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FACE TO FACE WITH BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO

Ноя 03, 2017
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This interview is almost 15 years old, but, in review, I realize that many of the issues we touched upon during this conversation remain relevant today. Ten years may seem lengthy to an individual, but, in history, a decade represents only a brief moment. This is why we decided to publish some passages from this interview today. In the words of a Russian song: “There’s only a moment between past and future and that moment is called life.”

Because discussions about Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko provoke such diverse reactions in the public, assessing the President’s actual words can allow the reader to see his ingenuity. Many in the U.S. and in other countries see the President as a heavy-handed dictator, who often uses exceedingly tough measures to bring his country to order. Furthermore, opponents claim that the Belarusian state violates human rights.

This conversation took place at Lukashenko’s official residence. Despite his busy schedule, the President of Belarus spent about two hours with me, instead of the allotted 45 minutes. And, although several TV crews were present and filming throughout our conversation, I had a feeling that, over the course of our discussion, we developed a deep trust.

Were I to attempt to relay our discussion in my own words, I fear ideas might be misrepresented, which is why I’d like to offer you some of the most essential verbatim excerpts from the interview.

M.M.: Mr. President, how do you envision the future of relations between Belarus and Russia and also between Belarus and the West?

A.L.: I don’t want to repeat myself, so I’ll give you a short answer: I believe that common sense or “political pragmatism”, if you want to call it that, will triumph. The logic of global economic development demands this. If we want to leave our children a safe future, political sense demands this. The faster we remove the prejudice, subjectivity and ideological blinders from the US-Belarus relations, the faster this will happen.

The present situation itself nudges us towards international cooperation with our neighbors and with you. Back in the day, I prevented the collapse of our production sector, something that happened in many other [formerly Soviet] republics. I did all I could to facilitate production of goods that could compete on the global market. Today we offer the highest-quality goods that are much cheaper than that of other nations. Would the American consumers benefit [from such goods]? I think they would benefit greatly, but, for political reasons, you have closed your market to our products. This is a typical “economic iron curtain.” At the same time – and this is also unfair – Western countries try to push low-quality goods into our market, goods that they themselves don’t want to consume.

Finding myself in such a position, I am obligated to protect the people of Belarus who voted for me in the elections. Am I a nationalist? No, I’m not. I simply look out for the national interests of Belarus, just like any other national leader looks out for the interests of their country. And I don’t want anyone to mistake Belarus for one of Russia’s provinces. We are building our union with Russia based on these assumptions, and we are ready to build ties with America in order to use all opportunities for fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation. From this point of view, I’m ready for any sensible compromise.

M.M.: We believe that in the eyes of the God, there are no big or small people, no big or small countries. Everyone is equal before God, everyone is the same. Despite all of America’s achievements, we realize that our society still has a lot of problems. I think that you are sincere and outspoken. Do you believe that everything that happens in the world – or, for example, in America and Belarus – is just and happens for a reason?

A.L.: It’s not for me to judge America’s domestic problems. As for Belarus, our biggest challenge is not oppression, like many people in the West think. It’s not the issue of democratic freedoms. Our principal challenge is to provide social guarantees and an adequate standard of living for all members of our society.

As you know, I was elected by the majority of the population, not by some group of bureaucrats or intellectual elite. I was 38 years old when millions of regular people entrusted the country to me. I will never forget this trust, and I cannot betray it. This is why I protect the needs of regular people. This is why I strive to narrow the gap between rich and poor. I tell our business- men: “When God calls on you, you won’t be able to take along a new suit for each day and an extra pair of shoes. If you are rich, share your wealth with those who need it today.” This is the principal task of our government and my personal challenge as the President and as a citizen.

M.M.: I often repeat that there is no heaven on Earth. Often, successful businesses run into problems that have nothing to do with the economy. I would like to ask you a question about human rights in Belarus. The only people who seem to be sure about what’s happening in this area are the foreigners who’ve never visited your country or the Western politicians who, for some rea- son, tend to use information from only one source. Do you believe that the legislative and executive bodies of Belarus, including the judicial branch, abide by the international resolutions on human rights? Wouldn’t you say that, some- times, tension around these issues is created deliberately in order to achieve certain political goals?

A.L.: Let me start with the first part of your question. We strive to fully abide by international human rights agreements. We have done a lot in this area already, although I’m sure there are some short- comings. I could quote the testimonials of many independent experts. As for the second part of your question, yes, there’s no doubt that the tension is created, actively and deliberately.

