Positive elements in the relations between Belarus and the United States will mark their new stage, said President Alexander Lukashenko meeting on March 30 with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter. The sides discussed Belarus' position on military matters and the bilateral dialogue.
During the meeting they touched upon regional security issues. In particular, the conflict in Ukraine. Belarus' President noted that it is impossible to balance the situation there without the United States.
The sides also touched on the strengthening of cooperation in bilateral and international formats.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
There is a serious dialogue with a broad agenda. We are discussing not only bilateral cooperation between Belarus and Western countries, the European Union, especially with the United States, but also security problems in our region. We are talking about the challenges that Eastern Europe faces today. And these challenges are able to seriously affect the situation in Europe in general. It is impossible to balance the situation here (I mean Ukraine and other trends) without the United States.
I offered to involve the United States of America in the resolution of the Ukraine crisis. Time passed and it showed that I was right.
With regard to our specific questions, which you are an expert in: you know perfectly that we are not happy with NATO have, to say the least, intensified their activities in recent years. The expansion of NATO to the east does affect us, Russia and other post-Soviet countries. And you must understand us. We cannot but respond to this because it is taking place near our borders. I do not think that NATO is going to fight against either Belarus or Russia. In the current environment, it is incredible and unnecessary. I believe the USA when it declares that it unconditionally wants a peaceful and independent Belarus. I think that the United States realize that they need a normal and peaceful Europe.
Michael Carpenter, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense:
Let me sincerely thank you for your kind words and also for the constructive and productive meeting that I held with your government, including the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You were right saying that NATO is making some efforts and steps to strengthen the defense of its members. But I once again want to note that all our actions are purely defensive in nature and are proportional to all the tasks set today. It is very important that today we have started a dialogue. But it is also important that it be held in public.
Belarus is appreciated as a neutral platform for negotiations. Michael Carpenter has repeatedly called the Minsk agreements "roadmap for a diplomatic solution Ukrainian conflict."
We very much appreciate the assessment you make about Belarus over the Ukrainian conflict. I want to assure you (please, send this message to the leaders of the United States of America) that we will always be committed to these principles - principles of peace. We do not need war in Ukraine. Because we are suffering from it. 160,000 refugees from Ukraine are today on the territory of Belarus. And please will keep in mind that we have provided these Ukrainian citizens with the same rights as the citizens of Belarus. And we have employed them in a matter of priority. We sent their kids to kindergartens, nurseries and schools for free. They have the right to enroll in any of our universities on a par with Belarusian citizens. So we treated them like human beings, we understand that we are in trouble. And you should know that there will never be a threat to Ukraine from the territory of Belarus. We tend to pursue a peaceful policy to do everything possible to normalize the situation in Ukraine.
Changes have recently been made into the draft military doctrine. It will become an answer to current global challenges. At the same time the main feature of the new edition is the continuity in relation to the 2002 edition of the document. For example, there remains a defensive nature of Belarus' military doctrine. For Belarus, the most important thing is to preserve the integrity and sovereignty of the country.
Our military doctrine is purely defensive. You must understand this. We will never attack anyone using weapons. But you need to perfectly understand that we, like you in the NATO, are in alliance. We are in alliance with Russia and some other post-Soviet states. I mean the CSTO. We do not hide our position in the CSTO either, it is very simple: no matter what interests one has (I am referring to the CSTO countries) we will never fight on foreign territory. But you are a military man and I'll tell you: if someone tries to fight with us, we will certainly defend ourselves and fulfill our obligations as an ally with Russia. But only on this piece of land.
Both Belarus and the USA assure each other that the dialogue must be developing. And it should be developing intensively.
Michael Carpenter met with representatives of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry. The two sides exchanged views on issues of international security in the military sphere.
The dialogue can be conducted on economic issues too. In 2015, trade turnover between Belarus and the USA amounted to more than half a billion US dollars. Belarus' main export items are potash, X-ray machines, and furniture. In turn, the USA exports to Belarus mainly medicines and medical equipment. The holding in 2014 of the Belarusian Investment Forum in New York was the impetus for the development of bilateral cooperation.