On the eve of the First of May President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko addressed Belarusian people and the National Assembly with the annual Message. The topical problems, that the country is to solve this year, are specified in it. Here, we quote the part of the President’s speech, in which he talks about the multi-vector foreign policy of Belarus.
Our country occupies a peaceful position, making it the most appropriate venue for recent negotiations. Our activity in the peaceful regulation of events in Ukraine is helping strengthen Belarus’ international status. Most importantly, Americans, Europeans and those in the EU are admitting that Belarus now has one of the most important functions in the region regarding security provision (I’ve met them many times, as has our Foreign Minister). This is the truth and this is fair. It is of principal importance that we strengthen our partners’ perception of Belarus as reliable and stable: of value to the whole world.
We are in favour of the abolition of sanctions and restrictions on international co-operation. Meanwhile, we’re ready to give our shoulder to our neighbour in difficult moments, so we expect a returning respectful attitude from our partners — free from legal nihilism and the pressure of sanctions. Belarus is a reliable link connecting East and West, as is proven by the multi-vector nature of Belarus’ foreign political course, aimed at developing mutually beneficial relations with various countries worldwide.
The strategic goal of Belarusian foreign policy is clear: the creation of an optimal balance of interests between various centres of power and equal interaction with all leading players within the international arena. It’s especially vital that each vector of our foreign policy supplements our partner relations rather than damaging them. Regional economic integration is a key factor in enhancing sustainability for the national economy under unstable global conditions. In this way, we’re building upon our activity within the Eurasian Economic Union.
Our opponents speculate that Belarus will lose its independence through joining this integration structure but such assertions are completely groundless, as is evident. We can’t forget that Belarus’ participation in Eurasian integration processes, as a constituent country, gives us great advantages. We’ve received many economic benefits, although I won’t enumerate them. Of course, our EurAsEC advantages rely upon the strengthening of our enterprises’ competitiveness and their adjustment towards a more open economic market.
When the Treaty was signed, we noted that Belarus would be attentively monitoring the implementation of agreements and the dynamics of change during the transition period. Time has shown the wisdom of our approach. Of course, the removal of barriers to mutual trade and the setting aside of restrictions to the movement of goods and services would be ‘painful’ for any state. Of particular complexity are issues relating to energy resources, transport and financial services (among others). This is true of all existing integration associations, including the European Union. However, our ‘zero-option’ for integration development requires that all changes should be equally applied.
The establishment of a fully-fledged organisation of regional economic integration, boasting international legality, opens up prospects for a new level of interaction with world economic associations. Our common task is to avoid drawing new divisional lines in Europe, rather using our potential for constructive co-operation, for the benefit of our nations.
I believe that, despite the acute geopolitical situation of today, our ‘integration of integrations’ remains relevant and promising. We’ll eventually see real rapprochement between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, and the forming of ‘Big Europe’, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Belarus’ chairing of the Eurasian Economic Union will facilitate the embodiment of this idea.
Russia has been and continues to be our major strategic partner. Our co-operation is developing progressively and dynamically. Belarusian-Russian relations within the Union State are at a high level, such as has never been enjoyed previously by Belarus within another integration association. Our joint production of competitive goods, through the unification of industrial, financial and marketing potential, will strengthen our position on international markets and enable us to worthily compete with third countries. Russia is ready for this.
Further expansion of interaction with Russian regions is an indispensable part of this strategy, as we’ve seen recently through the strengthening of established ties. We can make this collaboration even more successful by implementing joint projects, aiming to set up high-tech production, and by expanding our co-operation in the spheres of industry, transport, construction and agriculture.
I must underline that Belarus and Russia are no strangers, being connected by many centuries of history, as well as by common spiritual values and outlook. Together, we protected our native land from Fascist enslavement; together, we claimed the Great Victory. We’re building our future through joint efforts, while liaising and strengthening our sovereign states.
Much has been spoken of late regarding the ‘Russian world’. As far as I understand, this doesn’t refer to us. We (myself and others) often identify ourselves as ‘Russian people’: we, Russians and Belarusians, are Russian people, as our daily life dictates. I’ve mentioned this to the Russian Ambassador, Alexander Surikov, but he sometimes shrugs his shoulders and doesn’t know what to answer. However, taking into account our good relations, he tolerates my remarks.
I’m sure that around 60 percent of parliamentarians present in this hall have Russian blood, mixed with Belarusian, Polish, Jewish and so on.