It is no secret to me, Mr. Morgulis, that the Western press paints me as a dictator and such. But I am far from accusing all Western politicians of prejudice. People can be very sincere in their delusions. Especially if our homebred opposition “helps” to provide such delusions. But I cannot agree with their nationalistic position because I know for a fact that the line between nationalism and Nazism is very thin and everything is relative. They accuse me of being a bad nationalist. This accusation is used for political purposes. Again, I see very clearly that it’s no more than a step from nationalism and chauvinism to Nazism and Fascism.

The Americans help my opponents without understanding that they support people who don’t care for democracy, who only care for their personal interests – their power and the money that comes along with this power. Please understand – these are not some new leaders who need a chance to prove themselves! These people had already been at the helm. They discredited themselves, which is why the people voted against them in the elections. Now they appeal to the American government and make friends in US Congress. As a result, many high-level officials and lawmakers view the situation in our country through the prism of these opposing groups and base understanding on their assessments.

I have not suppressed criticism in the press, but sometimes the media just drags my name through the mud. I’m disappointed by slander, but I’m not afraid of it. I live in the open. People see my every step. Our people know the difference between truth and lies. I would be reduced to dust if I so much as took a single dollar from the treasury. It’s possible that I can be rebuked for something else, but even my opponents cannot accuse me of embezzlement.

To tell you the truth, Michael, I am very concerned that many Americans see no difference between real life in Belarus, and fabrications [that they hear]. Here’s an ex- ample. America is fighting bribery everywhere: at home, in Russia, in Ukraine, etc. You know very well that there can be no healthy economy if the society is corroded by corruption. I continue this fight with corruption, and I won’t ever stop. When people ask about my private accounts in foreign banks, I always tell them: here, take a letter of authority from me, and, if you find any money there, take it and use it to your heart’s desire.

During all of these years, I have put a lot of work into fighting the corrupt practices of the government. And, even today, our fiercest critic, the former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, publicly acknowledges that there is almost no corruption in Belarus. But do the regular Americans know about this? Or at least the greater part of the political establishment? No, they are not informed of this. However,

if we begin an investigation of someone justifiably accused of corruption, that per- son is immediately declared a persecuted fighter for democracy.

Those who are not blind see our real life. We are not a closed society. We are ready to open our doors for meetings, discussions and cooperation. Please, come and visit us! We will provide an airplane for 60-80 businessmen, politicians, Congressmen. Let’s talk openly and work together, face to face, without these false “advisors.”

In other words, I’m ready for dialogue and meetings with any serious representatives of the West who think realistically. It’s possible that in the course of this dialogue you, the Americans, will be able to convince me to adopt a more flexible and pragmatic (as you see it) position. Whatever the case, everything has to start with dialogue, not with an urge to suppress and impose your will on others.

M.M.: The image of America is also being distorted by its enemies. For ex- ample, no matter what everyone says, I know one thing for a fact: American Christians are absolutely selfless in their help around the world, having no purpose but for the one written in the Bible – “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” I would really like for America and Belarus to become friends, so that our people could help each other, pray for each other, and serve as an example of peace, respect, friendship and mutual understanding for other countries. Do you think that this type of relationship is possible between America and Belarus? What needs to be done to create mutual trust and settle all the misunderstandings and conflicts?

A.L.: You need to want to see the truth. The Western press sometimes portrays me as a second Stalin, some people have gone so far as to talk of Fascism in Belarus. Let’s look at the facts: hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in Minsk during World War II. And I was the first one of the Belarusian leaders to officially visit the memorial for those people and to lay flowers. These people were our fellow countrymen and, as the President, I had to honor their memory.

When I visited Israel, I told them: you constantly talk about the suffering of your people, about the millions of innocent Jews who were killed by Nazis… this is all true. But why don’t you talk about those Jews who didn’t just meekly follow guards to their slaughter, but who, instead, fought the Nazis with weapons in hand? Where did

this Jewish resistance start? Here, in Belarus! They were heroic, on a massive scale. You wouldn’t find such international unity in Ukraine or Poland. Here, nobody asked the people who fought against the Nazis, who were the guerrillas and underground members, what their nationality was. And nowhere else was there such an all-encompassing, all-national guerrilla movement. It can be very vexing that nobody wants to remember this.

