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Greetings from Vladimir Makei Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus

Ноя 03, 2017
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Dear Reader,
You are holding the first issue of the US-Belarus Observer.
This magazine is meant to help familiarize American politicians, experts and the wider public with Belarus, a European country with a long, glorious, yet, at times, troubled history.
Belarus is still relatively unknown within the United States, although her achievements are notable, her descendants are both successful and famous in America, and some Belarusian inventions are used and enjoyed by Americans, although unknown as such.
Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a hero of the American Revolution who planned the Battle of Saratoga and fortified West Point, was “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known,” as his friend Thomas Jefferson wrote. Kosciuszko was born in the territory of modern-day Belarus, and is respected as a national hero in my country. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Polish-American professor, called Tadeusz Kosciuszko a wonderful hero of fraternal nations – Poles and Belarusians fought not only for their freedom but also for the freedom of Americans.
Ralph Lauren’s parents came to the U.S. from Belarus. Larry King, famous TV host; Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft; Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997-2000; Michael Mukasey, U.S. Attorney General in 2007-2009; all have Belarusian roots. American Nobel prize winners: Sheldon Lee Glashow (Physics), Alan J. Heeger (Chemistry), Douglas Osheroff (Physics), Stanley Prusiner (Physiology or Medicine), Martin Perl (Physics), and Martin Chalfie (Chemistry), all have Belarusian roots too.
Many outstanding people within Hollywood are descendants of our country, namely Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, and Lisa Kudrow. The Mayer in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer stands for Louis Burt Mayer who was born in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Irving Berlin who wrote God Bless America, White Christmas and other classics that epitomize American music, was born in the Mogilev (eastern) region of Belarus.
If you have kids or grandkids, chances are they play videogames. Ask them what World of Tanks is, and you’ll hear about an extremely popular game that holds a Guinness World Record. This game was created by a Belarusian company. With over 100 million registered players worldwide, World of Tanks has just celebrated its fifth anniversary.
Another successful Belarusian invention and export is Viber, an instant messaging and voice-over IP app, in direct competition with Skype. Try it, you will like it, and then you will also make your cell phone carrier unhappy due to serious cuts in your long distance and international calling bills.
The IT sector has become an important part of Belarusian economy. According to the World Trade Organization, in 2013, Belarus surpassed established leaders – India and the U.S. – in computer services’ exports per capita.
My country has a strong industry. Belarus produces the world’s biggest dump truck – BelAZ75710 – which is capable of moving 500 metric tons of material in one go. That’s the equivalent of seven fully fueled and loaded Boeing 737-800 planes. When it comes to dump trucks, we are direct competitors to Caterpillar, as well as to Liebherr of Germany and to Komatsu of Japan. On the other hand, BelAZ buys American-made engines, which helps create highly- skilled and highly-paid U.S. jobs.
Being a country of less than 10 million people, we comprise only 0.13% of the world population, but we produce up to 30% of world output of dump trucks, 17% of world output of harvesters, 10% of wheeled tractors, 6.4% of flax fiber, and 2.8% of potatoes. As a dairy exporter, we produce 5% of world exports of dairy products and 11% of the world exports of butter.
Belarus is in the exclusive club of the Founding Members of the United Nations and is a safe and peaceful country. To understand Belarus, one should bear in mind that Belarus lost one third of its population during World War II. As Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University, wrote, “Belarus was more lethally touched by the war than any other place on earth.” Our people fought Nazis heroically to protect freedom and independence. I am also proud that more than 600 Belarusians have been named Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel, as non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
We were allies with the United States during World War II, and, last May, for the first time in the history of our relations, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band marched with Belarusian troops in the official Minsk Victory Day Parade, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. According to State Magazine
by the U.S. Department of State, band members were buoyed by the reaction of the audience, and the visit was enthusiastically received by the Belarusian government.
As I recently said in a Washington Post interview, we want to be friends with everybody, meaning Russia and the West, as well as other foreign countries. We don’t have territorial disputes with our neighbors, and our reputation as a credible and peace-loving nation has led to Belarus becoming what some have already called “The Switzerland of Eastern Europe.”
Belarus is a good country to live in. Belarus has universal health care which is free for citizens of our country. According to Bloom- berg’s ranking of countries with the most efficient health care, Belarus is among the world’s 50 best countries, and, more specifically, in 47th place. It’s good to be a mother in Belarus – instead of charging you for delivery, the Government pays you for giving birth, and then provides a 3 year guaranteed, paid maternity leave. According to State of World Mothers 2015 ranking by an American NGO called Save the Children, Belarus is in 25th place out of 179 ranked areas, well ahead of many developed and well-off countries, including some European Union countries and the United States. The participation of women in national Government, according to the same American ranking, is 29% in Belarus, which is 7% above the world average and 10% above that of the U.S.
The US-Belarus Observer, according to its name, will inform its readership about the relationship between our countries. I would like it to not only be a source of information, but also a place for in- formed discussion of ways to strengthen and further develop this relationship for the benefit of our peoples.
The cornerstone of Belarus – U.S. relations is international security. Belarus is a supplier, rather than just a consumer, of regional and global security.
Belarus was the first post-Soviet country to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to voluntarily withdraw nuclear weapons from its territory. This decision by Belarus spearheaded further nuclear disarmament in the post-Soviet zone.
In 2004, Belarus opened her air space for NATO planes carrying cargo to and from Afghanistan. In 2011, our country opened itself up as part of the Northern Distribution Network for the transit of cargo to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Northern Distribution
Network was designed as a secure, stable, and inexpensive route when the Southern route through Pakistan became unreliable. Moreover, railroad transit costs 10% of the price of delivering the same cargo to Afghanistan by air. When the United States needed assistance, Belarus provided it.
Belarus and the U.S. cooperate against nuclear smuggling, on a bilateral track as well as in the International Atomic Energy Association, in order to prevent any illicit trafficking of nuclear material to the United States.
Law enforcement in our two countries work together to protect our citizens’ personal and pecuniary safety. The FBI and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus have successfully jointly investigated international crimes including cases of child abuse and identity theft from U.S. citizens, which led to criminal convictions and the imprisonment of the perpetrators.
In 2010, a Belarus – U.S. Business Council was established. Leading American corporations like Microsoft, Honeywell, Cisco Systems, Caterpillar, and others have joined the Council. Recently, General Motors started manufacturing Escalades and Tahoes in Belarus. Culligan, a world leader in water treatment equipment, has two factories, one in the U.S. and one in Italy, and has just recently made a decision to build a third factory within Belarus.
The relationship between my country and the United States is defined by our common interests and cooperation on the most topical issues on the international agenda. We may have some differences in our bilateral relationship, even close friends and allies do, but what makes me optimistic is the belief that there are more things that unite us than divide us. I also believe that continued cooperation and frank dialogue over our disagreements is in the interests of both Belarus and the United States. 
Best wishes,
Vladimir Makei
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus
Contact Information:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus ul.Lenina, 19, Minsk 220030, Republic of Belarus http://mfa.gov.by/
mail@mfa.gov.by

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