Belarus is one of Russia’s closest allies. The autocratic regime of Aleksandr Lukashenka has ruled the country for 28 years and is heavily reliant on Russia for its continued existence.
Russia has subsidized Belarus’s weak economy for decades through low-interest loans and steeply discounted gas and oil shipments. To ease the impact of sanctions imposed on the Lukashenka regime by members of the international community, Russia again provided financial help.
Since then, Belarus has been complicit in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, serving as a staging area for Russian military units attacking from Ukraine’s north as well as providing other support to the Russian military. Shortly after the war began, a sham constitutional referendum removed clauses on Belarus’s neutrality and its goal of being nuclear-free, in addition to adding amendments that extend and strengthen Lukashenka’s firm grip on power. Lukashenka also floated the suggestion that Belarus could host Russian nuclear weapons.
“[Belarus]and President Lukashenka have allowed President Putin to make a mockery of Belarus’s independence, of its purported sovereignty,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.
“That has been the case for some time now, as Russian forces have flooded into Belarus, as Russian forces have staged inside … sovereign Belarusian territory to undertake a premeditated, unjustified, unprovoked attack and invasion against a third country.”
Lukashenka’s decision to support and facilitate Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine goes against the country’s popular sentiment. According to Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, 79 percent of Belarusians think that no Belarusian soldier should die in Putin’s war with Ukraine. Over half think that Belarus should remain neutral.
“Belarus … has become increasingly subservient to Russia, demonstrating again President Lukashenka’s willingness to act against the interests of his own people in order to curry favor with Moscow and to stay in power,” said Spokesperson Price.
“As a result of the regime’s indefensible support for and even facilitation of what we are seeing the Russians do in Ukraine, we’re imposing sanctions. We have imposed sanctions on some two dozen Belarusian individuals and entities. These actions focus on Belarus’s defense and related materiel and finance sectors, two fields that are closely tied to Russia.”
“We have seen at every turn that President Lukashenka has set aside … the will of his own people and cast his lot with President Putin and his militaristic aims against Ukraine,” said Spokesperson Price. “If that continues, Belarus will continue to face measures of profound accountability.”