The issue of Belarus will not leave the agenda.
How to respond to Putin's nuclear blackmail? What is common between the methods of the Stalinist and Lukashenka regimes? How can the experience of the Polish Resistance help the Belarusian people?
About this and not only Charter97.org talked with MEP and former Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga.
– Putin announced the deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Is there any reason to consider defensive measures to ensure the security of the Republic of Poland?
– Actions to improve the security of the eastern flank of NATO, including the Republic of Poland, are currently underway. The Polish government is implementing large defense and armaments projects and is successfully gaining the support of its allies.
I would like to emphasize that Lukashenka doesn’t have any right to make such decisions on behalf of the state and the Belarusian people, because he is a usurper, and the people clearly expressed their will.
But there is a second thing that I see from time to time on the international stage. Recall that for decades, when there was a pointless dialogue with the Russian Federation, and belief that the Putin regime could be modernized (which completely contradicted our assessment of the situation), the West was blackmailed with the image of a nuclear state that not only possesses nuclear weapons, but is also ready to use them. So I'm not so sure if it's the right thing to keep overpromoting this issue.
I believe that a decisive and quick victory of Ukraine and also the broad participation of the West including Poland can lead to the fact that Russia will be weakened to such an extent that it will not be able to dictate terms and blackmail Belarus.
Naturally, we continue to argue that Lukashenka should be treated as Putin's de facto collaborator in Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, and we are working to ensure that this is reflected in sanctions as well. When we talk about a special tribunal to consider a claim for waging a war of aggression, we are also talking about investigating the role of Lukashenka.
Therefore, we need to clearly express our position and take appropriate actions, but without hype. Let's not play Putin’s games since he wants to intimidate the West, paralyze the will and cause the West to raise the voice of the "peace movement" with the intention of holding some kind of negotiations, showing that we will "agree" with some terms. Too often the West has resorted to this method, both when entering into negotiations with the regime in Iran, previously with Lukashenka, and over the years with Putin, the tragic consequences of which we can all see today. We are trying to prevent fears about such attempts to negotiate with Lukashenka from coming true.
– But still, from your point of view, how to keep the strategic balance and provide retaliatory measures without giving way to this blackmail?
– The answer, of course, is the expansion of NATO and the struggle (and Poland is taking part in it) for Ukraine to be really considered as a future member of the Alliance. It would be good to overcome the resistance to the expansion and to reach admission of Sweden to NATO. We make sure that the planning of various scenarios includes the eastern flank, so that these plans are not only relevant but also as decisive as possible, so that there is no “category B” when it comes to the security of the allies, it should be impartible. Statements by some leaders and political figures that "the US is already falling apart and leaving Europe" turned out to be fake. I am deliberately not keeping tarry into the doctrine of nuclear deterrence because such a discussion would intensify the current fears in some Western circles and therefore will benefit Russia.
– Andrzej Poczobut, the well-known political prisoner and a man of Polish descent, wrote earlier in a letter from prison that he was strengthened by “the example of those who were imprisoned within these walls in the 40s and 50s”…
– ... and Lukashenka is struggling to erase this memory.
– Do you see any links here? I mean the links between the persecution of Poles in the Soviet Union and the persecution of Poles under the Lukashenka regime now?
– Yes, it's a real deja vu. It's very similar to some, I would say, really Stalinist methods. Stalin, Soviet but also Russian diplomacy has always created tension between different national groups to take advantage of this becoming a mediator. Lukashenka also tried to do this, but I have the impression that he completely failed: people like Andrzej Poczobut clearly show that they are fighting the regime and are in solidarity and loyalty to the Belarusian people in this. In my opinion, here we see the white-red-white flag and the traditions of cooperation between peoples. Poland and the Poles are unambiguously on the side of the Belarusian people fighting against Lukashenka. The resilience of Andrzej Poczobut gives strength to all of us. We strongly believe that the only correct imperative is the collapse of the Lukashenka regime.
– Andrzej Poczobut celebrated his 50th birthday in prison. What would you like to say to those people who are worried about Andrzej’s fate and other political prisoners in Belarus?
– From the very moment when the persecution began, not a single day has passed without us dealing with this topic. We are counting down the days since the brutal repression and persecution in Belarus, as well as since the beginning of a full-scale aggressive invasion of Ukraine. 778 days have already passed since Andrzej Poczobut was imprisoned. Each day we remember him, and Lukashenka can be sure that we will not forget and our pressure and support for democratic Belarus will not decrease.
I personally take part in every case known to me and defend political prisoners. This comes from my life experience. I have always stood on the side of the persecuted in Poland, who were prisoners of the communist regime. I defend them and will keep defending all the prisoners of the Lukashenka regime.
Terrible things happen in prisons, really terrible things. The war in Ukraine overshadowed this for a while, but now, I think everyone understands that this is a wider operation, that the Russian Federation uses various methods of influence on neighbouring peoples and interference in course of its imperial political line. In the case of Ukraine, this is a direct attack, an attempt to occupy the country, to destroy the nation, but other methods are no less terrible - creeping, hybrid ones.
In the case of Belarus, the information that was shocking for me (but confirming all my diagnoses) was the realization of the scale of Russification carried out by the Belarusian authorities in relation to the Belarusian people. Hostility towards the Poles, an attempt to liquidate the Polish educational structures, persecution of the Union of Poles in Belarus, attempts to force the independent Union to merge with the infiltrated one - we knew about all this, these are the methods used by other dictatorships. However, such an open, explicit Russification of their own nation by the so-called Belarusian authorities is something completely shocking. I was able to collect quite accurate information on this topic, we clearly show this aspect, because this is a shock for Western people. This is something completely unimaginable, showing the scale [of repression] and the real intentions of the regime.
– You have personally experienced martial law in Poland. What advice would you give to our readers? How to survive this terrible time? How not to lose hope?
– Do not be afraid. Organize. Belarusians from the Kalinovsky regiment are fighting in Ukraine, and this is good, the will of the people is clearly visible. It was so clear who we were and who they were during the martial law in Poland. It was easy to distinguish people. We were like brothers: it was clear that those who opposed the communist regime were ours, ideological differences did not matter, and it was clear that the common interest of the Polish people was to overthrow this communist power. It was a terrible time, my friends were among the victims of the martial law time, so it was painful for me. But on the other hand, it was not only scary, there was some, I would say, solidarity. I remember it with warm feelings. I wish the Belarusians the same.
We are all aware that now is a difficult period, and that there are global challenges. Many would like them to overshadow what is happening beyond the Bug. We are trying to show to the world the problem of Belarus and the struggle of the opposition, the Belarusian people and the Poles living in Belarus. I think the issue of Belarus will not leave the agenda. And freedom and good always triumph in the fight against evil.