The Union of Russia and Belarus: New Phase of Cooperation in Foreign Policy

Дата публикации: 29 апреля 2014
Автор(ы): Vladimir Konobeyev, M.A., Acting Head of the Foreign Policy Directorate, Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Источник: (c) http://portalus.ru
Номер публикации: №1398767031

Vladimir Konobeyev, M.A., Acting Head of the Foreign Policy Directorate, Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus, (c)

The emergence of a new inter-state entity in the in ternational arena-the Union of Russia and Belarus-is both a routine and significant event.

This is routine because it is one of several regional entities that have emerged lately. The Union was established in accordance with international legal practice adopted by the world community. This is a significant event: six years after the dissolution of the USSR, for the first time in the post-Soviet space, an inter-state union was formed on a completely new civilised basis.

This inter-state union is established by Belarus and Russia, natural allies in every respect. Belarus is destined (in the best meaning of this word, because it is its historic destiny) to the Union with Russia. It corresponds with Belarus' national interests. This Union is as natural as the union of Belgium and Germany, or Holland and Germany.

New Cooperative Mechanism

Undoubtedly, the creation and functioning of such a union is a new experience, requiring a totally new cooperative mechanism for the two participating states. Certainly, one can say that the signing of the Union Treaty and the Union Charter is only the beginning of huge and thorough work over the realisation of principles, provisions, and approaches (including those related to the area of foreign policy) laid out in these documents.

In addition to the completely new cooperative mechanism of the two allies, political environment of their cooperation in the world and in Europe, mostly unfavourable, is also completely new for Russia and Belarus. In this regard, tremendous intellectual efforts will be required to work out an adequate foreign policy strategy and tactics concerning the most important and principal international issues. By so doing, it is important to take into account a possible and natural divergence of the interests of allies who differ in size, for example, with regard to Europe.

Article 8 of the Charter reflects, to a certain extent, the mechanism for taking into account interests which could be different for the allies. This article deals with the goal of "working out common positions on the international issues of mutual interest." Such an approach envisages the possibility of Belarus and Russia conducting an independent foreign policy. This relates to matters which are not of mutual interest, in particular, to specific interests of Belarus and Russia in different regions. This approach makes it possible to exclude the possibility of drawing one of the allies into the actions of another ally who is protecting its own specific interests.

At the same time, the Union of Russia and Belarus is associated with a rather wide spectrum of mutual commitments and obligations in the area of safeguarding the Union's security. These commitments and obligations are laid out in the Union Treaty and the Union Charter:

-appropriate joint measures to prevent the threat to sovereignty and independence of each participating state of the Union, should the need arise,

-coordination of activities of the participating states in the area of defence policy, development of the armed forces, joint use of the military infrastructure and other measures with regard to the interests of the participating states of the Union in order to enhance both the defence capability of each state and the defensive potential of the Union as a whole,

-the drafting and placement of joint defence procurement orders, and providing on its basis supplies of armaments and equipment, the creation of a joint system of materiel maintenance for the armed forces of the participating states of the Union,

-the implementation of a coordinated border policy, working out and implementing joint programmes on border issues, organising the coordination of command and control bodies of the border troops of the member states of the Union in order to provide for protection of borders of the Union,

-combatting corruption, terrorism and other types of crime.

Currently, the foreign offices of both Russia and Belarus have a programme for coordinated actions in the area of foreign policy for a period of two years, adopted by the highest body of the Union. This programme envisages a broad range of cooperative activities of states and their foreign ministries, in particular, in Europe relating to all European organisations and security structures- the OSCE, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Central-European Initiative and so on.

The perception of the cooperation of the two sovereign states in the international arena on the part of the European states and international organisations is quite controversial. Stereotypes typical for the perception of the USSR were inherited and prevail for Russia. Especially these perceptions concern so called "imperial" schemes and designs of the new Russia.

For Belarus its integration into the world system of international relations and European organisations as a sovereign entity of international law has been marked with principal and consistent safeguarding of Belarus' national interests, self-determination and a definite selection of its strategic ally. In this process, the national interests of Belarus, a new sovereign state, conflict with the national interests of the other states of Europe, their unions, and other regional European organisations. Therefore, it is only natural that the process of Belarus' integration into the system of established relations in Europe is proceeding with certain difficulties.