Nonetheless, my “opponents,” supported by certain US officials, advocate the myth of the Belarusian nation’s “eliteness.” They want to separate the Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews – almost half of our country’s population – and push them out of Belarus. These officials dream of expanding the Belarusian territory on account of our neighbors.

Such rhetoric may deceive only those who know nothing about our country, or those who, for their own reasons, want to be deceived. It’s important to understand that, for many of my opponents, opposition is real business. They work hard towards this direction, forgetting about the interests of their own people. Of course, things will eventually fall into place, and people will learn the truth. But right now we are losing time on these dirty games, and there is still so much to do…

M.M.: For various reasons, the character of various global leaders is often misinterpreted. This is what happened, before, with General Charles de Gaulle, whose decisive and untraditional style of leadership seemed too authoritarian to some people in France. This is what happened with President Reagan, whose movie career, for some time, overshadowed his genuine statesman- ship. We think that something like that is happening with the understanding of your personality as well. The goal of our conversation is to show your true face, not perverted by propaganda, and to give the American people, American believers, a chance to learn of your genuine position. Tell me, what is your principal goal in life?

A.L.: The most important thing for me is to make sure that regular people have an easier, better life. Belarus has free healthcare and free education. We have free transportation for retirees and for kids. The birthrate has for the first time exceeded the death rate – isn’t that a sign that living standards are improving?! We have such an inflow of people now that we are thinking of introducing some sort of immigration control because we are simply unable to provide for everyone who wants to move to Belarus. Each year more than 30,000 people enter our country to settle for permanent residence, and only 1,500 leave. Look at what is happening in Russia, in Ukraine – people are running away. Would you say that people go to a place that’s worse off?

M.M.: I was amazed to hear that your per capita income is much higher than in Ukraine. And, at the same time, that income differences between citizens of Belarus is not that high.

A.L.: It’s still far from easy here, but if the birthrate is at least somewhat higher, that means that people can live here, that they can have children and hope for the future.

M.M.: Before our meeting, I read quite a few analyses of Belarus, and I’ve noticed one peculiarity in your work. You are constantly doing something very specific: you are either teaching man- agers about the importance of uninterrupted peat deliveries or making specific decisions on the military-industrial complex or participating in the work of the Foreign Ministry panel. I would call it a targeted method of leadership. Do you think that this style is the most effective, and would you like all of the regional managers in your country to follow your example?

A.L.: When the former Soviet Union col- lapsed, we complained quite a lot about the loss of reference points, the so-called waymarks that would show what’s good and what’s bad. But at least back then people knew where to go and what to do. I don’t pretend that in a short period of time I’ll be able to put in place the new, complete guidelines. That’s simply impossible. But I strive to give people at least some sort of reference points and to help them resolve the most vital issues, and I demand the same from my assistants. And if I promote a person, it’s important to me that this person see the way in which the President works. I no longer have to tell and prove to him that the President has a straightforward policy, that the President lives just the way he says he does, and that he behaves in accordance with his words. This person has already absorbed everything and knows that my policies are not for myself. My policies are for the people. As for placing guidelines, here I have set myself a task to act in accordance with life. For example, we have a problem with fuel – half of our population doesn’t have a constant gas supply and the buildings are mainly heated using wood – so life

itself directed me towards the task of reviving and reconstructing all of the peat factories. Or, let’s say, when I was still a member of the Parliament, I saw that we lagged behind in the public health sphere. I saw the dire state of our maternity hospitals, especially the surgical departments. What did I do? I took the money that was earned from the sale of Soviet weapons and designated it for the establishment of a central women’s clinic and for reconstruction of maternity hospitals. And this raised criticism from the opposition, who accused me of having a “second budget.” They also don’t like the fact that I give my attention to sports, that I build athletic venues and stadiums, and that I reconstruct museums. My opponents say it’s not a good time to do that. But if we don’t have rinks with artificial ice, it means we won’t have a national hockey team or figure skaters. It’s the same with other issues as well. If we want a nation that has a sound body and mind, we have to think about such things.

I demand that the governors and regional leaders pay close attention to people and their needs. I tell them, even if you’re unable to help, at least listen to them, talk to them – maybe then, the President will stop receiving 35,000 letters a year. People will sense that power belongs to the people, not by word, but in actuality.

M.M.: You are creating your own school of leadership – and that’s a good thing. But here’s something else I want to talk about. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, religion moved from the periphery of people’s lives to center stage. This is both logical and understandable, since, for a long time, people were forcibly separated from the spiritual experience, from everything that connects them to God. Belarus is the birthplace of the Christian educator Francysk Skaryna and of the world- famous painter Marc Chagall, a Jew by birth. This is a country where freedom of religion, as you have said quite a few times in your speeches, exists for everyone. This is very important, because today, just like before, the majority of wars in the world begin over religious conflicts. A good friend of mine, Russian general Nikolai Stolyarov, who was actually born in Belarus, gifted me with his book called “Politics Can Be Clean.” But there’s also a counterargument on the balance between morals and state affairs: “Our friends may change, but our interests stay the same.” So, what do you think? Can politics be clean? And what is the relationship between politics and religion?

A.L.: I agree with you on one thing, but I disagree on the other. Yes, politics can be clean. Moreover, it should be clean. On the other hand, as a historian and politician I know that, in reality, there are no religion-based conflicts. There were no religious wars. Skirmishes were simply called that to cover up the real goals. Dirty politicians have used and try to use religion for their own ends. Unfortunately, such attempts will become more and more frequent because the world is becoming more religious. All the evil in this world is from sweet-talking dirty politicians. This is the real root of the problem, not theological differences. Honey may be sweet, but the bee still stings.

I don’t like fancy words without substance. As for my harshness, of which I am regularly accused, I will tell you this: I am only as harsh as I’m forced to be. And those who are ready to play the political card for their own selfish interests can expect no other attitude from me. Especially if they try to play the “religion” card. I believe that if you engage in politics in order to snag something using somebody’s faith, you will be rejected by both God and men.

M.M.: This is a very serious topic in the US, because more than 80% of its population consider themselves Chris- tians. NRB data suggests that 40% of Americans regularly listen to Christian radio stations, watch Christian TV channels and read Christian newspapers and magazines. Do you think that it helps a country’s success and prosperity if its citizens are spiritual and build their lives on the basis of healthy Christian ethic?

A.L.: At first we tried to engage our intelligentsia in order to develop a new ideological model within our society. Then we realized the setbacks of this idea and decided

to go back to things that couldn’t be overturned for centuries or even for a millennium – we went back to the spiritual values of Christianity. We went back to things that people believe in, things that haven’t been knocked out of their consciousness and soul. And we turned to the Church. The Church, in particular, can facilitate the achievement of harmony and stability in society. Of course, this will only happen if the state guarantees equal rights for believers of all religious denominations. By the way, all the Communism premises were based on nothing else but basic Christian values.

Am I religious? People consider me an Orthodox Christian, which is basically what I am. But I never hid the fact that, for a long time, I was a “professional atheist.” The truth is the only way forward to trust and understanding. And to be honest, personally, I’m not ready yet to share my spiritual feelings aloud. There are too many politicians today who used to be communists and now portray themselves as zealous believers. Except that they have to whisper in a church, asking which hand should hold the candle. But faith isn’t about the right way to hold a candle.

M.M.: Who is Jesus Christ to you?

A.L.: Everyone has his own idea of God. I prefer to keep this in the depth of my heart. For you, Jesus Christ is God incarnate, but for me, at least for now, he is first and fore- most a beautiful symbol. I rather perceive Christ as a human incarnation of His ideas, not as a spiritual phenomenon. At the same time, I’d be happy to get to know God better and at a deeper level, in order to ascertain that everything that the Church and the Bible teach us is true. It’s possible that my atheist past is keeping me from renouncing the rational approach to faith. This is a long road full of quests, deliberations, torments – and it is such for every person. Whatever the case, I’m on my way to Him.

M.M.: The Bible says that the most important thing is to build a temple in your own heart.

A.L.: Ah, you see, so I’m not that far from truth. As a professional historian, I know the history of the Church very well – both glorious deeds and things that people avoid mentioning. As the President, I have a unique opportunity to meet and talk with representatives of different denominations. And I know from experience that some of “God’s servants” are very far from their declared principles. Such knowledge brings sadness, but it also gives me the ability to support those who are honest and worthy, the real spiritual leaders of our society.

As the country’s President, I would never put one religion above another, and I will not allow people to instigate religious conflicts.

