Did the World Get What It Wanted? RFE/RL Goes Back to Experts

A year ago, RFE/RL correspondents throughout our coverage area spoke to politicians, pundits, and activists about their hopes for Barack Obama's presidency. A year on, we went back to the same people to see if and how their view on Obama has changed.

Alyaksandr Milinkevich, opposition leader

Then: It is vitally important that the president of the United States coordinate as closely as possible his country's policy on Belarus with that of the European Union. It is imperative that the United States and EU speak with one voice on this issue. In recent years, that has not always been the case.

Change in our own country depends on us [Belarusians] alone. But in order to achieve desired change, it is important that we are in partnership with civilized, democratic nations.

That is why my first hope would be for the United States to support the dialogue that has already begun. Of course, this dialogue should continue only under certain conditions -- democratization, liberalization. But it is already apparent that this dialogue is reaping, if not concrete results, than at least a measure of hope. It is with similar hope that I welcome Obama into the White House.

Now: I like him a great deal, and that hasn't changed. He has enormous potential -- and therein lies his problem. So many expect so much from him, and it's not always easy to fulfill those expectations.

This is a nation that came together according to the principles of liberty, human rights, and democracy. It's trying to sort out the rest of the world while remaining true to these principles -- and that's a tough job. Hardest of all, probably, when dealing with Iraq, Afghanistan, and international terrorism.

Has he been successful? I think he's done as much as could be expected. But these global problems must be solved, because they're not the problems of the United States alone.

As far as Belarus is concerned, one has to be frank and acknowledge that Belarus wasn't and isn't the focal point of American foreign policy. This is a huge nation with other concerns -- cooperation with China, Russia, India. Although we're on the margins of U.S. interests, America is nonetheless concerned with the questions of human rights and democracy. And thanks to America's principled position, we in Belarus have a much greater chance to improve our situation.
Radio Free Europe