By Oleg Slavinsky
Myths abound about Belarus, so it was important for the experts to see the truth with their own eyes, forming their own opinion. The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, met the analysts, passing on a clear message: Minsk is ready to normalise relations with Washington. “We’ll respond to a respectful attitude with enthusiasm. Most importantly, we want to be seen as a partner. Putting aside stereotypes and narrow-mindedness, we can solve the most complicated problems via mutually respectful dialogue,” he stressed.
The sentiments are hardly new: Minsk has been signalling the necessity to turn a page in our bilateral relations, starting anew, for some time. The message gained an airing during the Astana meeting of the US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and Belarus’ Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov.
Recently, the US Charge d’Affaires in Minsk, Michael Scanlan, gathered journalists to explain the essence of the joint Belarusian-American announcement. Its text is exact — even without Mr. Scanlan’s explanation; the essence is simple. Belarus has pledged to liquidate all its stocks of highly enriched uranium. The USA, in turn, has announced its support for Belarus’ building of a nuclear power station. “We highly appreciate this move from the American side,” said the Belarusian President. Simultaneously, our two parties confirmed that ‘demonstrations of great respect for democracy and human rights remain of primary importance for the improvement of bilateral relations...’
Ariel Cohen, of the Heritage Foundation, is well-known as a specialist regarding the post-Soviet space and believes Belarus is at a turning point. He sees a wonderful time approaching for the Belarusian foreign policy to ‘spread its second wing’. Minsk is now trying to conduct a multi-vector policy, approaching each global centre of power equally: the EU, China, Russia and the USA. Another participant of the meeting, Janusz Bugajski, Programme Director at the Centre of Strategic and International Studies, explains that the visit to Minsk primarily focused on gaining acquaintance with modern Belarus, ‘seeing how the announced equal focus on various centres of power is being shifted towards practical application’.
Mr. Lukashenko expressed his assurance that, on thorough analysis, the American experts should see how many of Washington’s interests coincide with those of Minsk. “Being a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, we are rendering all assistance in our power to solving the Afghan problem, providing our infrastructure for NATO cargo transit shipment,” he noted.
On meeting the American analysts in Minsk, Mr. Lukashenko was given a letter from the former Senator, Sam Nunn — a landmark figure in the American establishment. His words of gratitude to the President for leading nuclear non-proliferation showed that Washington appreciates Minsk’s efforts.