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Supporting Freedom In Eurasia

Supporting freedom has been a consistent part of United States foreign policy. Europe and the U.S. are natural allies in this undertaking. Together, says U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, "we are putting the political, economic, and security assets of the transatlantic community to work outside Europe in support of freedom-seekers around the world."

In Eurasia, the U.S. and Europe are prepared to stand up for freedom in the face of dictators. In Uzbekistan, the U.S. faced a choice in 2005. It could have kept its military base in Karshi-Khanabad if it had been willing to overlook the government’s gunning down of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Andijon, as well as Uzbek President Islam Karimov's attempt to have repatriated four-hundred fifty refugees who had fled Andijon. Instead, the U.S. spoke out, calling on the government of Uzbekistan to allow an independent, international investigation into Andijon.

The U.S. is working with the United Nations, the government of Kyrgyzstan, and the European Union to secure third-country resettlement for Uzbek refugees. Countries across Europe have also put pressure on the Uzbek government. The E-U instituted visa restrictions on Uzbek officials and an arms embargo, and reduced financial assistance to the Uzbek government. And when it came time to find a safe haven for the Uzbek refugees, Romania opened its doors to them.

In Belarus, the U.S. and Europe have called on Belarusian authorities repeatedly to hold a free and fair presidential election in March. If the government led by President Alexander Lukashenko continues to seek to crush democratic forces, it will continue to face strong international opposition to this course.

The U.S. and Europe are also concerned about Russia's "backsliding from the more hopeful period of the mid 1990s," said Mr. Fried. Virtually every television network in Russia has been taken over by the government. Last year, the Kremlin took steps to further consolidate power in the executive branch. Most recently, the Russian government approved legislation that could seriously restrict the activities of domestic and international non-governmental organizations.

Democracy will not always take root right away, but it is a goal worth pursuing. President George W. Bush put it best when he said, "The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.