On behalf of the Belarusian-American community, the Belarus Freedom Forum would like to thank President Joseph R. Biden for meeting with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. We hope this meeting signifies a new stage in the American re-engagement and a prospect for tighter ties with Eastern Europe, which will help to promote democracy, security, and prosperity in the region.
Last week Ukrainians around the world celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of regaining their state independence. In 30 years, Ukraine has managed to overcome destructive Soviet inheritance and economic hardship to create strong democratic institutions that ensure voting rights and freedom of expression for its people. Yet, multiple challenges remain, including the constant threat of Russian aggression. Ukraine needs full support from the international community and the United States, in particular, to return its occupied territories, including the Crimean peninsula illegally annexed by Russia, and end the war in Donbas.
In the face of the political crisis in Belarus, Ukraine has proved to be a strong supporter of the Belarusian democratic movement. Ukraine became a second home to thousands of Belarusian refugees and partly joined the West in sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. Yet, when considering sanctions, the Ukrainian government often faces a difficult choice between dealing with the illegitimate regime in Minsk or transacting with Russia, thus sponsoring the military aggressor. The United States can provide critical support for Ukraine’s developing democracy cornered between increasingly authoritarian governments by aiding in negotiating deals for Ukraine to import goods, services, and, most importantly, energy and fuel from elsewhere in Europe at comparable prices.
At the Belarus Freedom Forum, we see a strong, independent, and democratic Ukraine—aided by the United States and European allies—as an inspiration for the pro-democracy struggle of Belarusians and other nations in the region.