We’ve never focused on this and have no intention of doing so in future! We need more people in the country [applause]; our major goal is to raise the population, as we need at least 20 million residents. What benefit would it bring to pursue a strict nationalistic policy, driving out those who were born here or whose parents were born here in Belarus? It would be foolish!
I say this in order to come closer to the major issue, which is being speculated upon not only by liberals in Russia but by some people in the Russian government; they say that Belarus is tilting towards the West. Maybe, someone has gone mad and has tilted somewhere but, while I’m President, I won’t tilt anywhere. I’m not allowed to enter the West. Where should I tilt, having spent more than 20 years as president of this country? It’s nonsense. Throw this idea out of your head, dear Russians and Russian leadership. We are your brothers; we have always been together. However, let us have our own views and impressions of the world. We don’t always publicly express them (in fact, we rarely do). We’ve agreed with the President of Russia on non-publicity of our relations and we are strictly adhering to this principle. If Mr. Putin has a point or remark, he conveys it to me. We discuss problems in a friendly manner. Belarus can have its own attitude and its own point of view.
What role can we play in the Ukrainian war? Is our role or position bad? If I’d acted in the manner recommended to me after Crimea’s joining Russia, would Minsk have become the venue for talks? Never!
The European Union and the USA understand me when I sincerely tell them that, if anything happens, Belarus will stand shoulder to shoulder with Russia: our ally. Let me quote you an example: do you remember the bombing in Iraq? Do you remember how Iraq was bombed and it was claimed that nuclear weapons had been found and Saddam Hussein had been hanged? The entire world knew it was unjust: that the United States of America did the wrong thing. Yet, all Europe and NATO countries backed America because they were allies. Everyone must be told that we have stood with Russia in the past and will always do so.
Belarusians should refrain from idle speculations about some ‘tilt’ or shift in loyalty. We shouldn’t talk in this way. Understand one thing: there are forces in Russia (not only in the liberal opposition) that would very much like to limit the influence of the Belarusian development model and the influence of Alexander Lukashenko on processes within the Russian Federation. There are a lot of such people and they are starting to put pressure on us. Don’t pay attention to them; it will pass.
Some are unhappy that I won’t be present during the parade in Moscow on May 9th, claiming that the decision is prompted by considerations concerning the Presidential elections. What nonsense! I’ve agreed with the Russian leadership that there are only two countries in the world that hold sacred the Great Victory. You may remember that, in the 1990s, Russia was hesitating and refrained from organising parades. Meanwhile, we’ve always had a parade. This is the Great Victory, which we won. We’ve always protected its memory, having lost many people. We’ve agreed that Belarus is going to arrange its own parade and festivities, as in Moscow, in the Russian Federation. It isn’t ‘showing off’ for the President to remain in his country, with his nation, on May 9th: the President should be here.
There is no other president and no one can replace him. We have and will continue to have our own positions and points of view. It’s necessary to understand that we’re a sovereign and independent state. We’re closely connected with Russia and with the Russian people. This is our nation and we are theirs; we are brothers. However, we’d like to live in our own ‘flat’ in this ‘many-storeyed house’. Your ‘flat’ is larger than ours of course. Even the closest friends, brothers and sisters have no desire to live with each other or their parents-in law. They want to have their own corner. If anyone believes, not only in Russia but elsewhere, that they can deprive us of this, they are in error. It will never occur! Never!
We are a sovereign and independent state, not creating problems for anyone. We won’t create these, whoever is president, as it’s more trouble than it’s worth to do so. Excuse for saying this today and responding to this. Some people reproach us for placing road signs in Belarusian language, although this has been the case since Soviet times, being written in Russian and in Belarusian. However, we are now receiving reproaches. We have our native Belarusian language; we see no problem in our two native languages — Russian and Belarusian — standing together. We can write in either.
Some also accuse us, falsely, of banning St. George ribbons. Our young people have suggested a very interesting variant, without insisting that it should be exclusive, which I like very much. It has the colours of our symbols and an apple blossom, symbolising youth and peace. The St. George ribbon still exists, being part of our traditions and our common battle community. We haven’t banned it; we’ve simply invented something new. There is nothing for which to reproach us, as if we were enemies. I always prefer honesty and sincerity in our sovereign and independent state.
Belarus has been closely co-ordinating its foreign policy with Russia, adopting joint plans. These are approved at the highest level, by our Supreme State Council of the Union State, where our two presidents sit beside each other, as do the heads of our two countries. It is a sacred approach we adhere to. However, it’s necessary to understand that Belarus didn’t exist ‘yesterday’. Let’s be honest. Did we want this? Did we break the great country which won that terrible war? Not we. From where did the initiative come? The answer is evident. We know who took the first step. Unfortunately, this has all ended on our land. None present, including me, are guilty.
I will pleasingly note that our country has reached the level of comprehensive strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China. We’re connected by many years of trustworthy relations and we have moved from trade to the implementation of large investment projects in the bilateral co-operation.
The Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park will become a platform for high-tech productions, and direct air flight will be launched between our countries this May.
I’m convinced that the visit of the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, to Belarus will give a new impetus to our comprehensive interaction. Moreover, I repeat again that we’re proud of having such wonderful relations with such giants as Russia, China, and India. The relations with the EU are also improving. We’re keen to activate and bring our collaboration with the EU to a qualitatively new level.
Even against the background of difficult political relations, the EU remains one of major trade-economic partners for Belarus and a source of credit resources and investments. We’re some kind of gates on the way to huge and promising market of the Eurasian Economic Union. Despite the existing disagreements, we haven’t ever put obstacles to the European business.
Moreover, everything that is happening now in the south of Ukraine makes our territory even more important and more precious for Russia, the EU and China in the East, because it remains a calm region (around a 1,000km corridor from the south to the east, from the east to the west and from the south to the north) where people can move by any transport. What else is needed? It’s necessary that peace and quiet reign in Belarus, so we’re conducting an intensive dialogue with the European Union in this respect.
Purposeful work has already started aiming to search for points of coincidence with the United States of America through the implementation of economic projects and it’s already yielding first tangible results. We’ve outlined further concrete steps aiming to enhance the level of trust in the bilateral relations.
The road towards normalisation of relations with the United States of America lies through equal and constructive collaboration, and I’m pleased that America has finally understood this.
We hope that the American side also proceeds from this and will display greater determination and political will in order to remove the existing problems.
The development of mutually beneficial co-operation with the states of Asia, Latin America and Africa and the forming of the ‘far arc’ of the Belarusian foreign policy are principally important directions for us. Co-operation with the countries of these regions will enable us to find additional bearing points, enhancing sustainability of our foreign political and foreign economic positions.
The regions of South, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia also present special importance for Belarus, primarily as capacious and rapidly expanding markets for domestic goods and services and as promising investors into our economy.
In this respect, key Belarusian enterprises need a clear strategy of gaining a foothold on the Asian market, envisaging the establishment of joint manufactures in such countries of the region as Vietnam, Indonesia and India.
We continue our collaboration with Venezuela and Cuba while seeing good potential for the development of relations with Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, where Belarusian goods are popular and enjoy stable demand.
Despite difficulties in establishing co-operation ties with the Latin American region, the promotion of Belarusian interests in the Western Hemisphere is of great importance for our country.
It’s high time to implement large investment projects with the states of the Arabian Peninsula. Maximum favourable atmosphere has been created for this, with corresponding agreements reached with the leadership of the United Arab Emirates. Moreover, Qatar also invests into Belarus and is ready to activate investment interaction.
Oman and Saudi Arabia, with which we have recently established contacts, are also promising partners.
Meanwhile, strengthening of ties and equal collaboration with international organisations, regional associations, unions and separate states is also very vital. The accent here should be made on the attraction of credits and loans, as well as technical and other types of assistance aiming to solve acute problems of economic development.
In the end I’d like to especially underline that alongside our open, multi-vector and peaceful policy we don’t forget about our security. We always need to be watchful. Under current conditions the responsibility of power-wielding agencies and law enforcement structures increases many-fold in ensuring stability and public order in society. International situation requires us to reinforce Belarus’ defence capacity.
You should be calm. Today we have plans in case of escalation of the situation to raise and arm 500,000 Belarusians — enough to resist any plans (even not the attempts!) of aggression against Belarus.
Dear compatriots, dear friends!
The 70th anniversary of the Great Victory, our common Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War, is the most important event this year. Its fateful significance for the Belarusian nation is undeniable. At that time, peace and independence were won and the foundations laid for the development of our state.
The unshakeable pillars of our national self-consciousness are the never-fading glory of our hero-victors and our pride in them. Our commemoration of Victory is our spiritual power, uniting us in our faithful love for our Homeland.
Let’s care for it together, passing a peaceful, free and flourishing country to our children and grandchildren. Let’s preserve unity, quiet and concord in our common home. There can be no other home for us.
I’m convinced that we’ll do all we can to ensure peace, independence and dynamic development for Belarus!