At the same time, if we are talking about my attitude towards different religious groups, then I would say that it’s not equal, it’s equally kind. A person should have a choice. If we have Catholics, that means somebody needs them. If we have Protestants, that means somebody needs them too. You cannot force a person to believe in something he doesn’t. But any officially recognized religion can compete for the hearts of people within the confines of the law. And my attitude towards all of them is the same, my principle is simple – don’t pressure each other, but help each other. I go to different churches because their parishioners are my fellow citizens. But I also have to take into account the prevalence of each religious denomination within our society. If the Orthodox Church unites 80% of Belarusian Christians, I take this into account. If the Catholic Church accounts for 15%, I keep that in mind, and I respect these people. If we have Protestants, I acknowledge their spiritual needs and also demonstrate my respect. Nobody can claim that I forbid visiting this or that church. This is all very personal. I once even told the leaders of the Orthodox Church: we are so big as it is, let’s not pull people in here. Let’s give them the freedom to follow their hearts. In other words, I’m trying to create equal conditions for the believers of different denominations. The image of a religious believer as the “enemy of the people” is a thing of the past. Nobody has a right to call the Baptists or Pentecostals “sectarian” or “American minions.”

I remember when I worked as a district deputy I had a small group of visitors – they were evangelists who asked for assistance in building a prayer house. I decided that our district already has an Orthodox church and a Catholic church, why don’t I help these people? And we helped them to build a church with a Sunday school. Ac- cording to the Bible, I did the right thing. And I am still convinced that my role as President is to guarantee peace and stability, both in the socio-political sphere and in the spiritual sphere. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I should attempt to be a judge in theological discussions.

Today we are helped by many American believers. But not everyone appreciates this in the right way. Some people criticize my policy on humanitarian aid. The thing is, I gave the order that the distribution of all humanitarian aid is to be controlled solely by the Belarusian government. We have closed off the main channels for humanitarian aid sales on the black market. We know about each old lady that receives her aid from abroad. And when somebody starts to complain that the foreigners have monopolized this area, I have a simple retort: nobody has a monopoly on helping people. There can only be two ways about it: we are either helped or we are not. So let other people help us!

M.M.: Development of spirituality is explicitly bound to the preservation and augmentation of cultural values. What is happening in Belarus, how are things on the “cultural front?” Have the authorities been able to come to a mutual understanding with people about culture? And what are the overall conditions for creative people today?

A.L.: You know, all too often, all of the cultural accomplishments come to nothing due to material constraints and disorderly living. But we have made a lot of progress in this area. We are building apartment buildings for the artist, and we are reconstructing theatre buildings, not only in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, but also in other cities. A lot of resources go into this.

M.M.: Considering the tough times, wouldn’t it be more rational to spend this money on other needs?

A.L.: I think that this is a rhetorical question. It’s impossible to create a knowledge- intensive economy, a prosperous economy, without a normal civilized person in the center of it all. Yes, we spend a lot of money on culture, and there are people who accuse me of building too many athletic facilities. I tell them, why don’t you accuse me of building dozens of hospitals? Do we need hospitals? Yes we do! But the cultural centers and athletic facilities are also like hospitals, it’s just that they use different medicine there. The way they treat people there leads to many healthy generations in the future.

M.M.: After the break-up of the Soviet Union, it became common to stress the importance of national culture – people tried to use it to understand their national identity, to see how it corresponds to other cultures. How important is it to support the traditional values of the national culture of Belarus?

A.L.: A lot was done in the Soviet Union for the development of the national Belarusian culture. Don’t tell me that the national culture of Belarus or Ukraine was strangled in Soviet times. That’s nonsense! So many books were published in Belarusian: Shamyakin, Bykov, many others! It may sound strange, but, today, by trying to under- stand who we are, where we are and what is happening to us, we are actually doing much less for the development and growth of our national culture. We don’t have the means to do it. But we should at least preserve the level that we had in Soviet times. I am personally proud of the fact that we didn’t close a single theatre, a single village club, a single library. The same with national handicraft and folk art. For our national self-determination, we didn’t need to invent something new. Everything was already invented in the “bad Soviet times,” and I value those times. I’ve never once said that this was an empty period in the history of Belarus.

M.M.: I often hear from those who used to live and make art here, that, to- day, there are no creative freedoms for them, and this forces them to leave Belarus. Do you agree with that?