Many European regional organisations and their leaders, which establish "the rules of game," do not like Belarus' principle based foreign policy course and its way of consistently defending its vital interests. Consequently, the European regional organisations, disliking Belarus' foreign policy course which does not agree with their strategic plans, exercise strong pressure on this country. The pressure is exercised to the verge of interference into the Belarus' internal affairs.

The evolution of the current military-political situation in Europe, and in the world as a whole, reflects the formation of a new world order. However, this new world order is actually not based upon security equal for all: security has not yet become truly indivisible; in practice, not all states accept the inadmissibility of strengthening their own security at the expense of interests of the other states; and not all gave up the idea of establishing zones of influence.

In this regard, one can draw the conclusion that, unfortunately, the ideas of the 1990 Paris Charter for a New Europe have not been realised. Gradual rapprochement of the eastern and western parts of the continent has not happened to the anticipated extent.

Security for the Europe of the XXIst Century

Particularly significant in the Belarusian-Russian relations are consultations held on a regular basis to elaborate and advance common approaches towards a universal and comprehensive security for Europe in the XXIst century, to address the OSCE issues and NATO's eastward enlargement. Belarus and Russia share an understanding of the potential threat of NATO's expansion.

NATO's eastward enlargement, drawing this bloc's military infrastructure towards the borders of the Union, plans for further expansion of the Alliance by accepting our former allies in the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and the newly independent states-all these constitute a serious integrated and, more importantly, long-term threat to the interests of Belarus and Russia. To ignore this potential danger would be a big mistake.

In essence, with NATO expansion Belarus and Russia are pushed into political isolation. However, it damages the national security of not only these two countries. The regional and global negative consequences of this poorly thought out move are of very serious concern.

This threat is linked, first of all, with a possible violation of the strategic balance which was achieved over many years; secondly, with the undermining of the established system of arms control, which is practically the only basis for an all-European and global system of security and stability. Lastly, there is a real danger of the emergence of new dividing lines in Europe, now being moved to the East. It would mean that in the XXIst century Europe will be divided into

NATO members and non-members with an inevitable confrontation along the new lines.

The main principles for the new model of European security, supported by Belarus and Russia, should include the following components:

-common understanding of the inadmissibility of attempts to strengthen one's own security at the expense of security of others,

-agreement concerning mandatory respect for the lawful security interests of states which are not members of the military-political alliances,

-cooperation among the international organisations and structures dealing with security matters,

-inadmissibility of claims for domination by any organisation, state or a group of states.

The renewal of conceptual basis for the all-European process and making its decisions legally binding; the beginning of the development of a new Charter on European Security; assigning to the OSCE the role of coordinator of all European and Atlantic organisations; starting a new phase of the enhancement of military security in Europe with the modernisation of the CFE Treaty; enhancement of the all European peacekeeping potential-all these can become the main components of the new vision of European security.

The emphasis should be placed upon excluding the formation of new dividing lines in Europe related to the expansion of NATO. In place of such lines a stable zone of regional trade, economic and socio-cultural cooperation should be established. This approach corresponds with the level of the Europe's civilisation of the XXIst century.

Belarus has a special opportunity to make its own contribution towards implementation of such an approach. This opportunity can be realised with the good will on the part of the neighbouring states-Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The issue of expanding and strengthening regional economic cooperation with these countries is becoming particularly important for European security.

The development of good neighbourly relations and traditional economic ties, as well as strengthening regional economic cooperation can become a guarantee of non-emergence of rigid dividing lines in the Europe of the XXIst century, even despite the formation of a border between NATO members and non-members. Under these circumstances the common border would be a line of contact among close neighbours who have been living together for centuries, sometimes within the same state-long ago and recently, rather than line of confrontation between the member states of the opposing military-political blocs.

One can suggest that Belarus would be able to secure its specific national interests in its relations with these countries and, when doing so, will find understanding and support from its privileged ally-the new Russia.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 29 апреля 2014 года

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