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Belarus Will Join NATO

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Belarus Will Join NATO

Neutrality is not for us.

The presentation of the book “Belarus in NATO”»

How can our region respond to new challenges? What is the role of Belarus in creating a new security architecture in Europe? Leading security experts from NATO countries, Ukraine and Belarus tried to answer these questions in a collection published by the European Belarus Foundation.

ANDREI SANNIKOV

At the presentation of the book, a discussion took place, in which the leader of the European Belarus civil campaign, ex-presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, ex-Minister of Defense of Poland, former Vice-President of the European Parliament Janusz Onyszkiewicz and the famous Russian-American historian Yuri Felshtinsky took part. Natallia Radzina, the Editor-in-Chief of the website Charter97.org, moderated the discussion. She explained what makes the book unique:

— This truly unique, thorough work, which appeared for the first time in the history of modern Belarus, tells us that our country should become a member of NATO. Of course, we are talking about a free Belarus. I am absolutely sure that Belarus will be free. And this will happen very soon. There may be different ways, but Belarus will be free and democratic. And today we need to think about how we will rebuild our country, what kind of Belarus we want to live in.

We must not repeat the mistakes of the 1990s, when Belarus gained independence. Our country has no other way than to join the EU and NATO. This is exactly what the book talks about. Many thanks to Andrei Sannikov, under whose editorship it was published, and to the experts from other countries who, firstly, agreed to write about their path to NATO, and secondly, concluded that Belarus is an integral part of the European space.

Historian Yuri Felshtinsky explained why it is so important for Belarus to join NATO:

— We understand that the security zone today includes countries that have managed to join NATO. Countries that did not manage to join NATO were attacked. Georgia — in 2008, Ukraine — in 2014; in Moldova, which was not attacked because Ukraine defended it, there are Russian troops, and 220 thousand Russian passports were distributed to Moldovan citizens.

The only thing that really saves us from aggression is joining NATO. We are now in a major war that may expand. As a result of this war, the whole world will be rebuilt. I don’t know which countries will join NATO after this war, but I think Belarus will be among them.

YURI FELSHTINSKY

Yuri Felshtinsky expressed the opinion that Belarus is the key to solving problems in our region:

— The liberation of Ukraine, oddly enough, should begin with the liberation of Belarus. The loss of Belarus for Russia will mean that the attempt to seize Ukraine becomes pointless. Even so, as we see, it turned out to be difficult for the Russian Federation, but if Belarus is not controlled, then the war is lost for the Russians.

The historian believes that NATO troops should help liberate Belarus:

— We lost time. As soon as it became known that Russia was transferring nuclear weapons to Belarus, I began to write articles and give interviews about the need for NATO to liberate Belarusian territory on a preventive basis. Because the presence of nuclear weapons in Belarus creates an incredible security risk in Eastern Europe. Even now, frankly speaking, I believe that the entry of NATO troops into Belarus is a matter of paramount importance. In a sense, this is more important than the liberation of Ukraine.

Moreover, when the counter-offensive of the Ukrainian army was planned, I delicately enough, so as not to offend Ukraine, said that it was necessary to concentrate not on ousting Russian troops from the occupied territories, but on forming a Belarusian division based on the Kalinouski regiment and entering Belarus. Again, I believe that the liberation of Belarus strategically changes the situation on the Ukrainian front.

Moreover, unlike Russia, where it is also necessary to change the regime, but this is quite difficult, Belarus is a pure dictatorship. We know this from the results of the 2020 elections, when Belarus protested before the eyes of all humanity. Therefore, regime change in Belarus is a fairly simple operation for NATO.

Former Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz believes that it is strategically important for Warsaw that Belarus joins both NATO and the EU:

— Firstly, from the point of view of history. We feel great closeness with Belarusians. This is our neighbor, we have hundreds of years of common history. We can say that this is a psychological-emotional element. But there is also a strategic element. Belarus in NATO means that the threat no longer hangs over Ukraine. Belarus, as a satellite of Russia, “looms” over Lithuania, simplifying access to the Kaliningrad region, which is a “loaded pistol” aimed at the Polish Three Cities — Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot.

JANUSZ ONYSZKIEWICZ

— Taking this into account, we can say that it is incredibly important for us that Belarus joins NATO. However, this is very difficult, and the plan for joining the Alliance itself is extremely ambitious.

Leader of the European Belarus civil campaign Andrei Sannikov told how Belarus helped Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the Baltic countries join NATO:

— I would like to quote the article by Mr. Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz in the book “Belarus in NATO”: “It is not the army that joins NATO, it is the state, civil society, elites and the entire people that join NATO.” Let's imagine that there is no Lukashenka. What should we do? The answer is obvious — democracy must be protected in a military sense.

ANDREI SANNIKOV

I would like to recall one story. In 1995, I argued with the former adviser to the US President Zbigniew Brzeziński. There was such a magazine “Belarus u svetse”. We spoke out about NATO there. Even then it was clear that the Visegrad Group was moving towards NATO, the Baltic countries also spoke positively about the Alliance, and Lukashenka was in power in Belarus.

The main idea that I expressed in the article was that perhaps Belarus should not be pushed away from this process. The country needs to be drawn into it. It was obvious where Lukashenka was heading, and there would be less security in the region with just such a Belarus. The West could do more to ensure that our country participates in these processes.

What happened? Belarus helped Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the Baltic countries join NATO. Because it was an excellent background to say: “If we are not in NATO, what is happening in Belarus will happen to us. We will fall under Russian influence.”