A.L.: Let’s ask those who say such things, what kind of freedoms are they lacking exactly. Does somebody forbid them to paint, to create masterpieces? Does someone keep them from writing music? Do we have our own Tchaikovsky or Shalyapin, and they are not allowed to pen their music? Even speaking about the lack of freedoms is a freedom in itself.

You can’t silence people now. You can’t force people to think the way you want them to think. You have to work and to make sure that your actions compel people to think and talk the way you’d like them to. But every person decides for themselves what to say and what to think. Artists to- day are creating for us, politicians. So why would I, a politician, make war on the artists who create for me and who enrich our country with cultural value? Such war would be an irrational thing. Don’t listen to those who claim that Lukashenko doesn’t support the creative class, or he can’t find a common ground with them. I am more honest with the creative class than the previous leaders, and I don’t practice the policy of handouts that we used to have in place. When people tell me that the President should fight for the creative class, I agree. This really is necessary. But it’s also true that the creative class should fight for the President – if both sides are really thinking about a better future for the people.

M.M.: It’s true. I know quite a few representatives of the creative class who are ready to work with you for the good of the republic. Why do you think they trust you?

A.L.: I think that people can feel that I don’t try to use the creative class for political purposes. They like that I never bargain and say, “You support me, and I’ll pay you back.”

At the outset of 1990s, the nationalists came to power and forced some artists to dance to their tune. Take Bykov, for example. Back in Soviet times, he was the Hero of Socialist Labor. He was given the Order of Lenin, and he praised that old system. But the people who came to power forced him and many others to say things they needed them to say. And then – boom! Lukashenko wins the elections, and he sweeps away any sort of militant nationalism. Many of them wanted to sing praises of nationalism. Those who sang praise to the previous authorities found themselves in a bind: there’s no more need to sing praise to the previous authorities, and the new Belarusian authorities don’t need the glorification of nationalism.

Here’s my point: never drag the creative class into politics. Politicians come and go, but the creative class remains, and it shouldn’t have to adapt to the authorities. It shouldn’t be forced to glorify any type of authority. People are different, some support me, and some don’t. I’m OK with that. They don’t have to see everything from my perspective.

M.M.: I believe that all of the important meetings are pre-set from above, and that our meeting is not accidental. I believe that this meeting is important not just for you and me, but also for our people. I believe in the future of Belarus. I believe that this country – due to its geographical position and because it’s populated with kind, uncomplaining and courageous people – will one day become a bridge of love between the East and the West. I believe that the subjective and one-sided opinion that many Americans have about Belarus will be somewhat changed. At least my friends and I will do everything possible. I believe in your sincerity. I believe that, unlike many other politicians who throw around the word “people,” you are actually trying to do something important and definite for real people. In my prayers, I will ask God to give you both faithful and talented friends and assistants who would help you carry out your plans. I will pray to God to give you spiritual strength and peace of heart.

And you, Mr. President, what would you like to wish to the American people?

A.L.: I wish for the American people to be realistic. I would like for the American people to learn the truth about our country, about the policies of our state, about our people who fought together with the Americans against Fascism. I often tell your colleagues that they have chosen Belarus as a whipping boy. And you should remember that during World War II, we lost almost 30% of our population. This sacrifice was collateral for your current prosperity. People who fought during those years are still alive. Widows and their children are still alive – don’t they deserve your gratitude?!

M.M.: I remember: every third citizen of Belarus died in World War II. The Belarusian village of Khatyn near Minsk was burned by the Nazis, together with its 144 residents, and is a symbol of tragedy not just for your nation, but for the whole world. And if we say that the basis of our country, the United States, is the Judeo-Christian ethic, it means that when giving out aid to help people, we should think not of the frictions, but of the fact that without friendship and love our world will perish.

A.L.: I would like to wish the American people a future without evil, so that we could build our relations on a good foundation. And I want God to requite Americans for all the good things that they are doing as, I hope, He will continue to do for Belarus.

That was the end of my meeting with the President of Belarus. I don’t want to glamorize the situation in Belarus. There is no Heaven on Earth, as I’ve said many times. Nonetheless, the Belarusian government is doing everything possible to make the lives of regular people easier. I hope that Americans will change their opinions of Belarus. I am first and foremost speaking about Americans who can have a significant influence on the development of U.S.-Belarus relations.

Interviewed by Mikhail Morgulis

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