Between NATO and the Kremlin to Minsk in search of a foreign policy balance

The process of the Eurasian integration does not suit Minsk, in the Western direction would respect — “we must talk, we must not look at them as enemies,” said the Belarusian head of state.

The meeting of Alexander Lukashenko with the government about participation of Belarus in integration structures and cooperation with European organizations was held a few days after the so-called “Big conversation”, where the Belarusian leader has repeatedly criticized the West’s aggressive aspirations. But at the meeting said that neither Belarus nor her neighbors do not need new dividing lines, “why should establish mutually respectful relations with NATO, which eventually would strengthen the security of our country”. “Western and Eastern vectors of the Belarusian foreign policy must balance each other,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

“The rhetoric of the “Big conversation” — about Poland, missiles and so on — were calculated. In fact, Minsk would like more attention from NATO,” — said in an interview with RFI, the coordinator of the analytical project Belarus Security Blog Andrei Porotnikov.

Andrei Porotnikov: “NATO is the unit where decisions are made by consensus, and, as you can see, not all NATO countries are ready to expand cooperation with Belarus, despite the fact that, paradoxically, even the current level of dialogue between NATO and Russia is much more extensive than with Belarus. Therefore, in this case, the long-term objective, which is not the first year for the expansion and improvement of the contractual framework of cooperation between Belarus and NATO, in order to reach at least to the level that they have other CSTO countries — Kazakhstan, Armenia or CIS countries Azerbaijan. Here the question is about some kind of breakthrough, the breakthrough is not worth it, just say so, set the working plank that level, which is already felt in other post-Soviet countries.”

Belarus is not perceived the Alliance as an independent player in the region, emphasizes the analyst.

Andrei Porotnikov: “the Big problem now, because in a confrontation in the fundamental region still is the opinion of the generals, not politicians. And the generals, as expected, come from the worst-case scenario. Yet, unfortunately, prevails the opinion that Minsk or even critically dependent on Moscow in security issues is the softest point of view, or that Belarus is a Trojan horse, that is, that there is a Belarusian-Russian game with the goal to mislead NATO. There is a definite split in the opinions of the generals and civilian politicians, civil policy in favor of increased dialogue, but then again there is no unity within the Alliance for cooperation with Belarus. Moreover, Belarus is an important partner that NATO has a lot of other domestic tasks and the stress points — the trump, the United States and Europe. The problem is that inside the Alliance there is no one to lobby for the expansion of cooperation with Minsk”.

What can bring Minsk intensification of contacts with NATO?

Andrei Porotnikov: “the Main plus is the beginning of a dialogue, that is, it does not mean that someone will consider the views of Minsk but (it’s) at least the beginning of a dialogue on the promotion of infrastructure of NATO to the East. Because, relatively speaking, they [NATO] are ready to discuss these issues with Russian, but if you look at the map, moving-then they are objectively mostly to our borders, and with us they this question is not discussed. The second point is very important, it is the participation in educational programs that exist within the Alliance for the partner countries, the possibility of academic exchanges, some language courses, preparation for peacekeeping activities, and preparation for rescue operations, because NATO is not only a purely military unit, and there still is issues related to humanitarian and rescue activities. And the third point is a necessary condition to [Belarus] from international isolation and to improve the position of Belarus in the international arena, because in the present day from the perspective of regional policy, Belarus is a deep backwater”.

At the same meeting it was mentioned about the problems of Eurasian integration. “Many of the economic issues of the agenda of the Union state moved to the site of the EAEU, Lukashenka is quoted by the press service of the President. — Unfortunately, the process of Eurasian integration turns back the clock, if not already turned. I report on the barriers, obstacles and limitations for our businesses, and the lack of specific work to eliminate them is covered by a digital agenda.”

Andrei Porotnikov: “I don’t really understand what he [Lukashenko] was calculated, if the previous attempts to create a common market without exceptions and restrictions to access in the framework of the CIS still have the free trade area of the CIS, and was a Customs Union, this is still something out there (EurAsEC RFI) — ended in deadlock. All say Yes, we are ready, we want, and then after some time it turns out that there are limitations and there are obstacles that, on the one hand, such as subjective are of a selfish nature to a particular country, but, on the other hand, they are irresistible, no one is willing to compromise and make concessions.”

Lukashenka’s statements circulated by the press service, is a message of Moscow, said Andrei Porotnikov.

Andrei Porotnikov: “the Message of Moscow is that they somehow moved, and a sign that Minsk should be interested that the Minsk disappointed and have something to give, some kind of candy. Because Lukashenko is a rather cynical politician, and that the Eurasian economic Union is of interest not so much as an economic Union, but as a prerequisite to get any preferential treatment from Russia in various fields. Similarly, as participation in the CSTO is not a defensive unit, it does not block, it is a necessary demonstration of loyalty to Moscow in order to solve the issues of bilateral relations in different spheres”.

In addition to the frustration of dashed hopes, as he said, Minsk is concerned about “care less — we are losing the economic competition with Moscow.” According to Andrew Porotnikov, Minsk will try to form a “Casillas within the Eurasian economic Union is likely with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, to try to put pressure on Moscow group”.

“You can say that the Eurasian integration has stalled, there is a very high probability that the EAEU will soon hit the ceiling of their capabilities will continue to stagnate just as it was with all previous post-Soviet structures, — says Andrei Porotnikov. To say that Minsk is ready to exit or reversal of its economic policy towards integration in some form in the European market, it is not necessary”.
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