Denis Mielyantsov: “NATO is not a “monster” for Belarus”
This year the first NATO maneuvers are going to take place in the Baltic air space on March 17-20. Is NATO still a “menacing military monster” for Belarus? How do Belarusians see the North Atlantic alliance and what are the relations of Belarus and NATO today? The reporter of Euramost.org is talking on this topic to the analyst of Belarusian institute of strategic researches Denis MIELYANTSOV.
As we know, military forces of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, France and USA will take part in the Baltic maneuvers and these maneuvers will be a beginning of a system of suchlike events on the Baltic and other countries’ territories. They say that Baltic countries seriously thought about organizing such maneuvers after August 2008 events in Georgia and also Russian-Belarusian maneuvers “West-2009” the last year’s summer and autumn, in which almost ten thousand military men took part. In March on the territory of Baltic countries the maneuvers will be not so wide-spread, - says Denis Mielyantsov. – There will be training flying – the first form the series of these events. The most massive maneuvers will take place in summer and there will be training in discharging of NATO ship. So far, everything is quite limited and, in my point of view, we can’t talk about retaliation measures to maneuvers “West – 2009”, which were much more massive. And I think it will be treated here quite peacefully. There is no such intensity of emotions in anti-NATO propaganda as it was in the beginning of the 90s and in the beginning of the 2000s, because Belarusian government doesn’t need it now. They don’t need to hypercharge the situation. Nevertheless, NATO is a military-political bloc and it criticizes Belarusian authorities for being not democratic rarely, if compare to American authorities or European Union. And it means that it has no sense to make a backlash. Moreover we have a quite high level of technical cooperation with NATO. In 2004 Belarus became a member of assessment planning of NATO forces program; we are a member of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council governed by NATO. Belarusian-NATO programs of interrelations are being accepted, since 2005 we’ve been taking part in maneuvers guided by NATO. It’s profitable for Belarusian government and military forces to participate in such programs; that’s why we don’t see NATO being critisesed much. But if we look at official documents and military policy, in these documents there is a certain position that NATO is still an enemy. At the maneuvres “West-2009” an imaginary attack of the enemy from the west was practiced. – And how does Belarusian society treat NATO? Have it also changed it’s opinion? – Honestly, I haven't seen any polls concerning this question for a long time. But mu point of view is that lately we see a positive pro-Western politics. And, of course, it’s also connected with NATO. Now, there is no need for Belarusian state to worsen the relations with western side in a global sense including NATO. There is a realization that if the relations with Russia wouldn’t be built, we would have to look for a support at the West. And we would have to build more close relations with NATO bloc which finances many projects in Belarus now. – Is the Collective Security Treaty an alternative to NATO? – It’s quite a different thing – you can’t compare CSTO and NATO. CSTO is a kind of organization that if, for example, somebody attacks Kirgizstan, neither Belarus, nor any other participant of this treaty will send their troops to protect the territory of that state. But NATO has dynamic response forces, it has a proper and wide system of financing, military equipment and almost all standards are unified between NATO countries. It means that if CSTO is going to be a NATO analog it has to work hard for a long time. – Will the participation of Belarus in NATO programs continue? – Of course, it will. Every two years a program of planned events is being accepted. According to the last program approximately 100 events are going to take place collectively starting from teaching Belarusian military men English and military terminology on NATO bases. Conferences, planned visits for monitoring of situations in the frame work of trust measures take place… So, NATO is not a “monster” for Belarus.