Belarus's national security interests are couched in conflict. On the one hand, there is the desire by some to protect Belarus's independence and its territory. On the other hand, there is the desire to appease and even actively to cooperate with Moscow, which supplies nearly all of Belarus's fuels and raw materials. Although Belarus's Supreme Soviet signed the CIS security treaty in April 1993, the government also joined the Partnership for Peace program of politico-military cooperation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in January 1995, but not before waiting to see what Russia did.
With NATO active in some former Soviet republics and plans for further eastward expansion, Russia and Belarus have strengthened their own military alliance. Russian and Belarussian air defense troops have been on military duty together since 1995, and the two countries had a common arms procurement program for 2000.
Belarus supports the development of military and political integration within the Collective Security Agreement [CSA] of the CIS member-countries (Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan and Kyrgyzstan). Cooperation within the Collective Security Agreement is a high and all-encompassing level of political and military integration. It reflects the recognized within the CIS principle of integration that is carried out with different speed and at various levels.
The Collective Security Council session held in Minsk on 24 May 2000 laid the foundation of a completely new phase of the Agreement. First of all, it revealed the common political ground of the leaders of all Collective Security Agreement member-states not only in recognizing the CSA significance and topicality but also in realizing the necessity of intensification of political and military integration. It is mentioned in the special session statement that proclaimed the priority character of political and military relations among the Agreement member-states as compared to military relations and contacts with the third world countries that are not CSA members.
Under an arrangement with the former USSR, Belarus was an original member of the United Nations. It also is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--a group of 12 former Soviet republics) and its customs union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO's Partnership for Peace, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.
Following the recognition of Belarus as an independent state in December 1991 by the European Communities, EU-Belarus relations initially experienced a steady progression. The signature of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1995 signaled a commitment to political, economic and trade cooperation. Significant assistance was provided to Belarus within the framework of the Tacis Program and also through various aid programs and loans. However progress in EU-Belarus relations stalled in 1996 after serious setbacks to the development of democracy, and the Drozdy conflict. The EU did not recognize the 1996 constitution, which replaced the 1994 constitution. The Council of Ministers decided against Belarus in 1997: The PCA was not concluded, nor was its trade-related part; Belarusian membership in the Council of Europe was not supported; bilateral relations at the ministerial level were suspended and EU technical assistance programs were frozen.
Acknowledging the lack of progress in relation to bilateral relations and the internal situation following the position adopted in 1997, the EU adopted a step-by-step approach in 1999, whereby sanctions would be gradually lifted upon fulfillment of the four benchmarks set by the OSCE. In 2000, some moderately positive developments toward the implementation of recommendations made by the OSCE AMG were observed but were not sufficient in the realm of access to fair and free elections.
Russia is the largest partner for Belarus in the economic and political fields. In terms of trade, two-thirds of Belarusian exports go to Russia. Due to the structure of Belarusian industry, Belarus relies heavily on other CIS countries and Russia in particular both for export markets and for the supply of raw materials and components. The introduction of free trade between Russia and Belarus in mid-1995 led to a spectacular growth in bilateral trade, which was only temporarily reversed in the wake of the financial crisis of 1998. Lukashenko seeks to develop a closer relationship with Russia. The framework for the Russia-Belarusian Union was set out in the Treaty On the Formation of a Community of Russia and Belarus (1996), the Treaty on Russia-Belarus Union, the Union Charter (1997), and the Treaty of the Formation of a Union State (1999). The integration treaties contain commitments to monetary union, equal rights, single citizenship, and a common foreign and defense policy. They also have established a range of institutions modeled after the EU. After protracted disputes and setbacks, the to countries' customs duties were unified as of March 2001. Belarus has made progress in monetary stabilization in the context of ongoing negotiation with the Russian Central Bank on monetary union.
At the end of March 1999 both Belarus and Russia suspended their cooperation with the alliance to show their protest against NATO military operation in Jugoslavia. The political decision of President of the Republic of Belarus A. Lukashenko to restore relations with NATO at the end of August 1999 resumed the country's membership in Partnership for Peace in autumn 1999. On 17 May 2000 the Head of the Belarusian state expressed his approval of the draft Individual Partnership Program of Belarus with NATO for 2000-2001 which in July 1999 was in its turn approved of by NATO NACC. On 30 July 2000 this document came into effect. Belarus expressed its willingness to cooperate in 14 spheres within the Individual Partnership Program for 2000-2001 with the main emphasis on non-military measures. Emergency situations, civil defense, development of defense policy and strategies, medical service, language training and military training are viewed as matters of priority.
Direct military to military cooperation between the West and Belarus continues to be minimal. Belarus currently has no American IMET program, and bilateral exercises and cooperation with the US are nonexistent. There is a great desire on the Belarusian side to re-establish such cooperation and contacts but it has not been possible due to the political situation. The only program that is still functional within this category is the attendance of Belarusian Military Officers in George C. Marshall Center programs.
Potential areas of cooperation can be seen in the area of mine disposal, demining and small arms destruction. Belarus possesses an unstable inventory of about 3.5 million anti-personnel mines, which require proper disposal. Officials have been working with foreign governments to acquire financial and technical support for these efforts but have met with little tangible success. In addition to this there are numerous World War II vintage minefields which are still in place and killing or injuring several Belarusians every year. The Belarusian Government would quickly accept assistance in either of these areas.
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