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High level talks between Washington and Moscow scheduled amid unrest in Belarus


High level talks between Washington and Moscow scheduled amid unrest in Belarus

Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will visit Moscow today for talks with his Russian counterpart.

Biegun will likely broach the topic of unrest in Belarus, where protests against the contested August 9 presidential elections have prompted an intense government crackdown. So far, the Trump administration has avoided directly criticising Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, preferring instead to remain cautious as it observes whether the president can endure the democratic challenge. Both the EU and the US hope to avoid a repeat of a unilateral Russian intervention similar to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, where fears of US-backed democratisation prompted Moscow’s military intervention.

Currently, US policy remains more circumspect than that of its European allies. Trump has imposed no sanctions on Belarussian officials nor offered to mediate a transfer of power, unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In recent months, his administration has tried to improve relations with Belarus by appointing a new ambassador—a position left vacant since 2012—and approving oil exports to the US.

Expect Washington’s caution to persist in the coming weeks, as any perceived hostile manoeuvre may prompt a Russian military response that would unnerve Poland and the Baltic states and solidify Belarus’ position in Russia’s sphere of influence. Barring the possibility of sanctions—coordinated with Brussels—Washington is unlikely to take further steps supporting regime change in Minsk.

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