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Opinions & Interviews

17 Aug 2016

Glen Howard: The West wants Belarus to be a Slavonic Switzerland

Glen Howard: The West wants Belarus to be a Slavonic Switzerland

MINSK, 17 August (BelTA) – The West wants Belarus to be a Slavonic Switzerland, President of the Jamestown Foundation (the United States) Glen Howard said in an interview to the Belarus One TV channel, BelTA has learned.

“You are playing an important role in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, in the signing of a ceasefire agreement in southeast Ukraine. Belarus, the same as Switzerland, has become a neutral platform for negotiations. You also remain a very important economic partner for both Russia and the West. Your strategic role continues gaining significance. The West has awaken and finally noticed that Belarus lies directly on the way from Berlin to Moscow. The strategic significance of your country was ignored for a long time,” Glen Howard said.

“There are big hopes that you will remain a neutral state. The West wants Belarus to be a Slavonic Switzerland. You can develop relations both with Russia and the West. Belarus has been actively advancing peace ideas, and Minsk may become a new Geneva and be a venue to meet and address problems,” the political analyst said.

Glen Howard also pointed to a thaw in the relations between Belarus and the United States. “It is a slow but stable process. Every month we see steps the parties make halfway. I am optimistic about the Belarusian-U.S. relations,” he said.

The political analyst emphasized the strategic importance of the fact that Belarus’ dialogue has been improving not only with the United States, but also with the European Union. “Everyone is interested in it, although a lot is still to be done. We need to enhance the level of mutual relations. Minsk still has no U.S. Ambassador. This means that the relations have not been fully normalized. I am confident, however, that the rapprochement will continue. We can expect significant progress in the near future,” said the President of the Jamestown Foundation.

“You are moving in the right direction as you have been gradually improving the relations. I can see the day when many American and European tourists will flock to Belarus,” he said.

In his words, a favorable geographic position lets Belarus actively develop trade and economic relations with various regions and countries. “You are a key transit route for trade. It is for a reason that China has been heavily investing in Belarus. You, together, are building a huge industrial park near Minsk. Observers see growth and development factors for your country in this. Belarus has long been isolated, and now the country is making its fast return to the international arena. Many see Belarus in a new light today,” said Glen Howard.

“You have a great potential in various spheres. Thanks to your geopolitical neutrality, you can be an economic partner to everyone. This is the best solution for you,” the American analyst said.

Speaking about the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Belarus and their role for the relations with the West, Glen Howard expressed confidence that the normalization of the relations would not stop. “One should understand that time is needed to develop democracy, form multi-party systems and so on. Sometimes the West’s pressure for quick changes is too strong. Belarus has the right to develop its own schedule,” the political analyst stressed.

He expressed the same opinion on the abolition of capital punishment. “Every country decides on its own. The United States cannot demand from Belarus abolish the death penalty. The EU wants you to take such a step. However, it should be your decision, and not the decision of the United States or Brussels,” Glen Howard said.

As for the forthcoming presidential election in the United States, Glen Howard positively assessed the prospects for the development of relations with Belarus, not matter who wins it, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

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