Minsk is ready to swap its union friendship with Moscow for stable relationship with the West. Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko is apparently willing to make the Western countries acknowledge the legitimacy of his own regime, both in present and future. Lukashenko has recently declared his intention to run for presidency for the fourth time in a row.
During his recent interview with Reuters Lukashenko said that it was a mistake for him to take a pro-Russian stand. The president of Belarus set out a wish to have more friends in the West. “I acknowledge the mistake in our foreign policy. It was aimed at one direction only – Russia. We have virtually lost the West. We were standing on only one leg although we must stand on both legs,” Lukashenko said.
The fuel conflict which took place between Russia and Belarus in the beginning of the current year has changed Belarus’ attitude to Russia in an instant. Lukashenko has repeatedly promised to improve international relations with the West and never missed a chance to criticize Moscow. Lukashenko’s statements against Russia have been getting more and more emotional recently. “Russia has categorized itself as one of the leading countries on the globe without any particular reasons for it. Russian interests are present in almost every part of the world. Russia’s foreign policy is becoming more similar to that of the USA: some sort of imperial ambition has appeared,” Alexander Lukashenko stated.
Lukashenko also said that Belarus was suffering up to five billion dollars of losses because of the growing prices on Russian natural gas and the introduction of oil shipment duty. The president of Belarus promised to charge Russia for “transit, military cooperation and 1,500 kilometers of customs border.” Alexander Lukashenko believes that Belarus is not going to lose: “The number is about five billion dollars, not less than that. We will return what we lost, and we will do it quietly, like it normally happens under market conditions,” said he. The head of Belarus suggested an alternative variant to Moscow too: Lukashenko is ready to decline all claims against Russia if the Russian administration acts similarly on its own part too.
Lukashenko’s attempt to stand up firmly on both legs may fail if the West does not weaken the political pressure on the Belarussian authorities. When Alexander Lukashenko won the presidential election in Belarus in 1994, the USA and the EU repeatedly criticized the Belarussian administration for the lack of democratic and market reforms. Washington and Brussels did not recognize the results of the presidential election in 2006 and imposed a travel ban on Belarus’ top officials, including the president himself. “All claims against Belarus were basically about the destruction of the political system in Belarus. Secondly, the West implies that the incumbent president of Belarus is staying on his position illegitimately and therefore must step down. What kind of right does the West have to set forth such a requirement?” Lukashenko stated.
When asked about his intention to run for presidency again in 2011, Lukashenko (52) replied: “If the election took place tomorrow I would take part in it. However, the event is going to happen in four years. I hope that God helps me keep the promises I gave to the people of Belarus. If I succeed, if I still remain full of energy and in a good physical condition, then I am not going to give up the political struggle,” Lukashenko said.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov