15 August 2022, Monday, 9:36
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Anna Fotyga: Belarusians May Have Chance

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Anna Fotyga: Belarusians May Have Chance

The spirit of the 1863 uprising still lives on in Belarus.

Will Ukraine win? Is the West helping Kyiv enough in the fight against the Kremlin? Will Russia remain within its former borders? What are the prospects for the Belarusian people?

Member of the European Parliament, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Anna Fotyga is speaking about this in an interview with Charter97.org:

ANNA FOTYGA: I don’t know how long it will take, but I am convinced that Ukraine will win. Undoubtedly, there should be much greater mobilization from the West to support Ukraine. I think that we are dealing with crimes against humanity, war crimes committed by regular Russian troops and, in addition, groups of Wagner PMCs and Kadyrovites.

The way this war is waged — the attacks on civilian targets, attempts to encircle and isolate large cities, shelling and bombing civilian targets —are Russian tactics known to us from previous wars, they aim to terrorize civilians and intimidate the population of the country under attack. There is nothing new about this — we remember the tragedies of Grozny and Aleppo. In fact, the tactics used by Russia in Ukraine are in many ways reminiscent of Chechnya and Syria.

However, regardless of the tactics used, the Russian Federation did not achieve its military goals, something that the world feared at the very beginning of the war, and the Ukrainians are heroically defending themselves. I would like to stress that the Ukrainians did not allow Russia to achieve its military goals: the Russians did not take Kyiv, there was no quick encirclement of the city, the country's leadership was not captured. President Zelensky continues to be in touch with world leaders and public opinion.

Leaders of other countries are coming to Kyiv, including the Polish Prime Minister (the interview was recorded before the visit of the prime ministers of Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Poland to Kyiv — edit.). This Russian offensive was unsuccessful. Ukraine will not capitulate. Therefore, it is necessary to state clearly: we should adopt a completely different attitude towards Russia than it has been before, and this is important.

I believe that in this regard, we must be aware that for many years Russian propaganda has been leaking into the Western media, misinformation of public opinion and political corruption have taken place — all of which we have watched with disgust for many years. The aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, however, is definitely a cooling card.

QUESTION: Is the democratic West taking all possible measures to stop the advance of Kremlin imperialism?

ANNA FOTYGA: In my opinion, the free world, which should support Ukraine with all possible means, is not mobilized enough. Sanctions are an example of this. To bring results, they must be tougher, as the politicians in my country say, as Jaroslaw Kaczynski said, as the Prime Minister and the President said. Sanctions should lead to the cessation of funding for the Russian military machine.

Alongside with sanctions, the free world must also send clear political signals. Such a signal would be granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership on a political basis with the simplification of existing procedures used in a normal situation. I think that this would be an important signal for the Ukrainians.

However, it is important to note that although the mobilization of the West is not going fast enough, and is not massive enough, support for Ukraine is colossal, even surprising, and the mobilization of society is noticeable. Personally, I am proud of what is happening in Poland and the support that refugees receive from us. Like any Polish family, I deal with families who were forced to flee Ukraine. We are witnessing a huge surge of solidarity.

However, I would like to emphasize that in the European Parliament I also try to engage in and deal with Belarusian affairs so that this issue does not leave the agenda, so that Lukashenka does not hide in Putin's shadow. Together with colleagues from our region, we make sure that Lukashenka’s regime is not forgotten in our resolutions, and I hope this will bring proper results.

QUESTION: Does Ukraine get enough military aid from the West? Is there a chance for a no-fly zone introduction?

ANNA FOTYGA: Indeed, Ukraine received modern weapons from the West, including anti-aircraft weapons, but, unfortunately, they cannot prevent air strikes on civilian targets. Hence the calls of Ukrainians for the introduction of a no-fly zone. There is no unity in NATO on this issue. However, I believe that this is changing now because awareness has increased. The free world has a legal obligation to act, as war crimes and most likely crimes against humanity are being committed in Ukraine. This is not a matter solely of Article 5 (of the NATO charter that an attack on one of the alliance members shall be considered as an attack on all NATO members — edit.). International law obliges us to counter massive war crimes against civilians.

QUESTION: Russian propagandists say that Ukraine is just “one of apov of ensuring the strategic security of Russia. Is the Suwalki Corridor in Danger?

“We have known for a long time that he is under threat, and we are trying to counteract this. NATO has stepped up defense plans, exercises are taking place in the vicinity of Suwalki. Russia's appetite, however, is unlimited, and our attention and action must be much wider. You probably know about the speech of Patriarch Kirill, where he spoke about Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan. And we are trying to strengthen these countries by countering Russian imperialism where necessary.

I believe, however, that the war in Ukraine has dispelled the myth of the invincible Russian army, which is capable of rapidly capturing half the world, terrorizing everyone. Moreover, even if Ukraine is temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation (which I hope will never happen), it is absolutely clear that the occupiers will not be able to keep the booty. The Ukrainians have shown that the will to fight and patriotism is the key to victory. Ukraine inspires many.

Is a democratic Russia possible within today's borders? Or will many states emerge in its place?

