Opinion: One of us was tortured for resisting a dictator. The other was fired for blowing the whistle on Donald Trump

Alexander is a whistleblower. He sacrificed his military career when report Former President Donald Trump threatened to give up support from Ukraine if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t help him dig up the dirt on the Bidens.

Andrei is a dissident. He resigned from the Belarusian government in 1996 in protest against the growing authoritarianism of President Alexander Lukashenko. In 2010, he dared to oppose Lukashenko for the presidency of Belarus.

We have learned from our experience that when it comes to defending democracy, whistleblowers can cost their careers, but dissidents often pay with their lives. their.

In Alexander’s case, the independent media found out the truth and Congress appealed to him witness. While he was suffering master consequence, the government never imprisons him or threatens his life.
In Andrei’s case, Lukashenko had him detained and tortured. He beaten, denying medical care, and pressuring to commit suicide. Andrei only exit after more than a year in prison as coordinated sanctions from the EU and the United States appear to have increased the excess to which Lukashenko’s regime has been subjected. (Although Lukashenko did not comment on Andrei’s case, in a 2012 interview in which he declared himself a dictator, he refuse announced the detention of political prisoners.)

While whistleblowers and dissidents play an important role as truth seekers in society, our story illustrates the sobering reality that we cannot create make a change without additional support. Simply put, accusers and dissidents can act as catalysts for change, but it is the broader public that can change the course of history.

In America, that knowledge and belief continues and flows. During times of widespread grassroots mobilization and public outcry – including Black Lives Matter Demonstration, March for Our Lives Demonstration, Women’s March Demonstration, as well as voter turnout history in Midterm elections 2018 and 2020 presidential election — the public provided the impetus for systematic reforms to American democracy.
An important fact to remember in this discussion is that these pro-democracy protests in the United States have mostly peaceful. Protesters and grassroots organizations in the United States are usually not violently repressed, and movements are allowed to flourish in an organized manner. Like Alexander, people in general can speak out against injustice without fear of government repression.

This is a key element of the ongoing battle against anti-democratic forces, and a key feature of the American system, which is flexible and resilient to the will of the people in turbulent times. chaos.

However, the danger of political immersion following the departure of former President Donald Trump is not something that can be removed. Trump wields considerable influence over the Republican Party – and Trumpism certainly will on the ballot in the 2022 midterm elections.

American complacency has both short-term and long-term consequences. While in the short term some “Big Lie” advocates could win elected office, the significant danger lies in long-term trends – namely the increased substitution of political traditionalists by the populists and conspiracy theories of Trump.

Three years from now, Trump could be the Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election, criticizing another near-term election defeat. But this time, he was able to gain the support of enough state Republican officials to comply with his demands to overturn the adverse election result.

We can’t just solve these problems once they’ve become a reality, as has been the case with the surge in civic activism under President Trump. We must proactively prevent authoritarianism now.

In Belarus, by contrast, the most brutal form of dictatorship has been a fact of life. The protests were met with violence. Under the repressive Lukashenko regime, the last vestiges of democratic institutions in civil society are being eradication, and the opposition is active suppressed.
Our generation will either renew democracy - or lose it forever
Like Andrei, hundreds of thousands Belarusians protested against the Lukashenko regime’s excessive dictatorship and a shift to democracy. However, their bravery and sacrifice still not enough. Protesters have been under maximum pressure for years and need greater outside support to succeed.
Western governments have the tools and resources to increase the pressure on Lukashenko and his officials. These governments could increase the cost of Lukashenko’s repressions by tighten restrictions about the regime’s ability to abuse Interpol, impose add punishment, Advanced Global Magnitsky sanctions for human rights abuses or targeting oligarchs with corrupt networks that support the Kremlin and, by proxy, the Belarusian dictatorship. While this may not be enough to force Lukashenko to negotiate with the opposition, it will show solidarity with pro-democracy forces while also signaling that Lukashenko’s regime will face consequences. if they act without punishment.
Some, such as Council of Europe, says that changes in Belarus must come from within. But the push for change in Belarus is coming from within. To truly bring about democratic reform, Belarusians will demand the collective action of other Western nations committed to the values ​​and principles of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The United States can take the lead in this, as it has accomplished a indispensable role on the international stage as defenders, sponsors and promoters of democracy. It can play an important role in strengthening Belarusian civil society by providing material and ideological support to the country’s pro-democracy elements.

Given the current situation in Belarus, a prudent approach might be to provide financial, rhetorical and organizational support to leaders of the pro-democracy movement beyond the country’s borders. Important figures, such as Andrei, and organizations continue to strengthen and empower Belarusian civil society, even in exile. They facilitated the Belarusian opposition to give hope for the future and offer a democratic alternative to the illegitimate Lukashenko regime.

It is dangerous and irresponsible to believe that the United States can abdicate its duties as the leader of the free world without consequence in areas of the world where democracy owners are still struggling to establish a foothold. Belarusians, along with countless other peoples, look to the United States as an example and representative of an ideal worth striving for. American values ​​and interests require defending democracy both at home and abroad.

While the US and Belarus are two different worlds, the Belarusian experience offers a terrifying doorway into a world devoid of basic freedoms. Believe us when we say that American democracy is worth defending, as it will resemble something closer to Belarus.


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