The politician also responded to supporters of other security concepts for our country:

— There were a lot of discussions on what the security architecture of Belarus should look like. Everyone remembers the Baltic-Black Sea Union. This was a fairly good idea for the 90s, maybe for the early 2000s. However, it was obvious that this would not ensure our security and the development of the country. We talked about neutrality. But people just don't understand that this is a lot of money. This is impossible. Even the richest Sweden just recently decided all the issues regarding joining NATO. But this was the main example of neutrality. Imagine, everything should be yours. Having your own army, your own equipment — this is simply impossible for a country that is small in military terms. Neutrality is not for us.

I believe that the date of February 24, 2022 finally put an end to the question of where Belarus should be. This must be connected with the victory of Ukraine, the security of Ukraine and with independence, freedom and democracy in Belarus. That's why there are two flags on the cover of the book. Belarusian and Ukrainian. The independence of Belarus and Ukraine, Ukraine and Belarus in NATO are important for Europe.

Then it was time for questions from the audience. The panellists were asked what NATO's response would be to an attack from Belarusian territory on the Suwałki Gap. In this case, will the Alliance troops enter the territory of our country?

Former Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz believes that NATO’s response will be immediate:

— And this does not mean that all military operations will take place in the Suwalki Gap. Americans remember the Vietnam War very well, when they felt like “a boxer with his hand tied behind his back.” Therefore, they began to attack targets not only in Vietnam, but also in Laos and Cambodia. I believe that the answer will, of course, not be about Moscow, but NATO troops can enter the territory of Belarus and Russia.

Yuri Felshtinsky expressed the opinion that such an attack would mean that Russia would lose Kaliningrad:

— When I hear about the threat of breaking through the Suwałki Gap, a smile appears on my face, despite the tragedy of the situation. Hitler, as we know, demanded that Poland pass to Danzig. But even Hitler did not have the stupid idea to break through a corridor to Danzig. Because nothing more stupid than breaking through a corridor along the border of Poland and Lithuania can be imagined. Any corridor is easily cut, any column breaking through the corridor is easily destroyed. This is an idiotic plan and the last thing I'm afraid of.

In a way, I would even like this attempt to be made, since it will put everything in its place. In particular, Russia will lose Kaliningrad.

The result of this war will be that Russia will disintegrate. I am not one of those people who believe that the Urals will be separate, the Voronezh region will be separate, but on the basis of nationality some parts will disappear. First of all, Chechnya. I believe that the result of this war should be a revision of the status of Kaliningrad, the Kuril Islands should go to Japan, and so on. The war that Putin started will have great consequences for Russia.

Is NATO today really an organization capable of protecting? Will the US come to the aid of Europe if Russian aggression begins during Donald Trump's presidency? Janusz Onyszkiewicz sees problems in the Alliance, but considers it still effective:

— It is true that NATO countries have lost a lot in the last 20 years due to the reformatting from an army that must defend territory to an army that carries out military missions in Africa and the Middle East. The main example is three countries that are very important for NATO. These are France, Great Britain and Germany. Before 1989, each of these countries had several thousand tanks. Now these countries have fewer tanks than Poland, since tanks are not needed for military missions in Africa. We need armored personnel carriers.

Now there is a big process of restructuring the military forces. This is a huge program with the production of ammunition. Previously, it seemed that all the wars that took place took a short period of time. The Israeli-Arab wars were very short. The first was six days, the second was two weeks. Both wars in Iraq were very short. The active phase of the first war was 100 hours, the second was two weeks, but only because of a sandstorm, which complicated the movement of troops. And that's it, it's over. Wars could be won not by mobilizing military production, but by what was in warehouses.

Now the Germans are building a new Rheinmetall factory, the European Union is allocating huge amounts of money for armaments. Everything changes. Democracies react rather slowly, unlike autocracies.

If we talk about the United States, I will remind you that we were all afraid of Trump’s first presidency. Even then he said approximately the same things as now. However, his policies were not so bad. Someone said that Wagner's music is much better than what we hear. Therefore, American policy during the Trump era was much better than what we heard from him. Let me remind you that Trump gave Ukraine Javelins and brought more American troops into Poland. Will all this happen a second time? Am I afraid of a Trump presidency? Yes, I'm afraid. However, one extravagant president cannot influence the situation in the United States.

Why is Sviatlana Tsikhanovskaya’s “cabinet”, instead of talking about Belarus joining NATO, engaged in “developing a road map for joining the Council of Europe”? This question was asked by the coordinator of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Dzmitry Bandarenka. Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Andrei Sannikov said that accession to the Council of Europe does not require a “road map”:

DZMITRY BANDARENKA

— After democratic reforms, you can join this organization within a few months. Azerbaijan and Russia were members of the Council of Europe. It's not a question. When the country is democratic, this is not a problem. And the only country that has not been admitted to the Council of Europe is Belarus. I see that there is a lack of competence in the “office”. Just like the story with the “passport of the new Belarus”. Lies everywhere.

VIACHASLAU BAROK

The question is different. In our region, everything can happen quite quickly. You need to prepare to make important decisions. We, the European Belarus, constantly propose that Belarus join the European Union and NATO.

Father Viachaslau Barok asked a philosophical question — what should happen first: Belarus should join NATO or NATO troops should come to Belarus so that peace reigns in Europe. Andrei Sannikov believes that the scenarios can be different:

— The main thing is that we are in Europe, where the Kremlin does not allow us, using Lukashenka. So that our independence is ensured. In the book, some experts express the opinion that without Belarus’ membership in NATO and the European Union there will be no independence. And the Alliance will guarantee peace. NATO is the only military organization that guarantees democracy, development and human rights on the territory of its member countries. Only such a guarantee of peace can exist in Belarus and in Europe. And the role of Belarus in the security of the region is colossal.

YURI FELSHTINSKY
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