27 March 2019, Wednesday, 6:43
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Andrei Sannikov: Lukashenka serves the interests of Putin

Russia and Belarus oppose NATO and the United States.

Alexander Lukashenko considers the Alliance as a threat to its authoritarian rule. This is contrary to the interests of Belarus, because NATO could guarantee its true independence, – said in an interview with “Polish radio”, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Andrei Sannikov, commenting on the “joint” response of Russia and Belarus to NATO’s actions (translation - Charter97.org).

The leader of the civil campaign “European Belarus” also told about the attitude of Russia and Belarus to history, about the role of Sergei Lavrov in the foreign policy of Russia towards Belarus.

Sannikov sees a threat in the joint statements of the foreign Ministers of Russia and Belarus about the common fight against the falsification of history, delivered at the meeting of the Collegium of the foreign ministries of Belarus and Russia in Minsk .

– Lenin and Stalin are part of the version of history that Putin and Lukashenko promote. Therefore, these statements should not be perceived as something insignificant, because it is actually the policy of repression. They mean a ban on the discussion of real history, a ban on criticism of their ideological models – says Andrei Sannikov.

– During a visit to participate in the so-called Board of foreign ministries of Russia and Belarus in Minsk, Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that there will be a joint response of Russia and Belarus for violations of the INF Treaty and “the approach of NATO to Russia”.

There were also joint statements on matters of history. How to interpret this visit? What did he mean in his statements about the policy of Russia towards Belarus and vice versa? It’s just a word, an attempt to consolidate their influence, or something else? There were many statements on the really important issues.

– First, note the “joint board of foreign ministries of Russia and Belarus”. There is also a joint board of the ministries of defence. Therefore, when the West say that Lukashenko is drifting away from Russia, then these facts are enough to understand that this is not true. Russia fully controls it. Has anyone heard about the joint boards of the key ministries of any other two independent countries?

Recently Belarus was visited by several important officials from the EU and the USA. Sergei Lavrov’s visit was a message primarily for the Russian audience, and to politicians in the West. He had to show that the Kremlin controls Belarus, there is no reason for concern, Moscow is monitoring the situation and Lukashenka’s regime is completely loyal to the Kremlin. Sergei Lavrov was to demonstrate it to Russians and the West.

The Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia also had to show that cooperation between Russia and Belarus is going well, nothing can change, no matter what the West would do. It is an illusion that the dictator can do to do something to reform the political system or the economy that he will act against Russia’s military presence in Belarus.

Nothing has changed here. Lukashenko is serving the interests of Vladimir Putin.

I think that all of these statements should be taken seriously in the West . As for the “joint” response of Russia and Belarus to the situation with the INF Treaty and the actions of NATO, it should be noted that Russian military exercises in Belarus are planned and conducted to prepare the infrastructure for the Russian army.

– This means that they somehow customize Belarus to the needs of Russia?

– I spoke recently with a senior official of NATO on what’s happening around a Russian base in Belarus, about the game they are playing “ Will there be a Russian military base in Belarus or not”?

He agreed that Russia does not need a separate base since it controls the whole territory of Belarus in the military sense and can do anything they want, from the point of view of military operations.

As we have already said, a joint board of the ministries of defence is a unique case in the world. If the state is sovereign, then there cannot be a joint Ministerial Board with such a neighbor, the country that is known internationally as the aggressor.

Currently, Russia does not need a formal military base in Belarus. From a military point of view, they already have everything they need.

- Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov said that there will be a joint response of the “Union state”, as he put it, to “the approach of NATO” and the US decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

What did he mean by that? Would it remain at the level of statements or Russia wants to use these two factors that are frequently mentioned in its advocacy for specific actions? This is a game of muscle? What is the real value of the INF Treaty?

– I represented Belarus in the negotiations on the INF Treaty as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. So this topic is close to me.

Currently we are dealing with a misinterpretation of what is happening. Everyone says that the US withdraws from the Treaty. But you forget that Russia was long torpedoing the Treaty. They are not satisfied with this agreement because it limits their potential of medium-range missiles. More than 10 years ago the former Minister of Defence of Russia Sergei Ivanov publicly complained that the Soviet negotiators were unable to protect Russia’s interests in the INF Treaty. He said that Russia needs to restore its arsenal of medium-range missiles.

The Americans several times during the Bush and Obama presidencies said that Russia violates the INF Treaty. At first, it was done secretly and then they started deploying them.

The U.S. statement is a reaction to Russia’s actions, because any agreement is valid only if it is respected by all parties.

Unfortunately, the situation is unfolding adversely. I participated in negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and I remember that in 1990-ies it was hoped that the restriction of nuclear weapons in Europe and the world will make the world more secure. However, contrary to this hope, there are new nuclear powers such as India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea.

The arms race is dangerous for peace, regardless of what caused it. Of course, the new arms race first of all will affect Russia, because it does not have sufficient resources, it will simply not have the money for it. We know how the arms race ended earlier. If Putin decides to this race, he will get the same result.

– Can Russia for some reason keep the INF Treaty?

– Russia is not interested in it. It is known for violation of the treaties, not saving them.

Putin often says about the possibility of using nuclear weapons. In fact, it changes the philosophy of the existence of nuclear weapons. Nuclear states arein agreement that this weapon is a deterrent. Putin claims that it can be used. This is a serious threat from Russia.

