Good friends, reliable partners
[b]Belarus has active diplomatic relations with Venezuela, Ukraine, Vietnam, Brazil, Poland, Iran, Italy and Lithuania — among others. Contacts at all levels are strengthening, characterised by geographical and political diversity. Moreover, our diplomacy reaches beyond courtesy; Belarus is bound to partners in the East and West, in the Asian-Pacific Region and Latin America, undertaking major projects[/b]Sadly, rather than looking at the essence of these ties, politicos sometimes invent conspiracy theories regarding with whom (and against whom) President Lukashenko is allying himself. Sadly, some Russian media outlets seem to feel envious, haughtily stressing that Belarus cannot adhere to a multi-vector policy. They argue that it has only two vectors — Western and Russian — which is their great conceptual mistake.
Sadly, rather than looking at the essence of these ties, politicos sometimes invent conspiracy theories regarding with whom (and against whom) President Lukashenko is allying himself. Sadly, some Russian media outlets seem to feel envious, haughtily stressing that Belarus cannot adhere to a multi-vector policy. They argue that it has only two vectors — Western and Russian — which is their great conceptual mistake.
Whenever Belarus launches a major project with its new partners — such as the mining and transportation of Venezuelan oil to Europe — Moscow’s newspapers zealously announce a change to our foreign policy. Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s Press Secretary Andrei Savinykh tells us, “This idea of wavering foreign policy is all in journalists’ minds. They like to create a sensation, so they try to fabricate a story from a quite logical process. Belarus has never changed its direction to the prejudice of its old avenue. This has never happened. Our notion of a multi-vector policy presupposes that new directions be given equal footing with existing partnerships — not priority. We won’t ignore traditional relationships. No shift is taking place. There is no prejudice against the traditional ties of Belarus. Rather, we are seeing the normal development of our foreign political contacts.”
Sharing one boat
The intensification of contacts with Venezuela is our brightest example. The topic has received much cover recently, with our publication analysing our two states’ joint projects. There is no need to repeat already announced targets on the expansion and diversification of our market but the geopolitical aspect should receive attention. Belarus’ multi-vector policy is not only a condition for achieving our country’s foreign political interests. Rather, it is vital to all European interests.
All paths connected with the diversification of oil flow to Europe are being seriously considered by European states, however fantastical they might seem. In fact, 4m tonnes of oil are coming to Belarus initially, with the figure rising to 10m tonnes next year — destined for the European market. It is no fantasy. Some people note that Russia’s Vladimir Putin has also agreed the development of the largest oil deposit in the world — Hunin-6 — with Mr. Chбvez, following President Lukashenko’s example. Of course, his agreement will be much larger, with the aim of supplying Europe. Nevertheless, the European Union is keen to move away from dependence on Russian fuel and Mr. Putin’s agreements are viewed by Europeans with scepticism. They see Belarus’ establishment of an oil bridge between the South American and Eurasian continents in a different light. It is a geopolitical issue, proceeding from the division of states into oil suppliers, consumers and transiters. In this respect, Belarus shares the same boat as Eastern and Central Europe.
However, Mr. Savinykh stresses that Russia remains our strategic partner, without doubt. “Moreover, I’d like to stress, as ever, that co-operation with other regions, countries and state establishments will never contradict our relations with Russia. This is the only case for which we make such a proviso; it testifies to the depth and significance of this relationship.”
Mr. Lukashenko’s meeting with Brazil’s President, Lula da Silva, is of special interest regarding new political and economic unions within the international arena. The strategy recently announced by President Obama presupposes the renewal of diplomacy and international development in this country, based on joint actions and new unions. Of course, this principle was invented not by the USA. Latin America — demonstrating rapid economic growth — is pursuing active inter-continental ties, with leaders united by shared aims. They are demonstrating solidarity while searching for reliable partners on other continents. Brazil is a leading country in South America, actively pursuing this policy. The meeting of our presidents can be viewed against this fact, as the Belarusian Foreign Minister, Mr. Martynov, notes. He emphasises that ‘not only a new page in Belarus-Latin American relations has opened but also a new direction of co-operation with a principally important country in the region and the whole global economy’.
Belarus has only a minor role in the geopolitical puzzle being played by the two major economic centres of the world: Northern-American NAFTA and the European Union. Both are vying for their share of the Latin American market. This ‘puzzle’ suits well the general picture of European-Latin Ame-rican mutual interest and matches the emerging trend…
However, small and medium-sized states — like Belarus — are steadily gaining more significance in the global arena, as confirmed by the appearance of the G-20. Unlike the G-7, the G-20 is a centre for global decision making. Looking closely at these twenty leading states, we may notice that many are ‘Mr. Lukashenko’s friends’, as journalists often call them. Of course, it’s no accident.
Twenty years ago, Belarus adopted its Declaration of Sovereignty, with our state always having pursued a multi-vector direction. We are sovereign in deed as well as in word, as the President often asserts. Even during times of the closest relations with Russia, our country never failed to keep its eye on a wider arc of interest: in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In recent years, Belarus has activated contacts with Venezuela, India, Iran, China, Cuba and the UAE — all key players in the global economy.
The fact that Belarus has achieved a level of strategic partnership with giant China is worth attention. It’s often called a global leader and, pleasingly, we boast healthy trade and investment relations. Meanwhile, top level contacts have led to mutual political trust. In 2005, Chairman Hu Jintao and Mr. Lukashenko signed a joint declaration stipulating a shift in Belarusian-Chinese relations — to the pursuit of dedicated collaboration and strategic interaction. In 2007, the Prime Minister of the State Council, Wen Jiabao, visited Belarus and practical co-operation between our counties was agreed. In August 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, our heads of state outlined major areas of bilateral relations. Our countries support each other in issues of shared interest and successfully protect our common position. China and Belarus are good friends and reliable partners — as confirmed by the recent visit of the Deputy Chairman of China, Xi Jinping, to Minsk. He confirmed China’s desire to invest the equivalent of billions of US dollars in Belarus.
In search of promising partners, Belarus has been acting in many directions, with multi-faceted formats. We are liaising with the UN European Economic Commission, with the EurAsEC and with the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. Even joining the Non-Aligned Movement has become a farsighted step for Minsk, ensuring a high level of political interaction with the growing economies of the world. These political contacts have opened doors to beneficial economic contracts.
Irrespective of the number of vectors, Belarus advocates balanced relations with the East and the West. Time has confirmed the appropriateness of our foreign policy, which relies on a multi-vector approach, pragmatism and consistency. As a result, Belarus has a wide reach around the world. It is seriously represented in the global economy, trading with over 160 countries — a unique example. The level of our economy’s openness is among the highest in the world, as we export up to 60 percent of our manufactures. This is a serious figure, which dictates a corresponding foreign policy.
By Nina Romanova