Currently, Biden is relying on a 2006 executive order to sanction Belarus over its provocative grounding of the Ryanair plane. But lawmakers from both parties want the president to sign a new, updated executive decree and consider imposing human rights sanctions on Belarus using existing congressional authorities, measures that would avoid the need. of a new draft law on sanctions.
“The longer we wait, the more impunity sets in,” warned Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.), chairman of the foreign relations panel. “It’s time to increase the pressure.
The Biden administration has already reimposed sanctions on several Belarusian entities and urged Americans not to visit Belarus. He also recently called on US airlines to “exercise extreme caution” when flying in the country’s airspace.
Senators are privately skeptical of the Biden administration’s pledge to crack down on Lukashenko, a key confidant of the Russian president. These Capitol skeptics point to the administration’s recent resistance to the imposition of tougher sanctions on Moscow and its allies for the construction of a Russia-Germany gas pipeline.
But Fisher’s wish was welcome for lawmakers who pushed for a more aggressive response.
The committee also heard convincing testimony from Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Wednesday. She has lived in exile in Lithuania since the August presidential election, which the international community believes she won.
Tsikhanouskaya called Lukashenko a “threat to international peace and security” and declared that the 66-year-old man, in power since 1994, made Belarus the “North Korea of Europe”. The opposition leader urged the United States to impose tough sanctions on Belarus’ foreign donors in addition to its banking and oil sectors, which she said would make a difference.
“What is happening in Belarus is not a question of geopolitics. This is our fight against dictatorship, ”Tsikhanouskaya said. “It’s not against other countries. It is against a regime in our country.
Fisher’s testimony on Wednesday painted a striking portrait of Lukashenko’s loyalty to Putin. The Belarusian leader has ceded so much of his own sovereignty to Putin that he no longer has control over Moscow’s military build-up in his country, she told senators.
“Russia continues to support a leader whose only motivation at this stage is to maintain his grip on power,” added Fisher, who was unable to run for office in Minsk because the Belarusian government will not grant him a visa.
Biden left for Europe earlier Wednesday on his first overseas trip as president, with a busy schedule that includes a summit with Putin. Lawmakers called on the president to pressure his Russian counterpart on a number of issues, including Moscow’s forays into Eastern Europe and its efforts to undermine democratic governments in the region.