The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada have taken coordinated action against a number of Belarusian entities and individuals in their latest effort to put pressure on the longtime strongman of the Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, who was accused of using “innocent migrants as a political weapon. , as an effort to destabilize, ”in the words of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose government has led a campaign of repression against activists, dissidents and journalists.
“We remain committed to supporting the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people and unite our efforts to impose costs on the regime – and those who support it – for its efforts to silence the voices of independent civil society, the media and all Belarusians seeking to tell the truth about what is happening in their country, ”the four nations said in a joint statement.
The sanctions also come at a time of heightened tension between Moscow – the Lukashenko regime’s biggest supporter – and much of the West as Russian President Vladimir Putin assembles troops on the border with Ukraine.
In the joint statement, the US, Canada, UK and EU called on Lukashenko “to immediately and completely stop orchestrating irregular migration across its borders with the EU”.
The US Treasury Department announced Thursday that it “designates 20 people and 12 entities and identifies three planes as stranded assets”, further sanctioning Belarusian potash industry and imposing restrictions on transactions with Belarusian sovereign debt .
“Since June 2021, partners and allies, including the EU, UK, Canada and Switzerland, have targeted new issuance of Belarusian sovereign debt in the primary and secondary markets with the aim of holding the regime Lukashenka responsible for his continued malicious behavior, ”the Treasury Department said in a press release, using another spelling of the Belarusian leader’s name.
“The addition of US restrictions on transactions in new Belarusian sovereign debt issues on the primary and secondary markets demonstrates close coordination with partners and allies to restrict the Lukashenka regime’s access to international capital markets,” he said. he declared.
Those sanctioned include the Belarusian state tourism company, its state-owned freight carrier, five entities linked to its defense sector, and a number of people with close ties to Lukashenko, including his second son. .
“I think it’s actually quite important,” said Julia Friedlander, senior researcher at the Atlantic Council and former senior policy adviser on Europe at the Treasury Department.
Friedlander told CNN that the restrictions on debt issuance are particularly severe, noting that “it shows the administration is saying now is the time to use all our leverage.”
“I am very skeptical that the pressure of sanctions will cause (Lukashenko) to change course,” Friedlander said. “It’s about limiting the ability of him and those around him to act financially. “
“This could undermine its ability to maintain the stability of the economy, which could lead to further domestic unrest,” she added.
Kenneth Yalowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Belarus and a member of the Wilson Center, also expressed doubts that the new sanctions would lead to a change in Lukashenko’s behavior, but said they were financially important.
“They’re probably going to have a hard time borrowing money now and issuing bonds,” he told CNN. “It’s also important to me, maybe as a signal to the Russian side, you know, what kind of financial sanctions we might impose if they get into Ukraine. “
Blinken has repeatedly warned over the past few days that Moscow will take “high impact economic measures that we have refrained from taking in the past” if it invades Ukraine.
Yalowitz told CNN that “Belarus is going to be more expensive for the Russians to maintain,” but he and Friedlander said Putin was unlikely to stop supporting Lukashenko over the new rounds of sanctions.
“Belarus, for Putin, is just another part of the military equation he puts on the line against Ukraine. So he’s not going to drop Lukashenka now, ”he said.