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Washington wants to bolster democracy in Belarus while avoiding Russian intervention, but experts say that task is complicated by tension in U.S.-European relations and a lack of clear messaging from the Trump administration.

indered by frayed ties with Europe, limited leverage, and doubts about President Donald Trump’s devotion to democracy in Belarus, the United States is gingerly trying to nudge the former Soviet state toward new elections without provoking Russia.

Current and former U.S. officials acknowledge the challenge of promoting change in Belarus, which faces protests over an Aug. 9 election that the opposition says was rigged to extend the 26-year reign of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Mr. Lukashenko, who denies fraud, has responded with a violent crackdown on the protests and shown no sign of backing down despite sanctions imposed by three Baltic states on Monday and the threat, by a senior U.S. State Department official on Tuesday, of impending U.S. sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his interest in Belarus, which is a conduit for Russian oil and gas to Europe and is vital to Moscow’s European defense strategy. Russia has formed a police force to back Mr. Lukashenko if necessary and Mr. Putin has invited him to Moscow for talks.

Washington wants a way to bolster democracy in Belarus that avoids Russian intervention, something which – as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun told Russian officials last week in Moscow – would further damage U.S.-Russian ties.

Mr. Biegun also visited Ukraine, which borders Belarus, and Vienna, home to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), where he promoted the regional security group that includes Belarus, European nations, Russia, and the U.S. as a vehicle to find a solution. Read More…………….

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