“When two brothers are fighting, the third is to reconcile them”, — said the Minister of foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makei, referring to Russia and Ukraine, the two neighboring Slavic countries, between which there is a conflict due to wishing to secede from Ukraine Donetsk and Lugansk regions and the annexation of Crimea. “We couldn’t stay away,” said Mackay in an interview with El País in Minsk, adding that Belarus is preparing “new ideas” to break the deadlock on the Minsk process which is under the auspices of the OSCE participating Germany, Russia, France and Ukraine, as well as representatives of the breakaway republics.
“We are extremely interested in the peace process in Ukraine is developing dynamically. Instigating conflict, in addition to economic losses, also creates the danger of war,” warns Mackey, who from 2008 to 2012, he headed the administration of President Alexander Lukashenko. “We have with Ukraine more than a thousand kilometers of common border, which creates a threat of weapons smuggling and illegal migration. The President of Belarus has taken a number of initiatives, but not all received support,” explains the Minister. “Some confidential proposals have not received a response,”says Mackay, referring to those which Lukashenko gave to the European Union through Donald Tusk, when he was Prime Minister of Poland.
Lukashenko wanted to play a more active role mediating in the conflict with “a more resolute stance” but at the time, “the role of Belarus was unacceptable to our Western partners due to the sanctions and its negative image,” – said Mackay. Subsequently, Lukashenka suggested that Belarus took upon itself the main responsibility for “strict control” on the Russian-Ukrainian border. “This idea is not accepted, none of the parties,” – said the Minister, according to which Belarusian border mission could be implemented when “our forces or involving others.”
When, on 12 February 2015 was signed in Minsk agreement, they seemed “acceptable to all, but then, when the participants left for their homes,” discord began, “it is difficult to say who is right. The objective mechanism that would allow precise control over the degree of joint implementation of those agreements or those which can be achieved in the future, and, in case of problematic situation, to take measures for its settlement. With this purpose it is necessary to convene another meeting, no matter where, possibly with the involvement of other players such as the European Union and the United States, which require the parties to come to a specific agreement and execute it,” said the Minister, without going into detail and adding that the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis will soon discuss in Kiev, Lukashenko and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko.
After the presidential elections in 2015 in Belarus, passed without violence, the relations between this country and the European Union have improved. Brussels lifted sanctions against 170 citizens of Belarus, including the President, were resumed dialogue on human rights with Minsk. From spring onwards, EU citizens can enjoy visa-free travel to Belarus with a duration of up to five days. Now consider the possibility of increasing this period.
“The Western community is changing the view of Belarus,” – said Mackay. The country is now “is a qualitatively different situation.” In terms of foreign policy this situation is characterized by “a deterioration of relations and contradictions between the two most close to us Slavic peoples.” In the political — “the positive changes that have allowed us to reach a higher level of relations with the European Union. Our independence has been strengthened through our efforts on the development of trade and humanitarian relations with European and American partners,” he says. From 7 to 9 July in Minsk hosted a session of the OSCE parliamentary Assembly, which adopted resolution condemning Russian policy in Ukraine.
Belarus has a lot of business cards: she is a member of the Union state; together with Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan included in the Eurasian economic community; involved with NATO program “Partnership for peace” and with the EU in “Eastern partnership”. Together with Russia and other former Soviet republics is a member of the CSTO and at the same time is in the non-aligned Movement. According to the Minister, the Eastern partnership and the Eurasian economic community “is compatible, and, moreover, we would like to between EurAsEC and the European Union have established a closer relationship”. According to Mackay, the convergence of the “necessary and sooner or later it will happen.” “If it is not happening now, it is because of the crisis in Ukraine, the level of distrust between East and West is huge.”
“We do not seek to join the EU, but want to work more actively in the integration structures in the post-Soviet space, such as EurAsEC, and to develop closer economic cooperation with the European Union, because it strengthens our economy, which in turn will strengthen our sovereignty and political independence,” — said the head of the diplomatic Department. “We have no intention to harm relations with Russia, as it is our ally and main partner, but we wish our economy was more diversified,” said Mackay. The share of Russia accounts for almost 52% of the total trade turnover of Belarus. In second place is the EU, which accounts for 22.5% of Belarusian trade.
Russia has in Belarus two military facilities inherited from the USSR (radar station in Gantsevichi and the center for marine communication not far from Vileika). In 2016, Moscow wished to expand its group of the air force, but he didn’t give permission. “The deployment of new military contingents would strengthen stability and security in the region, therefore we are categorically against the deployment of NATO weapons in the Baltic States and Poland. Because it forces the other side to retaliate and causes an increase in the number of arms, as during the cold war.” On the other hand, “another foreign military base in Belarus does not make sense, because modern weapons allows Russia as to respond quickly to the situation from their territory. We don’t want to be another source of tension in our region”.
The West is concerned about the joint military exercise, which Belarus and Russia intend to hold in September. “This military doctrine, which are held every two years. We need to wait for completion, all were convinced of the absurdity of charges. Our neighbors can be calm, because on the territory of Belarus will never experience war or threat of war, and the exercise will be transparent, and we will invite observers from neighboring countries, representatives of the OSCE and accredited here employees of diplomatic missions,” — said the Minister.
While sanctions and counter-sanctions are burdening the relations between Russia and the West, Belarus welcomes the European business to yourself, so as to obtain access to the Eurasian market. Russia does not allow re-export of embargoed goods through Belarus, but is ready to buy goods produced in Belarus. “We want to create a joint production of the goods that already are considered to be Belarusian and can be exported to other EurAsEC countries”, — concluded the Minister. In June, Mackay made his first visit of the Belarusian head of diplomacy in Spain. “Some Spanish companies have develop we have an active activity,” he said.