What Happened: U.S. national security adviser John Bolton conducted what he called "fascinating" talks with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko in Minsk on Aug. 29, RFE reported Aug. 29, after which Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned his Belarusian counterpart Aug. 30 for a follow-up call, according to Tass.
Why It Matters: Belarus is an important mediator in the Ukraine conflict, while the country itself could be subject to a Russian defense buildup following U.S. plans to increase its military presence in neighboring Poland. Bolton's visit could set the stage for changes in Washington's relationship with Minsk, but given that Belarus remains firmly within Russia's sphere, the United States can offer Lukashenko little more than possible economic and security incentives to mitigate any Russian military buildup in response to U.S. actions in Poland.
Background: Bolton visited Belarus as part of an Eastern European tour that also includes Ukraine and Moldova.
- On Russia's Borders, Bolton Probes for Openings for the U.S. (Aug. 27, 2019)
- China's Belt and Road Initiative Finds Shaky Ground in Eastern Europe (Aug. 9, 2018)
- Belarus, the Borderlands and the U.S.-Russia Standoff (June 7, 2018)