State’s Gordon’s at Senate Hearing on U.S. Priorities in Europe
U.S. Department of State
Testimony by Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Statement before the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
May 18, 2011
Administration Priorities for Europe in the 112th Congress
Excerpts on Belarus
Take, for instance, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. These are the countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, an initiative that the United States strongly supports and works with to advance democracy, stability, and security in this part of the world. We share with our European counterparts a similar approach to these countries because of our common goals. As the situation has deteriorated in Belarus, including with the conviction of former Presidential candidate Sannikov, we have coordinated very closely with the EU including on possible additional sanctions.
Another example of the decisive impact that U.S.-European cooperation can have in the region is our joint response to events in Belarus. The Government of Belarus’s crackdown on civil society and the opposition following the flawed election in December has been sharply condemned on both sides of the Atlantic. We have made very clear that our relationship with Belarus cannot improve in the context of continued repression of civil society, the opposition, and independent media. The U.S. and the EU have called for the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees and an end to the continue human rights violations against critics of the government. We consider the five presidential candidates and other democratic activists who are being tried after being arrested in conjunction with the December 19 presidential election to be political prisoners; the latest convictions and ongoing trials are clearly politically motivated. Both we and Europe have targeted measures against those officials responsible for the crackdown even as we and Europe support the aspirations of the people of Belarus for a modern open society. To that end, the United States is providing an additional $4 million in democracy-related assistance to help Belarusians create space for the free expression of political views, the development of a civil society, freedom of the media, and empowerment of independent entrepreneurs. Both we and Europe want a better, more productive relationship with Belarus; unfortunately, the country’s leadership is following a policy that will only further isolate Belarus and its people.