In any case, the biggest threat comes from Russia, because there is no democratic control of nuclear forces. It is extremely dangerous.

But Sergei Lavrov is using Belarus in this context, threatening revenge to the West. This is a very bad signal for Belarus, for our neighbors and for the world.

- It’s hard to tell what he may have in mind. Or is it something specific?

– I don’t want to even accidentally suggest some options for Russia. However, the elimination of the INF Treaty can affect the situation in Ukraine and Belarus.

Remember one more thing: previously, Lukashenko in Minsk spoke about the response to “the NATO activities”. He said it then not in the context of the INF Treaty but in connection with so-called “Fort Trump”, a military base in Poland.

Then, but in other words, Lavrov supported Lukashenko confirmed that Belarus and Russia will act against NATO and against the United States.

– Previously, these words came from the Russian Ambassador in Belarus.

– I think they discussed the matter with Lukashenko. This is a dangerous situation. NATO poses no threat to Belarus ‘ independence. However, as the democratic Alliance, it is a threat to dictators. Therefore, NATO is seen as a threat to Lukashenka’s regime.

Moreover, it is NATO, not Russia, that can really guarantee independence of Belarus.

Lukashenka’s words clearly indicate that he intends to protect his regime, not thinking about the interests of the state, the interests of Belarusians, security, independence. This is the political line, which he holds for more than 20 years.

– Whether Sergei Lavrov is directly involved in the integration of Russia and Belarus?

- In today’s Russia, the foreign Minister does not play a big role. It does not take decisions on the relationship between the two countries. The decision is made in the administrations of Putin and Lukashenko.

Sergei Lavrov went to Minsk for propaganda purposes, to make some statements, which are then promoted in the press around the world.

One of Lavrov’s predecessors, Yevgeny Primakov, had, perhaps, more powerful positions in the government, but even he was not allowed to take decisions on Belarusian-Russian relations.

- During his stay in Belarus, Lavrov also discussed the falsification of history.

The foreign ministers of the two countries said that they will fight against the falsifications of history. Lavrov complained about Russophobia. Does the fact that such words are pronounced in Belarus mean that Russia is concerned that the part of the elite of Belarus begins to remember that the post-Soviet interpretation of the history of Belarus is wrong?

– This statement is alarming, it should be of concern for everyone, not only for us, Belarusians. We can clearly see the revival of repressive totalitarian history. We see that in Russia and in Belarus they revive the legacy of Joseph Stalin, the GULAG, and the names of executioners appear o the monuments to the victims of Stalinism.

In Belarus, we see all kinds of celebrations of anniversaries of KGB, police, komsomol.

It is an aggressive statement. And it is maybe more dangerous than other statements made. Why? Because it is about ideology, the ideological basis of the policy for the nearest future.

“We know you don’t agree that Stalin was a hero, but we think so, so we want to clearly tell you that we are proud of this part of the history, and we will continue those traditions” – that is the main message of this statement.

Lenin and Stalin are part of the history that Putin and Lukashenko recognize and promote. Therefore, these statements should be taken seriously, because it is a public statement about the repressive character of the state. This signal indicates that no one will be allowed to question issues of history or discuss a true history.

But the real story differs from the official one. Belarus has not appeared with the establishment of the Soviet Union. Today Putin and Lukashenko are scared of the events in Ukraine including the fact that Ukrainians are discovering their true history, not interpretation of the myths of the Soviet era. This is a very alarming signal for Kremlin and Minsk.

– Recently Lukashenka has said it will continue production of weapons. And then, during a recent visit to Minsk of the head of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, announced another contract for the purchase of weapons from Belarus. Is this is something new in the policy of Minsk?

– Nothing new. It is known that the cooperation with Azerbaijan in this area lasts a long time. This is a demonstration of how Lukashenka complies with his obligations. Belarus and Armenia are part of the Organization of Collective Security Treaty (CSTO), the Moscow-controlled organization.

Lukashenko clearly violates the obligations of the CSTO, which also shows the character of the organization. It is more of a group of criminals controlled by Moscow than an important organization.

Lukashenko clearly demonstrates that he doesn’t care about any international obligations, even those which are connected with the former Soviet Union, which he always championed.

Such is the nature of the Lukashenka regime. If he desperately needs money he will sell everything, even to the enemy.

Of course, Armenia has to respond to this situation. These actions are clearly directed against Yerevan. Lukashenko of course sells weapons to Baku with the consent of Russia, with their blessing, and, perhaps, there are far-reaching plans. Russia does not want Armenia to disrupt their lrelationship.

The fact is that Lukashenka sells weapons to Azerbaijan, which will be used against Armenia is a demonstration of how the Kremlin uses Lukashenko.

– Between Minsk and Moscow are negotiating on the border crossing at “Krasnaya Gorka, on mutual recognition of visas.

– On the one hand, it is unacceptable what happened to foreigners, citizens of third countries who were forced to travel hundreds of miles to cross the border. If the Russians will agree to pass – it will be a positive decision.

However, concerned about the fact that Russia and Belarus use agreement on the joint recognition of visas for repression against the opposition, independent press and civil society. They’re doing it now, and repression will only increase. There are already common lists of “unwanted persons”. These people will not be able to enter the territory of Russia and Belarus. Their number will grow.

Such lists already exist and include not dozens, not hundreds, but millions of people. It is dangerous for the Russian and Belarusian opponents of the regimes and for our friends.