In 2008, Belarus ordered the staff of the U.S. Embassy to be sharply reduced, in response to sanctions imposed by Washington. Since then, both countries' embassies had been led by charges d'affaires. But President Alexander Lukashenko has pursued better relations with the West since Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Belarus is wary that Russia could try to absorb its small neighbor.
Lukashenko has won respect for easing pressure on Belarusian opposition and as a mediator in efforts to end the eastern Ukraine separatist war.