Following the European Union, the United States has traditionally been one of the main sources of aid to Belarus. The U.S. share of foreign aid received by Belarus varies from 14% to 20% of the total amount. Even though this is significantly less than the EU share (70%), the U.S. share is still very important for Belarus.

Difficulties in the Belarus-U.S. relations after 1996 affected the amount and the character of the U.S. financial aid. Belarus receives the lowest amount of the financial aid in the region. Because the U.S. aid includes not only financial aid but also an exchange of competencies and technologies, Belarus is left behind and is dependent on other countries, mostly Russia, in that regard.

This can be explained by the U.S. negative opinion of the human rights situation and democracy in Belarus. As a result, some of the programs of cooperation between the state agencies of both countries were suspended in 1996. Most of such programs were terminated during 2003-2008, and cooperation with civil society and some political actors increased. Despite that, after 2010, cooperation between the state agencies becomes the predominant form of cooperation.

During the period of 2001-2015, the total U.S. aid for the U.S.-Belarus cooperation programs amounted to $300m. The amounts of aid differed through the years though having a general tendency to increase. In 2001-2005, the total aid amounted to $48.8m, in 2006-2010 – $94.6m, and in 2011-2015 – $149m. Thus, even during the times of the U.S.-Belarus confrontation, the amount of the U.S. aid was growing. A part of the U.S. aid was allocated to the governmental programs and a small part was directed to support civil society and democracy.

The majority (2/3) of the U.S. aid is allocated to the two main priorities: atomic energy/security and the support of civil society. The first one received about $107.9m, or 38% of the whole amount of the aid. The support of civil society amounted to $81.4m (28%). Public diplomacy takes 11%, political participation and political parties – 6%. About 5% of the aid was allocated to each, business and economic projects, social projects and miscellaneous programs. The education and culture received about 1%.

Figure 1. U.S. aid to Belarus by sectors, 2001-2015

The U.S. support of the civil society programs is relatively consistent. In 2001-2005, about $20m was allocated to such programs. In 2006-2010, the aid amounted to $30m, in 2011-2016 – $31m. The minimum amount of $1.8m was given in 2004, and the yearly maximum of $9.3m was allocated in 2011. Different amounts of the aid through the years correspond to the dynamic of the political situation in Belarus. For example, one of the largest amounts of aid was received in 2011 (after the events that followed a presidential election in December 2010). However, such correlation cannot be seen in 2008 and 2013.

Significant cooperation in the area of atomic energy/security can be seen in 2010-2015. As shown in the diagram, it has been the area with the largest U.S. contributions since 2010. The number of contributions exceeds and during some years significantly exceeds contributions in other areas. The largest contribution to that area was made in 2015, amounting to 70.6% of the total aid.

Figure 2. The priorities of the U.S. aid during different presidential administrations, % 

Comparison of the priorities of the U.S. aid, depending on the U.S. president, reveals the changes in the U.S. support starting from 2002 (see the diagram). The most significant increase of the U.S. aid can be seen in the support of the atomic energy and security programs. The aid increased from 6-6.5% during Bush’s presidency to 50-60% during Obama’s. The aid to the civil society, however, decreased from 42-44% to first 22% and then 16%. The amount allocated to economic projects raised up to 5% during the Bush’s second term and stayed at the level of 6-7% during the Obama’s terms. Political programs experienced the 10% increase during the Bush’s term and the decrease of 4.4% and subsequent increase of 6.4% during the Obama’s time. The biggest decrease in support can be seen in the area of public diplomacy, which during the Bush’s term was 35% and dropped to 0% during the Obama’s second term. The support of social projects decreased from 7.8% to 2.3%.

Short conclusions

The U.S. is the second largest provider of the foreign aid after the EU. The U.S. support is very important for Belarus, and it is essential for some sectors.

There are two main priorities for the American aid: atomic energy/security and the support of civil society. The U.S. support of the civil society programs is relatively consistent and averages $5m per year. The U.S. support of the civil society is very important, and for some programs is essential. Significant cooperation in the area of atomic energy/security began in 2010. The support for this sector amounts up to 70% of the total aid.

During the last several years, there is a positive tendency of diversification of the U.S. support and cooperation. We can observe an increased number of the programs and areas of the U.S. support. However, the level of cooperation in those areas does not appear to be sufficient.

The priorities of the U.S. support over time have shifted from the “Bush model”, where the civil society being the main priority, to the “Obama model”, with the atomic energy being the main priority, and followed by the civil society and other sectors.