More information about Belarus is available on the Belarus Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States supports a sovereign, independent Belarus which respects the rights and voices of the Belarusian people. On December 25, 1991, the United States recognized the independence of the Republic of Belarus, and on December 28, 1991, Belarus and the United States established diplomatic relations. On January 31, 1992, the U.S. Embassy was officially opened in Minsk. The embassy of Belarus was opened in Washington in 1993. Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power through a presidential election in Belarus in 1994 that was generally considered to be free and fair, but since that time, he has consolidated authoritarian control of the country through extensive repression and corrupt practices. In 1996, Lukashenka reacted to Western criticism of a referendum that dissolved the parliament and expanded the authority of the presidency by temporarily expelling the U.S. and EU Ambassadors. After a presidential election in 2006 that was neither free nor fair, the United States implemented travel restrictions and targeted financial sanctions on nine state-owned entities and 16 individuals (including Lukashenka). In 2008, after the United States tightened sanctions due to worsening human rights abuses, Belarus again expelled the U.S. ambassador along with 30 out of 35 U.S. diplomats. In August 2015, after Lukashenka released Belarus’ six remaining political prisoners, the United States provided limited sanctions relief by generally authorizing activities involving certain state-owned entities subject to U.S. sanctions. In 2019, the United States and Belarus announced they would exchange ambassadors as the next step in normalizing bilateral relations, and Julie Fisher, the first U.S. Ambassador to Belarus since 2008, was confirmed by the Senate on December 15, 2020. Following the fraudulent August 9, 2020 presidential election, in which significant election irregularities were reported, Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed immediate victory over popular opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. In response, Belarus erupted in massive nation-wide protests — at times attracting up to 200,000 participants — which were met with violent repression through thousands of arrests and reports of torture of detainees. As of August 2021, the Lukashenka regime holds over 600 political prisoners. As a result of the repression and human rights abuses, the United States has imposed additional sanctions and visa restrictions on various actors implicated in the disputed election and related crackdown on civil society.
U.S. Assistance to Belarus
U.S. assistance to Belarus focuses on promoting democratic principles and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including by supporting independent media and capacity-building for civil society organizations. Since 1992, the U.S. government has provided over $1 billion in foreign assistance to Belarus. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the U.S. government has provided over $2 million in COVID-related assistance.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Belarusian authorities have been reluctant to undertake systemic economic reforms necessary to create a market-based economy. The state sector accounts for half of all employment, and 60-70 percent of GDP. Belarus’ opaque legal and regulatory systems, and rule of law deficiencies create a challenging business environment. Since August 2020, the Belarusian authorities have increased pressure on private business.
Belarus’s Membership in International Organizations
Belarus is a member of international organizations, including the United Nations, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Eurasian Economic Union, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. Belarus also is an observer to the World Trade Organization.
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
More information about Belarus is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: