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Daniel Fried discussed the recent elections in Belarus and Ukraine.
Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
April 3, 2006
The world watched closely the elections in Belarus and Ukraine over the past few weeks, and we saw the diference between dictatorship and freedom.
In Belarus, we saw a regime try to silence the opposition and hold onto power at all costs. From the European Union to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to the White House, the world criticized the March 19 process as fatally flawed -- not even close to free and fair. We've subsequently seen Alexandr Lukashenka's security forces come down hard on peaceful protesters, dragging off hundreds to jail.
By contrast, last Sunday's Ukraine parliamentary election demonstrated what democracy is like: a vigorous campaign, a result not known in advance, and, in the election's aftermath, a process of negotiation between the parties about the shape of the next government. Leaders around the world have applauded Ukraine's rapid transformation to democracy, after its Orange Revolution of 2004. The United States supports the ideals of democracy that the Orange Revolution advanced and we stand ready to work with Ukraine's next government.
This varied landscape characterizes the variety we find along what we call Europe's Frontiers of Freedom. I look forward to hearing your views and answering your questions.
Does the result of the election in Ukraine mean that the Orange Revolution has failed?
Some - both supporters and critics of the Orange Revolution - ask that question.
The Orange Revolution has not failed. What we saw last week was the freest and fairest election in Ukraine 's history, a victory for the Ukrainian people and vindication of the Orange Revolution.
After the elections, Ukrainians are debating the right kind of coalition to support the next government, which is normal in parliamentary democracies around the world. Ukrainians deserve the right to make their own choices about the kind of government they will have; thanks to the Orange Revolution, they now have that right.
After parliamentary elections in Ukraine , political parties continue to negotiate and bargain about the terms of creation for a Parliamentary majority coalition. In case of creation of parliamentary coalition in Ukraine between Our Ukraine block, BYUT and Socialist party, would the U.S. side support Yulia Tymoshenko candidature for a Prime-Minster post? Thank you.Daniel Fried:
The United States will support whatever government the people of Ukraine give us through free elections and the coalition building that follows them.
We want to see an effective government emerge, one that is able to advance reforms, strengthen Ukraine 's democracy and sovereignty, and fight corruption. We want to see a free Ukraine become stronger, more prosperous and stable, at peace with itself and its neighbors, and working well with Europe and the United States on issues of common concern.
International mass media say that the U.S. plans to impose sanctions on Belarus, including economic restrictions. Could these steps provoke a counter-reaction (i.e. when suffering economically the Belarusian people may consolidate closer with their government)?
The United States and Europe are united in support of the Belarusian people. For that reason, we and the European Union are focusing our efforts against the Lukashenka regime and those in it who have conspired to deprive the Belarusian people of their rights. We will not punish but will reach out to the Belarusian people.
While the Lukashenka regime does everything possible to suppress the voice of the Belarusian people, we support freedom for that country and believe that in the end freedom will succeed.
I am as a citizen of the Republic of Belarus express huge concern due to very bad political situation in our country. Government of Belarus has been suppressing any democratic activities, declaring war on its own nation. Hundreds of people are put in jail. We are witnessing terror against any opposition. Belarusian regime tries to lie about the U.S. , showing Spielberg's thrillers as reality of American life. In fact, the government wages psychological war against us and not everyone can withstand the falsification.
The question is: is it possible to make an investment by American government in order to establish some satellite TV program especially for Belarus ? I believe only information can break up the iron curtain belt by Lukashenka.
You are right about the difficult situation in your country. You are also right that free information is the key to bringing freedom to your country. Since the Lukashenka regime represses free media in Belarus, the United States and the European Union have intensified media programs intended to provide Belarusians uncensored information about the world and to promote independent voices within.
It is not a secret that Russia supports Lukashenka's regime, and that is very dangerous for Europe . Russia provides informational back-up to his regime (all Russian TV channels regularly praise Lukashenka for his policies). Russia absorbs 90% of Belarusian commodity and provides cheap energy in return (do not be blundered by the recent Gazprom promises to raise gas price for Belarus ). What is America going to do with this? Only talks with Moscow do not give any results. Actions are needed... Why not warn Moscow that it could lose membership in G8 or could forget about WTO if it supports dictatorship? Plus, Belarusians need much stronger information support inside the country. It is difficult to do, but it should be done.
I also am concerned by Russia 's support for the Lukashenka regime's recent fraudulent elections. A free Belarus would, it seems to us, be better for Russia than a dictatorship that represses its own people. Democracies make better neighbors. The United States has expressed to Russia our position about the Lukashenka regime and our support for the freedom of the Belarusian people, and we will continue to do so. I regret that Russia has so far chosen to stand apart from Europe and the United States , which have spoken clearly on behalf of freedom in Belarus , especially this year, as Russia is in the Presidency of the G8, which should stand united for democracy.
EU and America make up a list of those whose entry into democratic countries could be forbidden. Why is this list so short??? All governmental and local officials are responsible for what is going in Belarus . They manipulate the vote; they stifle all possible freedoms, etc. They should be on this list as well.
The United States and European Union intend to continue to hold accountable those most responsible for violating the democratic rights of Belarusian citizens. We will continue to review that list as we learn more of those most guilty.
University students write:
Why do Europe and U.S. consider Alexander Milinkevich as our democratic leader and as a single alternative candidate on the last elections? Another democratic candidate, Alexander Kozulin, was arrested. He faces the prospect of spending two years in prison. But the international scene considers him only as one of hundreds politically arrested people, nothing more. The interest of this fact is not big. We ask you not to lobby definite political entities and political figures. We think that Alexander Kozulin has done much more than Alexander Milinkevich to involve the democracy.
The United States does not and will not choose the democratic leaders of Belarus . That is the right of the people of Belarus , and so we support the rights of Belarus ' democratic opposition groups to have their voices heard. U.S. Government officials have met with Mr. Milinkevich and Mr. Kozulin, as well as other leaders of Belarus ' democratic opposition. This is not unusual; all over the world the United States meets with opposition leaders and with civil society representatives. We have also condemned Mr. Kozulin's arrest.University students:
We have heard a lot about money U.S. spent on the democracy in Belarus . It is more than 10 millions. Could you describe us shortly how they were spent here in Belarus ? We do not see the results.
We are committed to support democracy in Belarus . This will be a long-term effort because the Lukashenka regime seeks to deny the Belarusian people its basic rights.
Our assistance has gone to support civil society, freedom of information and exchanges of students and others to help Belarusians gain greater access to the outside world. We also work with NGOs, other donors and international agencies to provide aid to those affected by Chernobyl , to combat trafficking in persons, and to fight communicable diseases.
Our Belarusian national television has popularized the next idea:
"American democracy is not more than capture from the outside. Our correspondent, being in fear of death, has clarified the next: America has decided to make capture the whole world, applying introduction so called American Democracy, which as the practice show, influence destructive on economic, social and political evolution of the countries." What you can say about this? Please confirm or deny this idea.
Democracy is not an American invention. It is birthright of all people. Nor is democracy something the United States seeks to impose on people. It is dictatorships that impose their rule, using secret police and other tools of repression. The Lukashenka regime is depriving the Belarusian people of the benefits of freedom, which has brought stability and prosperity to Western and Central Europe . Democracy means the rule of law, fair courts free of corruption, freedom of information, freedom of speech, and free elections through which people can choose their rulers. I am proud that the United States and Europe are united in support of democracy in the world, including in Belarus .