Lukashenko flirts with NATO

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On Thursday Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus is open to a constructive dialogue with NATO. For many years "Batska" has been smartly maneuvering between Russia and the West using contradictions in his own interests, but up to now the North Atlantic Alliance has obviously been his enemy. The crisis in relations between Russia and Ukraine allowed him to obtain a new status, so such statements are necessary to strengthen his position.

In his speech in front of the Belorussian army commanders on Thursday Alexander Lukashenko made it clear that the concept of the Belorussian military has radically changed - now the authorities "keep in mind" the possibility of Russian invasion and they are ready to cooperate even with NATO in order to preserve independence.

Lukashenko hasn`t expressly stated that he fears a "hybrid" war by Russia as it happened in Ukraine and put it vaguely: "forming of the armed forces in present-day conditions".

"We should be able to prepare our armed forces, especially our army, for responding to the situation that, God forbid, may happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow. Conditions change, not dramatically though, but we can see what's going on in the so-called theater of war, there are a lot of conflicts. We are studying them and, of course, we can not but respond to them, given the current situation", said Lukashenko.

The Belorussian President made such statements before, but there is another surprising thing.

Earlier Lukashenko called NATO a "monster crawling to the borders of Belarus", but now he said that Minsk is open to a constructive dialogue with the Alliance based on the principles of parity and transparency.

"As a sovereign state we are also open to a constructive dialogue with NATO based on the principles of parity and transparency. We have many common issues to collaborate on that meet the interests of Belarus", said Lukashenko.

He also made a curtsy to Russia: "Of course, we would like to keep cooperating with brotherly Russia securing our interests in the sovereignty and independence of Belarus at the same time..."

"There is no need in explaining anything here. He says it all the time: open to dialogue with everybody", - says the Belorussian political analyst Alexander Feduta.

Recently Lukashenko has reminded: trade turnover of Belarus with the EU is even bigger than with Russia, the country pursues a "multi-vector" foreign policy and although participating in the Eurasian integration the official Minsk has no plans to limit contacts with Brussels and Washington.

"Such Lukashenko`s statement first of all demonstrates his uncertainty about the army.

And he has nothing to do but cooperate with Europe. Even if he is afraid of Europe - said the Belorussian politician and candidate for presidency in 2006 Alexander Milinkevich to "Gazeta.ru".

Because Lukashenko understands: at the moment a threat is created by Moscow rather than by Brussels or Berlin. But he can not put it straight. It is no secret that we had cooperation with NATO before and now it should be further strengthened".

According to the professor of the European University in St. Petersburg Gregory Golosov, Lukashenko has only benefited from the deteriorated relations between Russia and Ukraine: he has significantly improved relations with the West which is proved by the visit of Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande to Minsk.

"Lukashenko has become a mediator between the West and Russia. Of course, he has a lot more freedom than he used to have and the Kremlin has nothing to do with it".

According to Golosov, the Russian authorities have far less freedom in comparison with Lukashenko than they used to have. "Previously the Kremlin had good, even favoured relations with the West, it had a lot of allies.

Now the situation has changed: there are relatively few countries that maintain good relations with Russia and Belarus among other things is an important country because the Eurasian Economic Union won`t exist without Belarus. This allows Lukashenko to have more freedom than before", - says the analyst.

According to the analyst, the recent statements by the Belorussian president were made to secure his new status, to stress that "Belarus has a new position in the new world too, and this can be done by pointing that he has more freedom in choosing allies".

There`s still a long way to establish real cooperation between Belarus and NATO but the foundation is already laid. In November 2013 the NATO headquarters held the joint staff exercise with the participation of the Belorussian military - they practiced different ways of responding to possible emergency situations. They also discussed the issues of practical cooperation with the alliance in the field of prevention and liquidation of emergency situations in the future.

Belorussian military men are being prepared to participate in joint operations and exercise with the NATO units. So, in June 2014 the experts of the Alliance held a seminar for the Belorussian peacemakers.

In 2004 Belarus opened its airspace to planes carrying the NATO`s troops and equipment to Afghanistan. Five years later the country joined the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) - a set of rail, air and overland supply routes for the military mission in Afghanistan, and on April 23,2013 a supplementary agreement was signed to allow transit of the NATO armor through the territory of Belarus (without arms and ammunition).

Text and pictures by GAZETA.RU