The Future of Democracy in Belarus: Europe’s Next Challenge
Belarus in the global political context: expert opinions
IN &# 171; Atlantic Council&# 187; a discussion took place on the policy of the West in relation to the official Minsk
The problems of US policy towards Belarus in the context of today’s relations between official Minsk, Moscow and the West were discussed during a discussion that took place on January 31 at the Atlantic Council analytical center in Washington..
Oleg Kravchenko (Oleg Kravchenko), Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, speaking at the event, noted that his country considers it important both to maintain and develop relations with Russia, and to improve and develop ties with the West.
According to the Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, Belarus and many other countries in the current geopolitical situation are viewed by the West through the “prism of confrontation”, and the West expects countries to make a choice between the West and Russia.
“This choice, this dilemma between East and West, which is imposed by the current situation, is extremely counterproductive and dangerous,” says Kravchenko. He stated that Belarus “is in a political and military alliance with Russia,” and stated that, from his point of view, Russia is not a threat to the security of Belarus..
As for improving relations with the West, in particular with the United States, then, according to Kravchenko, both sides are working in this direction, including the return of ambassadors to both capitals. “What is happening in our relations now can be called a process of returning to normal life,” he said, noting at the same time that this process can take years.
Michael Carpenter (Michael Carpenter), senior expert of the Atlantic Council and former foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, noted that there are three areas in relations between Belarus and Russia in which tensions continue to grow: the degree of independence of Belarus from the dictates of Moscow on a number of issues – from domestic to foreign policy, the actual elimination of energy subsidies that have been provided to Minsk by Moscow for years, as well as Minsk’s desire to maintain neutrality between Russia and the West.
Celeste Wallander (Celeste Wallander), President of the USA-Russia Foundation, former Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Obama Administration and Senior Assistant to US President Barack Obama for Russia and Central Asia at the US National Security Council, stressed that Belarus should hardly expect a repeat of “Ukrainian scenario ”, but the fact that Belarus seeks to improve relations with the West is viewed by the Kremlin exclusively through the prism of the so-called zero-sum game.
“Any independence is viewed by the Kremlin immediately in terms of a zero-sum game – as a loss for Moscow,” Celeste Wallander said, adding that the West has also adopted a zero-sum vision of the situation. According to her, this is not the right approach..
According to Wallander, the West continues to act as an “external observer” in relations between Belarus and Russia, which causes concern. According to her, the West should be interested not only in establishing political dialogue and economic ties with Belarus, but also strive to implement exchange programs in various fields..
A similar opinion was expressed by Lieutenant General Ben Hodges (Ben Hodges) is an expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and a former commander of the US Army in Europe. In his opinion, the policy of minimal dialogue and cooperation with Belarus, pursued for many years, turned out to be “a strategically missed opportunity”. According to Hodges, it, in particular, negatively affected the awareness of American officials. However, Hodges noted, the geographical position of Belarus obliges the West to pay more attention to this country, in particular, to support its desire to maintain independence..
“It is in the interests of everyone that Belarus remains a sovereign country relying on its own forces, and we must support this, without putting Belarus before a choice between East or West,” said Hodges, who also stressed that the absence of Russian troops in Belarus is a guarantee security of many countries in the region.
Alexander Vershbow (Alexander Vershbow), an expert of the Atlantic Council, a former deputy secretary general of NATO and a former US ambassador to Russia, stressed that the West should show prudence in its policy towards Belarus. He agreed that US policy and interaction with Belarus have so far been rather “restrained” – as has NATO’s attitude towards Belarus..
Ambassador Vershbow noted that it is in the West’s interests that Belarus is less dependent on Russia and resists Russian pressure. Therefore, he believes, the alliance should develop cooperation with this country within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, and the European Union – within the framework of the Eastern Partnership program. At the same time, Vershbow noted, active interaction or build-up of military forces near Belarus could be counterproductive and provoke Russia.
According to the diplomat, the fears that the agreement on the creation of the “Union State” concluded in 1999 between Belarus and Russia, which provides for the gradual integration of the two countries, will be used by the current president of Russia to “absorb” Belarus by Russia, are not serious.
“Russia has enough other levers of pressure,” Vershbow said..
Answering the question of the Russian service of the Voice of America about the status of the Union State treaty, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus noted that, despite the fact that most of the common bodies have not yet been created, their formation is planned, as stipulated by the treaty..
Oleg Kravchenko noted that the document does not define the final date of its implementation, but many provisions, such as the equal rights of citizens of Belarus and Russia, have been put into effect. According to Kravchenko, the agreement clearly presupposes the preservation of the independence of the two countries..
Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics