as "Not Free," downgraded the country further (.pdf) for the government's crackdown on political rights. Its Soviet-style governance now makes it less free even than nations like Angola, Rwanda, Cambodia, Egypt, Oman, Pakistan, and Congo.



Several opponents of that government have disappeared, and earlier this month, the Bush administration expressed "grave concern" about what it charged was the jailing of Belarusian citizens for political dissent.

With elections in 2006 in Belarus, now is the time for the democratic reformers of Belarus to develop those networks, institutions, and ideas for the fight ahead.

Captain's Quarters has more, as usual.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 10:51 AM


Hi Will,
Isn't it great that we finally have a Secretary of State who does her job?!
wondering where you found that map? or did you create it yourself?

Posted by: jp at April 22, 2005 02:51 PM

It's from Freedom House.

Posted by: Will Franklin at April 22, 2005 03:28 PM