NOLAN FINLEY

In eastern Europe, 'Time for America to be America'

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

A democratic revolution is underway in a small, eastern European nation that's off the radar screen for most Americans. But it is a fight for freedom that is very much in America's interest. 

The people of Belarus are trying to rid themselves of Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator who has held power since 1994.

Belarus is asking America for help.

"It's time for America to be America," says Zygimantas Pavilionis, former Lithuanian ambassador to the United States and now head of foreign his country's parliament. "If you really care about those people entrapped by autocracy, and really are the beacon of democracy, do something."

The people of Belarus are trying to rid themselves of Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator who has held power since 1994, Finley writes.

Lithuania is hosting the exiled leader of the Belarus revolution, and is the strongest advocate for democracy among the former Baltic soviet satellites. In that, it shares a kinship with America.

Standing with Belarus would create a firmer foundation for democracy in eastern Europe, and a stronger buffer against the ambitions of Russia's Vladimir Putin. 

Pavilionis hopes the United States, acting with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, will demand a new, fair election in Belarus. The election held last August is largely viewed by the international community as illegitimate. 

He also suggests President Joe Biden, who invited the ambassador of the repressive Belarus regime to his inauguration in January, host Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader who ran against Lukashenko, for a major speech in Washington.

"She’s our Joan of Arc," Pavilionis says. "If she can stand against the tyrant, so why can’t Biden? Invite her to Washington, embrace her and help her to defend freedom."

Doing so would send a powerful message to Putin that the United States will not back down from supporting freedom movements. 

"I really hope the Biden administration will have a serious policy strategy of democracy first in this region, not Putin first,' Pavilionis says. "Stand with this new generation. Help us deal with Russia, and we will help you fight China."

— Nolan Finley