Stereotyped thinking obviously crashes on meeting reality
Regular communication is the best path to mutual understanding, inspiring a delegation of US congressmen to visit Belarus, at the invitation of the Belarusian President
The three American congressmen were arriving in Belarus for the first time and, although representing different political parties, shared common surprise at the extent to which our country is a civilised European state. All agreed that it is more progressive than they had imagined and return home with a positive image of Belarus.
The US representative for California, Dana Rohrabacher, noted, “I hope this visit will open up new possibilities for our relations. I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen. It does justice to your efforts and those of your country, made for public benefit. I hope Belarus can be proud of many things and that we may enjoy various avenues of co-operation.” He believes that the enhancement of diplomatic ties — embodied by the return of a US Ambassador to Minsk, as well as a Belarusian Ambassador to Washington — will be the first step in this direction.
Even during the most complicated periods, interaction has continued between Belarus and the US regarding issues of global and regional security and counteracting the illegal transit of nuclear materials. The USA supports Belarusian initiatives at the UN and is in favour of our country’s application to join the WTO. In recent times, there has been a pleasant tendency to ignite contacts. Our turnover has also risen slightly: reaching just over $260m from January to May 2015.
American corporations are demonstrating increasing interest in Belarus, especially regarding our participation in the Eurasian Economic Union. The USA views our country as important geographically, believing that we have a role to play in establishing political balance in the region: as an effective connecting link in American-Russian relations.
At present, there are about 400 companies using American capital in Belarus. However, Mr. Lukashenko is confident that our potential for economic co-operation is considerably larger. He emphasises, “The USA is a promising trade partner and investor. Accordingly, we are keen to secure our Belarusian manufacturers’ access to the vast, solvent American market, raising investments, promoting manufacturing co-operation, and taking out loans. Belarus has never created obstacles and has no intention of doing so, being ready to co-operate with every partner to the greatest degree possible. Political discord is no reason for alienation. In fact, our shared points of interest outweigh those separating us. This inspires hope that contacts will continue, helping restore our mutual trust.”
A modest yet important step has been taken in Minsk, thanks to the American congressmen’s appreciation of Belarus’ contribution to the peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian conflict. They have expressed readiness to continue promoting peace and admit that the agreements of the ‘Normandy Four’ (reached in Minsk this February) remain the foremost mechanism for settling the crisis. Mr. Lukashenko continues to be concerned that the USA has refrained from openly becoming involved, asserting that stability in Ukraine is impossible without the USA.
The President’s meeting with the congressmen lasted for two hours, ending with informal conversation on a warm note. Tennessee House of Representatives member Steve Cohen mentioned that his grandfather was born in Lithuania and his grandmother probably had Belarusian roots. His colleague, Mr. Rohrabacher, has no such close ties with our country. However, he mentioned that he had brought his granddaughter to Belarus, and was impressed to learn that Mr. Lukashenko has seven grandchildren. At the end of the meeting, the guests expressed hope that our children and grandchildren will live in peace, through the joint efforts of our two states’ politicians.
By Vasily Kharitonov