We welcome readers to this inaugural issue of the US-Belarus Observer, “one-stop shopping” for American readers seeking to better understand Belarus. In today’s world, information is abundant.
Type “Belarus” into any online search engine, and you will find a plethora of eye-catching words such as “communist” “peacekeeping,” “Eastern Europe,” and even “Switzerland.” But what is one to make of all this? at is the question that we here at the US-Belarus Observer will strive to address. We’ll provide not only information, but do so with the goal of presenting a complex, multifaceted relationship, both objectively and comprehensively. Essentially this is much more than just an informative magazine. You are holding in your hands THE bridge between the US and Belarus!
Why do we need this bridge? Consider the insightful title of the article: America Needs New Friends. Devoted friends are worth much more than anything else in life. Regardless of whether this refers to people or countries. Why should America continue to maintain friendships with those who, for their own religious or political reasons, have participated in betrayal? Why should America ignore people, who sincerely want to work together, as friends, in the pursuit of happiness? Certainly, ten million trustworthy friends are far more important than 500 million disloyal ones. Many Americans, having visited Belarus, o en comment that there are no friendlier or more kind-hearted people in all of Europe. Belarus, a consistently peaceful nation, extends its hand of friendship to all countries, a hand has always been extended to America.
Has this gesture been reciprocated? Recently, US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, called for the removal of all economic sanctions from Belarus, following the institution of democratic reforms within the country and because of the stable and peaceful situation there, marked by practically no conflict. Belarus is certainly eager for improved trade, economic, and cultural relationships with the West. In fact these relations were never completely broken before, and, now, the desire for them is more positive and intense than ever.
Of course, one ought not to assume that the United States and Belarus have identical pasts, or even identical futures. Within this first issue, however, it is evident that there are many connections between the two countries. Ernest Hemingway, a 20th century writer, was a significant part of the fabric of American culture, and won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Over half a century later, Belarusian writer and journalist Svetlana Alexievich has joined him in winning the Nobel Prize. Her story is one of the relentless pursuit of “the history of the soul” because, for nearly 40 years, she has studied the human voice. And what is the human voice exactly? In 2000 the US presidential election faced serious controversy and a recount was started in the swing state Florida, before it was halted by the Supreme Court. A decade later, the Belarusian presidential election also faced controversy. In this issue, we revisit this topic, by presenting the words of independent observers of the 2015 Belarusian election. A er all, elections represent the voice of the people. They represent freedom just as much in Belarus as they do in America.
Then there are the free-roaming buffalo. Bison, actually. American bison, also commonly known as buffalo, are an enduring symbol of freedom, of the American frontier. And they are no less a symbol of national pride within Belarus, where Belarusian bison roam through the woods of the Belovezhkaya Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Perhaps the best international relationships are the ones that are created by sports. Soccer, basketball, hockey, and other sports extend well beyond the borders of a single nation. We conclude this inaugural issue with a timely piece on Diplomacy Through Sport, because there really is no better time to discuss diplomatic relationships between the West and the East. One could say that what is certainly needed right now is a “slam dunk!” Unfortunately, the more one flips through news channels or newspapers, the further away the basket seems. is can be partly attributed to the extensive media coverage of the differences between them and us. These differences simply create the obstacles that increase the distance between nations. Who are they? And what does that mean for us?
e US-Belarus Observer is di erent because it aims to build the bridge between the US and Belarus based on trust and knowledge. Not simply information. But knowledge. at knowledge is power, the power to look past di erences and cross the bridge to a peaceful future, where the divide between the West and the East becomes a distant memory.