History of Belarusian diplomacy: people and facts

History of Belarusian diplomacy: people and facts

On May 18, 25 years ago, Belarus started to independently determine foreign policy. Therefore, last week Belarusian diplomacy celebrated its 25th anniversary.  Today the image of Belarus is decent in the international arena: Minsk has become a universal negotiating platform.

Piotr Kravchenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus (1991-1994):
Today it is hard to imagine that all the ministry consisted of only about 10 people. Our homeland did not a larger ministry at that time.

By the way, the first countries with which Belarus became friends de jure were Poland and Germany. It happened back in the 1920s.

Piotr Kravchenko:
This is a historical paradox: even during WWII we did not suspend diplomatic relations with Germany. Germans simply forgot and we didn't know how to do this. We did not establish but just renewed diplomatic relations with Germany.

"It is easier to shoot yourself than to go negotiate with him," said Henry Kissinger about Belarusian-born diplomat Andrei Gromyko. The famous Mr No, Grim Thunder was the main foreign ministry official for almost 30 years. But it's more important that he authored the documents on which the whole international security is built today: the OSCE has grown from these very pages. Ten years of negotiations are better than one day of war, he said. It seems that dialogue rather than conflict is a kind of Belarusian diplomacy's Gospel, which today sounds even louder on the international arena.

Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus:
We sincerely wish to do so to avoid a military resolution of any conflicts. We want conflicts to be resolved by diplomatic means, so that regional integration associations play a more important role.

The OSCE, the CSTO, the IMF, the UN... Belarus cooperates with dozens of international organizations. And sometimes, to get partners to become more constructive we have to resort to some kind of trickery. For example, having failed to achieve an agreement with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belarusian diplomats decided to go the other way.

Sergei Rakhmanov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Japan (2011-2016):
We could create a scandal, but we took a different path - we studied political forces in Japan and found that the Parliament is the leading force in Japan. We found our partners whom we showed our assets, we were invited to the parliament and spoke there for about seven times. It all finished with the fact that representatives of the Foreign Ministry were called to the parliament and they were told they had done wrong. I will not even use the words that Japanese parliamentarians used. And the draft agreement appeared after a few days and it was then signed.

Diplomatic protocol is all about international politeness. This man, Nikolai Semiletnikov, knows about it firsthand. He has been a diplomat for 24 years already. He received Chinese in Minsk, when Perestroika came into force. 

Nikolai Semiletnikov, veteran of diplomatic service:
Head of that delegation then wrote to her government that Belarus could be the point which China can use for further penetration to the West.

A little later came a German delegation. They were sent to watch the masterpiece of Belarusian theater "Paulinka". It was hard to translate.

Nikolai Semiletnikov:
Laughter followed each phrase, it was difficult to translate. We went there: the first sentence - the hall explodes, people laugh. Then the sounds fade, the translator works, and then the Germans laugh. You know, Germans laughed heartily, with their mouths wide open. We experimented three times and then decided we wouldn't do that anymore.

President Clinton visited Belarus in 1994. That visit was marred by an unpleasant incident.

Piotr Kravchenko:
He slept on the plane for about an hour. The Belarusian delegation had to wait for him at the ramp. He slept, clean-shaven, well-dressed... He did not even apologize.

Sergei Rakhmanov:
A diplomat can't be careless. A diplomat must be strict. This is consistent with the protocol, because how you are met depends on the clothes you wear. But the most important thing is your brains.

As befits a young state, Belarus has diplomatic relations with 174 countries. 

Minsk is the capital of the CIS, the founder of the Eurasian Economic Union and the BSSR (the predecessor of Belarus) was one of the founders of the United Nations.

The Minsk agreements on Ukraine remain the only basis for peace talks. It could sound snobbish, but experts note the two main achievements of Belarus on the geopolitical map over these 25 years: Belarus has been able to defend its independence. Moreover, it is thanks to the cold heads of Belarusian diplomats that the post-Soviet space has not turned into a powder keg of Europe. Belarus intends to continue the same policy aiming for peace.