Belarus's military to benefit from conflict between Russia and West

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In the confrontation between Russia and the West, only Belarus can achieve its goals: to obtain a cheap and modern weaponry for its own military that could be later directed against the West or the East, says Waclaw Radziwinowicz, Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborza's correspondent in Moscow.  Last week, media's attention was again grabbed by the topic of new countries to enter NATO. Dubbed as the new countries are Ukraine and Georgia, according to Interfax quoting sources in the Russian establishment. They maintain that if Ukraine and Georgia begin the procedure of entering NATO, Russia will withdraw from the Conventional Armed Forces Treaty.

Gazeta Wyborcza's correspondent in Moscow Waclaw Radziwinowicz believes, however, that despite the NATO Secretary General's hints about the alliance's expansion next year, Ukraine and Georgia are not that close to becoming members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Waclaw Radziwinowicz: The probability of Georgia becoming a member of NATO depends on one person: President Saakashivili. As long as he remains in his office, Georgia can forget about entering NATO. This man does not enjoy a very good reputation in Europe. Either way, he was a spark that triggered the war in the Caucasus. On the other hand, Georgia is ready to enter NATO, because the majority of the population said at the January referendum that it wanted to enter the alliance. If agreements on Abkhazia and South Ossetia are reached, there will be no hurdles for Georgia to enter NATO. I realize that what I am saying is very painful, and it is not easy for Georgia to lose hopes that Abkhazia and Ossetia will be part of Georgia. But if I were in their shoes, I would refuse from these territories so that the rest of Georgia could enter NATO and feel safe.

ERB: What about Ukraine?

Radziwinowicz: I think it is very hard for Ukraine, because only 30 percent of Ukraine's population want to enter NATO. I believe around 50 percent simply hate or fear NATO. If the orange leadership in Ukraine had not battled with each other for four year but worked with its own population instead about positive NATO prospects, these proportions would have been different. In the current condition of Ukraine, these proportions will not change for a long time. Correspondingly, Ukraine has no chances to become a member of NATO. And the blame should be put on the orange leadership of the country for that.

ERB: Then, why does the NATO Secretary General talk about expansion next year in this situation?

Radziwinowicz: This is a declaration of intent: yes, we would like to see you there but in the condition as it is now. Besides, NATO cannot but take into account that accepting these countries is risky, because it will damage relations with Russia and possible for a long time. The quality of Ukraine and Georgia does not justify this risk at the moment.

ERB: How will the security situation change if Russia fulfills its threat and withdraws from the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe?

Radziwiniwicz: In principle, Russia is now trying to speak with the world from the position of force. There are many threats: Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region. Possibly, these missiles can be deployed in Belarus. This means a new arms race. Russia pretends that it wants and is able to launch a new arms race. Russia wants to show its resolve. They will pretend that their threats are real, but they will only be pretending.

ERB: You have mentioned Iskander missiles in Belarus. What role does Belarus play or could play in the current situation at the world political arena?

Radziwinowicz: I think that in this foolish game Belarus is a very serious player. Perhaps, it is the only serious player who can achieve something real. Look: Russia thinks that it needs Belarus to threaten Europe. We do not know if it will be really threatening or not. In my view, it simply can't afford it. Russia can't afford a full-scale arms race. However, Belarus can benefit from this confrontation or has already benefited. For instance, Belarus has already received S-300, the best surface-to-air missiles in the world except American Patriots. Now Belarus can obtain Iskander missiles for its military. Belarus has been gradually rearming its military with good modern weapons. Only Alexander Lukashenka knows why Belarus needs those weapons, but they will be there. Lukashenka can target it to the West or the East. Thanks to the craziness that is taking place in Europe and Moscow, Lukashenka is strengthening his position in the military sense. He will keep saying that he defends Moscow and he is Russia's only ally... He will continue to get a cheap gas and good cheap weapons in order to strengthen his own independence, not the independence of Belarus!

ERB: Does Russia not understand it?

Radziwinowicz: Russia pretends that it does not fear anyone. Unfortunately, it seems that it is not even pretending, it does not fear anything indeed. This is extremely dangerous, and in the first place for those who do not know the sense of fear.