“I don’t want to say that it’s impossible, because I don’t want to discourage any society. We have experience of relations with the Russian opposition, as well as historical experience since the time of Mickiewicz. In principle, every generation of Poles felt the tsarist, Soviet, then again Russian expansive policy. Therefore, I am skeptical about the theses that in Russia it is enough just to gradually democratize society. In my opinion, unless society and opposition leaders abandon Russia's expansive, aggressive policy towards its neighbors, nothing will come of this democratization, but threats will remain. Undoubtedly, after this war, Russia will be weakened, not strengthened. I think that further expansion is a big question. In confirmation of this, Russia is already asking for help from China, although China is not so inclined to strengthen Russia.

However, I would like to return to what I spoke about earlier, it is necessary to change our attitude towards Russia. In the West, there have always been such tendencies that when Russia was weakening, the question of who and how could strengthen it was immediately considered. This time it should be different. We cannot naively or opportunistically think that the initiator and culprit of the war is only and exclusively Putin, that it is enough to change him, and everything will be fine, and “business as usual” will return. This aggression, this war must have very serious consequences, which cannot be limited only to the highest circles of power.

“Now there is a terrible war going on. Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine are on the side of the West. Russia is Russia. Where is Belarus in this fight?

“Lukashenko, with his connections with Putin, created for the Belarusians the threat of an unwanted fratricidal war with Ukraine. However, the further course of events depends on the Belarusian society. In my opinion, it has already taken a big step in protest against the criminal regime of Lukashenka, against the regime that has been imposed on Belarusians for many years. In Belarus, despite the years of oppression, the destruction of culture and the imposition of the Moscow vision of history, the spirit of the Commonwealth, the uprising of 1863, still lives on, when equal peoples of Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians and Ukrainians fought hand in hand for freedom. We have common heroes: Kosciuszko, Kalinowski, Mickiewicz, Slovak and Syrokomlya - champions of the common struggle and prophets of freedom.

It has happened in our part of the world that dramatic events have also been an opportunity for society. I can only bow my head before the warring Ukraine in admiration for the mood of the Ukrainian society. I believe, however, that this time may become a kind of chance for Belarusians, especially in the geopolitical arena and in the context of a weakened Russian Federation. For me, Belarusians are an integral part of the West, they fully deserve an independent, sovereign, democratic state in which Belarusian culture and entrepreneurship will flourish.the stages to ensure the strategic security of Russia”. Is the Suwalki Corridor in danger?

ANNA FOTYGA: We have known for a long time that it is under threat, and we are trying to counteract this. NATO has stepped up defense plans, exercises are taking place in the vicinity of Suwalki. Russia's appetite, however, is unlimited, and our attention and action must be much wider. You probably know about the speech of Patriarch Kirill, where he spoke about Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan. And we are trying to strengthen these countries by countering Russian imperialism where necessary.

I believe, however, that the war in Ukraine has dispelled the myth of the invincible Russian army, which is capable of rapidly capturing half the world, terrorizing everyone. Moreover, even if Ukraine is temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation (which I hope will never happen), it is absolutely clear that the occupiers will not be able to keep the trophy. The Ukrainians have shown that the will to fight and patriotism is the key to victory. Ukraine inspires many.

QUESTION: Is a democratic Russia possible within today's borders? Or will many states emerge in its place?

ANNA FOTYGA: I don’t want to say that it’s impossible, because I don’t want to discourage any society. We have experience of relations with the Russian opposition, as well as historical experience since the time of Mickiewicz. In principle, every generation of Poles felt the tsarist, Soviet, then again Russian expansive policy. Therefore, I am skeptical about the theses that in Russia it is enough just to gradually democratize society. In my opinion, unless society and opposition leaders abandon Russia's expansive, aggressive policy towards its neighbors, this democratization will not work, but threats will remain. Undoubtedly, after this war, Russia will be weakened, not strengthened. I think that further expansion is a big question. In confirmation of this, Russia is already asking for help from China, although China is not so inclined to strengthen Russia.

I would like, however, to return to what I spoke about earlier, it is necessary to change our attitude towards Russia. There have always been such tendencies in the West that when Russia was weakening, the question of who and how could strengthen it was immediately considered. This time it should be different. We cannot naively or opportunistically think that the initiator and culprit of the war is only and exclusively Putin, that it is enough to change him, and everything will be fine, and “business as usual” will return. This aggression, this war must have very serious consequences, which cannot be limited only to the highest circles of power.

QUESTION: A terrible war is going on now. Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine are on the side of the West. Russia is Russia. Where is Belarus in this fight?

ANNA FOTYGA: Lukashenka, with his connections with Putin, has created for the Belarusians the threat of an unwanted fratricidal war with Ukraine. However, the further course of events depends on the Belarusian society. In my opinion, it has already taken a big step by protesting against the criminal regime of Lukashenka, against the regime that has been imposed on Belarusians for many years. In Belarus, despite the years of oppression, the destruction of culture and the imposition of the Moscow vision of history, the spirit of the Rzecz Pospolita, the uprising of 1863, still lives on, when equal peoples of Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians and Ukrainians fought hand in hand for freedom. We have common heroes: Kosciuszko, Kalinowski, Mickiewicz, Slowacki and Syrakomlya, champions of the common struggle and prophets of freedom.

It has happened in our part of the world that dramatic events have also been an opportunity for society. I can only bow my head before the warring Ukraine in admiration for the mood of the Ukrainian society. I believe, however, that this time may become a kind of chance for Belarusians, especially in the geopolitical arena and in the context of a weakened Russian Federation. For me, Belarusians are an integral part of the West, they fully deserve an independent, sovereign, democratic state in which Belarusian culture and entrepreneurship will flourish.